Though studies have shown that a glass of wine or another light, alcoholic drink a day can actually be healthy, heavy drinking can have detrimental long-term results on the liver and overall health.
But it’s also important to consider short-term effects, especially for athletes. Alcohol consumption does not go well with building muscle, losing fat, and overall recovery.
5 Ways Alcohol Changes Your Body
1. Alcohol drains your body’s glycogen stores
A hard workout drains the body’s glycogen stores, which need to be replenished before the muscles can be properly repaired. Drinking can slow this recovery process by displacing carbs in the body and leaving glycogen stores 50% lower than normal, even eight hours later.
2. Alcohol is prioritized by your body’s metabolism
The body prioritizes the metabolism of alcohol, and when it is present it will burn that over fat and carbs. Your body will have more excess energy to store as fat than usual.
3. Alcohol is stored as fat
Alcohol also breaks down amino acids and stores them as fat.
4. Alcohol increases cortisol levels
Alcohol increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is good—in small doses. You’ve probably heard cortisol referred to as the “stress hormone.” Your adrenal glands, perched right atop your kidneys, make cortisol in an attempt to help your body handle stressful situations.
While a little spike of cortisol is good, in response to short-term stressors, it starts to become a problem when the body starts making too much, too often.
Increased cortisol levels can lead to further fat storage. You can read more about the effects of cortisol on your health in this blog post.
5. Alcohol disrupts sleep
Alcohol disrupts the potent recovery power of a good night’s sleep.
Need help getting more sleep? Try these 5 Quick Tips for Proper Sleep, by Ben Greenfield.
If you’re going to drink…
If you are going to drink, consider tequila. Tequila is fermented agave juice, which makes it gluten- and starch-free. Dry wines are good for low sugar content. The best include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot for red and Sauvignon Blanc and Albarin for white.
If heavy drinking is a likelihood, plan ahead to avoid a nasty hangover the next morning.
Hangover pains are largely due to alcohol’s dehydrating effects. To combat this, drink one glass of water per alcoholic drink.
Don’t mix darks and lights. It’s not merely a myth; different types of alcohol have different toxins, and combining them worsens their effects.
Finally, never drink on an empty stomach. Having a full meal before drinking helps soak up the alcohol, lines the stomach, and makes absorption into the body slower.
How WellnessFX Can Help
Curious what your blood looks like after 30 days of no alcohol? Check out this experiment we did with Ben Greenfield and Jason Sissel.
A WellnessFX Baseline blood draw empowers you to understand and improve your underlying health by combining advanced biomarker analysis with an intuitive health dashboard to track your results. You can even include a 20-minute nutritionist consultation for personalized recommendations you can implement immediately.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.