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Let’s Talk About Booze

Article by,

Dr. Mandy Zimmerman of Sports Performance & Spine

Let’s face it. Most of us enjoy a glass of wine or beer to unwind at the end of a long day. We tell ourselves we deserve this drink. Our day was productive, we got our workout in, crushed work for the day and now it’s “my time” to relax. We end up convincing ourselves this each night, and it has become our new evening routine.

Over time, we start to wonder why we stopped making gym gains. We think, “why do I have this stomach pouch that just won’t go away”? Our skin is becoming wrinkly, we see our new double chin and our eyes look tired. Of course, this is me blowing this way out of proportion, but this is what alcohol can do!

Here’s the science behind alcohol. Most of us have grown to love macro nutrients (macros as we call them). Protein and carbohydrates supply 4 calories per gram. This is your energy expenditure. When you eat 100 grams of carbs, that means you are consuming 400 calories. Fats have 9 calories per gram, the most of all the macros. Alcohol, on the other hand, has 7 calories per gram. Hold up, wait, if fat has 9 calories, that makes alcohol as a better choice! Unfortunately, that’s not the case. All of the macros supply calories that your body will either store as fat to burn later, or burn immediately as our energy source. Alcohol has empty calories. Those extra 7 calories per gram of alcohol can lead to many issues.

When you consume alcohol, it doesn’t necessarily store as fat. It takes too much energy to do this. What happens is it tells the brain that no sugar or fat needs to be burned. It’s known as a fat burning suppressor. Your body needs to process the alcohol first, before it processes any other macro or micro nutrient that you consume. That salad or burger you had for dinner with drinks? Most likely your body will store it as fat, as the brain is told when alcohol is ingested to not burn anything, until the alcohol is out of the system. Whoa. That sucks. Oh yea, and on top of it studies show you consume more, while drinking. Double suck!

So what does that mean for you, the CrossFitter who loves to lift and have a good time on the weekends? Alcohol can cease protein synthesis. You can keep muscle on and stay lean, but it prevents the cell signaling your muscles need from the brain in order for your muscles to grow. Know the “disinhibition effect”. When you drink alcohol, your ration for decision making decreases. If you are on a diet, but you go out for a drink or five, you tell yourself it’s okay to have that extra large pizza, you deserve it tonight!

Testosterone: Here are the facts: It can be elevated post workout. Good for guys, females, not so much (think midsection weight). General guidelines here are: 1. keep alcohol consumption light, less than 3 drinks 2. Drink after weightlifting, not after cardio days.

A study out of the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior by Dr. Anna Kokavec shows this: Beer lowers cortisol and has a short-term appetite suppressing effect. Red wine raises cortisol fairly quickly and stimulates the appetite faster, too. White was similar to beer. Spirits were not looked at in this study.

Okay, so what should I do if I want to have a drink on the weekend, and understand what impact that will have on my week of workouts and healthy eating?

•If you are having dinner and drinks, avoid carbs and fat. Stick with protein and veggies.
•Choose beer or white wine as they seem to have a better impact on appetite.
•Avoid mixed drinks! (No more Tito’s and tonics!!) The sugar in the tonic water means you’re likely to store that sugar and you will drink more.
•As long as you’re doing most other things right and not drinking into oblivion every night, your testosterone should not be impacted.
•Just know that alcohol is made up of empty calories. It may drain your body of other nutrients.

All in all, don’t completely eliminate alcohol from your diet if you enjoy it. Just be smart about it and understand it’s effects on your body.

-As always CrossFit Tantrum in Murrysville PA bringing you the knowledge!