With alcoholic beverages extra popular at this time of year; on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition we tell you all you need to know about drinking. As an athlete how does it effect you in the long term? Are there better options? Hear more from Mark Wolff.
Well, we are into the month of December, well into the month of December. One thing that a lot of people around the world do do is consume more alcohol. It comes with risks, it comes with benefits, I wouldn’t say health benefits, but a lot of people do drink it because of the benefits that come with it.
But on this edition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition with myself, Mr Active, David Katz and Mark Wolff we’re looking alcohol. What are the dangers, what are the risks, are there better options? Mark Wolff is going to tell us all about that. First of all Mark, to separate the two issues. The one issue surely is alcohol and the product itself. But the other thing is the weight gain that tends to come with whatever you’re drinking?
Mark Wolff: Yes, David. Most alcoholic beverages are loaded with carbohydrates; we’re talking beer for example. Somebody that exercises, that takes in carbs, I wouldn’t say it’s a negative impact. I think the biggest problem is the alcohol combined with it and the reason being is that sugar alcohols are not treated as a carbohydrate. They’re actually treated as a fat in the body, so they do lead to fat production as opposed to actually replenishing or increasing the levels of glycogen in the body. From that point of view, yes, it does play a negative effect.
How alcohol dehydrates athletes
There are many other things that alcohol does do as far as impacting an athlete goes and I think people do need to be aware of it. I think I can just mention a few for example, alcohol definitely dehydrates you. As an athlete or as any person, especially at this time of the year when it’s very hot, you would want to stay hydrated. I think that’s quite critical.
Also you need to be completely hydrated in order for your muscles to recover properly. With alcohol in your system you know that that’s just not going to happen properly as well. Long term alcohol diminishes actually protein synthesis, in other words rebuilding muscle tissues. What actually happens is that it also limits recovery process and obviously strength gains as well. If you think about alcohol in that point of view and you are a serious athlete, drinking alcohol, long term, can actually diminish your progress. As far as your athletic ability goes.
One of the other things as well is that it depletes your energy levels. Because alcohol has the ability to create water imbalance in muscle cells and obviously that actually limits production of ATP. So it does have a direct impact on energy levels as well.
There are many things that alcohol does do from a detrimental point of view. The only positive I can really think of is that people like to drink alcohol because it makes them feel good and it calms their nerves. Maybe from lowering stress levels etc, there maybe it would play an impact. But again, I would say everything in moderation and to limit the intake. Make it less frequent, make it a treat as opposed to making it the norm.
Soft drink vs Alcoholic beverages (which is the bigger weight gainer?)
DK: Everything in moderation always is a good practice to have. Looking more at the carbohydrate aspect of alcohol, a lot of them do have a lot of carbohydrates in. Whether you’re having beer, whether you’re having a mixer with your spirits.
Generally, you carry on eating your normal level of carbohydrates, then you’re throwing in the alcohol or whatever beverage you’re drinking. That’s the risk or issue isn’t it, from a weight management perspective? That you’re all of a sudden adding all these extra carbohydrates into your diet.
MW: I think anything that you consume in the form of carbohydrate liquids is going to increase your calorie intake. Whether it’s a soft drink or whether it’s an alcoholic beverage. I think the difference between the alcoholic beverage and the soft drink though, aside from additional calorie intake in the form of sugars is the alcohol factor. That does play quite a more significant effect when it’s consumed. I’m saying that in a negative way, it will cause more weight gain than just a soft drink due to the alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks to look at from a weight management point of view
DK: Mark, people are going to drink at this time of year. As you said, it does help with stress levels, it does relax people a little bit. When they’re looking at stuff, if carbohydrates are the issue for them, if they’re worried about the weight gain that comes with drinking. What are the better options for them?
MW: Look, I would say that first of all, try and keep it as little as possible. I know that Scotch is not such a terrible drink. From an alcohol perspective yes, but from a calorie perspective it’s not as severe because people take in very small amounts.
I would say red wine is excellent because it has cardiovascular benefits. But again, you need to limit the intake, if you’re talking about a glass, not a bottle. I think what we’re saying is that you should be consuming alcohol in moderation. Not going out and drinking 10-15 beers.
Because if you take that, whether it’s ‘lite’ or not. If you start to add up the total caloric intake and amount of alcohol that you’re consuming over a period of time; it will have a significant impact on the body in a negative manner. You’re not talking about just the next 24 hours, you’re probably talking about the next 72 to 84 hours I would say, or even longer.
It’s one of those things that it does take time to get out of the system, if somebody does over-consume, a hangover is there for a reason. It means that the body didn’t respond very well to what you took the day before. Usually that comes in the form of severe dehydration, that causes those sorts of feelings.
Importance of having water whatever alcoholic beverage you drink
DK: One popular drink, I don’t know if there’s a real science behind it, people drink whisky and water. You talked about the dehydration aspect, surely that has a benefit as well because you’re keeping hydrated at the same time. Which you wouldn’t be doing possibly if you were drinking just beer or wine?
MW: Look, consuming water alongside or after consuming any alcoholic beverage is highly recommended. I’m not saying you need to distance yourself completely from alcohol. But I know that if I have a glass of wine. I land up drinking about, maybe 4-5 glasses of water within an hour or a two-hour period after that.
The reason being is that I feel the dehydrating effects of the wine and it does make me feel not so great. For some people it might be 3-4 glasses to feel that way. But I would say that if you are going to consume alcohol, you should put in emphasis on post-consuming an alcoholic beverage. You need to get your rehydrated as quickly as possible.
The other thing is that it’s very important to mention that alcohol is a poison to the body. It’s not something that’s healthy for the body, it’s a poison to the body. The body is going to do its utmost to get rid of that. That’s where liver function comes into play and all the organs start to function. To detoxify the body from the alcohol that’s consumed.
In order to aid the detoxification process, you need to consume a large amount of fluid in the form of water. That’s another reason to consume a large amount of water. Make sure you stay hydrated constantly, it will help you get back to normal a lot better. The other thing is that it will obviously help cure those post-alcoholic consumption symptoms.
DK: There you have it, all you need to know if you are going to be drinking over the next few days, moderation is key. Keep hydrated and have your little bit of fun but don’t overdo it. You’ve got a big year coming up, if you’re training I’m sure you have goals at the moment. From Mark Wolff and myself Mr Active, David Katz, we’ll catch up again with you next week.