Can Alcohol be Part of Your Healthy Lifestyle?
I’ve been a fitness buff most of my adult life. As a former competitive athlete who went into a career that often requires appearing on camera, it was important to me to look my best. I also want to feel my best. When I am working out regularly, I feel better about myself and that hopefully makes me more pleasant for my family, friends, and co-workers to be around.
I am often asked for advice from friends who are looking to get back into shape. I always say that there are literally thousands of ways to shed pounds, build muscle, improve your heart rate and overall health. Whatever path you choose, two essential building blocks will not change when trying to create a healthy lifestyle: activity and nutrition. You will need a plan to burn calories, increase strength and improve aerobic function. A plan is also required to limit caloric intake while maintaining the necessary proteins, fats, and nutrients to fuel your body. When we get to this part of the discussion, I am often asked: “can I drink?”
Alcohol is a major part of our sports culture and many top athletes do drink. I would never tell anyone to stop (unless I thought they had a real problem), but it will make the task of getting your body into the condition you want exponentially harder.
Let’s talk science for a moment. When you consume alcohol about 2 to 8% of is lost through urine, sweat or breath. The other 92% plus remains in your system. Your body converts the remaining alcohol into something called acetaldehyde. That’s a poison from the same family as formaldehyde. Exactly what part of a healthy diet includes formaldehyde? (Source) Acetaldehyde is the carcinogen that causes liver damage as the liver works overtime to remove it from your body.
You’ve also probably heard that alcoholic drinks are essentially empty calories. That’s true. They have no nutritional value, which makes them harder to burn off. If you mix your alcohol with juice, it makes the caloric intake even higher. If you mix liquor with diet soda, the calories are not increased, but studies show combining diet soda with alcohol gets you drunker faster. (Source)
We also know that alcohol impairs judgment. So, if you have had a few, you are more likely to reach for that late-night slice of pizza or that fresh out of the oven Krispy Kreme that will absolutely blow up your nutrition plan for the week.
If getting back into shape is going to be your New Year’s resolution, try to do it without the drinks. That will make you reach your fitness goals faster and more efficiently. Being in better shape will make you feel better about yourself. You might even decide you like the way you feel without alcohol in your life.
Rob Weingarten is the VP of Marketing and Communications for the WAVE Int.