The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fitness and Drinking

Drinking is a big part of a lot of people's lives. It's a great deal of fun, it's often times packaged in delicious beverages, it loosens the tongue and allows for people to relax and be carefree. My biggest question I get when people ask me for diet or fitness advice is:

"Can I still drink?"

The short answer: Yes, you can.

I want to go to there.

But, since I have time on my hands. Here is the long answer:

Why you can drink and it's actually good for you.

Martin Berkhan of wrote this article some time ago.

"We need to consider that alcohol does not affect satiety like other nutrients. The disinhibition of impulse control that follows intoxication may also encourage overeating. Ever come home from a party in the middle of the night and downed a box of cereals? That's what I mean.

Moderate alcohol consumption improves insulin sensitivity, lowers triglyceride concentrations and improves glycemic control.

For alcohol to significantly lower testosterone, you need to do some serious drinking. ~120 g alcohol, the equivalent of 10 beers, will lower testosterone by 23% for up to 16 hours after the drinking binge. If you drink so goddamn much that you are admitted to the hospital, you get a similar effect with a reduction of about -20%.

What about protein synthesis? Strangely enough, the acute effects of alcohol on muscle protein synthesis in normal human subjects are non-existent in the scientific literature. It has only been studied in chronic alcoholics, which have reduced rates of muscle protein synthesis. Chronic alcoholic myopathy, which causes muscle loss, is one unfortunate side-effect of alcohol abuse. However, this study showed that alcoholics without myopathy had lower body fat percentage and the same amount of lean mass as non-drinkers. So much for the argument that alcohol makes all your muscles fall off.

metabolic by-product of alcohol, acetate, is toxic. Metabolizing it takes precedence over everything else...The effect of alcohol on fat storage is very similar to that of carbs: by suppressing fat oxidation, it enables dietary fats to be stored with ease. However, while conversion of carbs to fat may occur once glycogen stores are saturated, DNL via alcohol consumption seems less likely."

So, basically, moderate daily alchohol consumption is actually good for you. It promotes longevity in life and there is no evidence to support that drinking will ruin all of the hard work you've put into your training.

Not Convinced?

Well, variety is the spice of life, and it's important to consult more than one source. Luckily, this video just popped up on my YouTube subscription list.

Drinking and Fitness with expert Alan Aragon. Here it is.

So, he gives you basic drinking for health guidelines.

2 drinks a day for guys
1 drink a day for average women

You did say two drinks a day, right?

Drinking lowers your inhibition so you're more likely to binge. If you have a tendency to binge, better to abstain or plan out your binging and don't drink the rest of the week.

There have been no studies on non linear health benefits of alcohol (14 drinks in one night rather than spread over a week) but 14 drinks would put my 6'4" 203lb ass on the ground.

My Take on it.

Drinking is great, but in the end, it has only one place in your life: Fun. Like all things fun, you can either do it in excess and reap the consequences, or indulge in it everyday in a minor way or binge every once in a while and reap the rewards! The science shows that you're not going to derail your workouts or your fitness from drinking, but you could potentially have a shitty workout or day if you're not very focused or controlled about your consumption, not to mention all the potentially life altering scenarios drinking can put us in.

If you want to indulge in alcohol, make a plan to do so. Count it in your calories, make sure you get your micro nutrients in during the day, and count your booze towards your carbs (and fats and minor proteins if you're drinking beer.)

I personally hardly ever drink. (If you can't tell, all of these photos of me on this post are from the summer or before when I had upwards of 40lbs of fat still on me.) Not because I'm uptight, but I've just always enjoyed eating my calories more, and I get out of hand when I drink too much (some people just call it the fun version of Ol' Yeargain.) Also, the potential to throw up if I go too hard always bugs me. 

Drinking is an individualized thing, always has been. From the kind of drinks that you like to the amount it takes to put you on the bathroom floor hugging your porcelain lord. Don't take generalized health recommendations as fact without thinking our your own experiences and boundaries. Like the old saying goes Drink Responsibly and...

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