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Alcohol: The Simple Science And Effects On Fat Loss

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Alcohol: The Simple Science And Effects On Fat Loss

Parties, casual hangouts, weddings, an evening where you’re just looking to relax – alcohol is usually present. 

And despite the fact that its many forms may help us wind down or celebrate in social gatherings, the negatives far outweigh the positives. This week’s episode of the Rebuild Health and Fitness Podcast talks about what happens in your body when you drink alcohol and how it affects you. 

The episode isn’t looking to preach that you should give it up all together - Sean and James enjoy a drink as much as anyone, but it’s about making things ‘less bad’ explains Sean. 

Alcohol as a social lubricant

It goes without saying that alcohol is usually present at situations where something is being celebrated – as James says, “It’s a drinking culture” that we’re a part of and somewhere along the way, it also became a great tool when trying to connect with people. 

“When you’re playing rugby at 16, you’re drinking after the game and then it becomes a habit. You play sport and then you drink - that is the nature of sport all around the world. I reckon it’s become so ingrained in what I’ve done. Even when you go to university, you play sport and you drink, it’s a drinking culture; right or wrong it doesn’t matter, it is a culture. I moved to Australia, how do I connect with people? You go out for a drink. Joined a rugby club, how do you make friends? You go and drink. Alcohol is a big part of these occasions and you end up connecting with people,” says James.

Sean adds, “Like any drug, alcohol too allows for a form of escapism. You have all these walls set up and it allows for those walls to come down.”

The effects of alcohol on your body

When you consume alcohol, your body stops metabolising everything else, just so it can get this out of your system first – that is just how bad alcohol is for you.

“Your body sees alcohol as a poison so it can’t store it. It wants to break it down and get rid of it as soon as possible, this is where your liver comes in and converts it to a number of different chemicals that allow your body to break it down and get rid of it. It’s the enzymes in the body that do this.

"The liver uses an enzyme called dehydrogenase which converts alcohol to a toxic substance that is then turned into ethanol and it sometimes gives us a hangover. Everything goes through the liver, and the liver acts as a filter for any foreign substances such as drugs and alcohol. If we're drinking for long periods of time, how this metabolises can be a problem,” James reveals. 


How does it affect your sleep?

When something that you’ve consumed intoxicates you, inhibits your ability to differentiate right from wrong, and also gives you a bit of a tough time the next morning – it becomes a little obvious that this isn’t the best for you. 

James shares, “It's tough because I do enjoy it, but there have been times in my life where it has affected me a lot. There are times where I've drank far too heavily to the point where you’re inebriated, and you can't remember anything. I hate having memory loss, I hate not remembering things. Which is why I take my sleep so important now. And it got worse, the more I drank the more things kept getting worse.”

“Sleep is key,” says Sean. 

“When you’re sleeping well, your brain is performing lots of intricate maintenance on either the body itself, so repairing or dealing with that stress you've placed upon it during the day or just strengthens memories made during the day - this is without alcohol."

"When you’re sleeping with alcohol it’s really a poor imitation of what sleep is. Your sleep when you’re drinking is more like anaesthetic sleep rather than real sleep. Rather than alcohol actually helping you get to sleep, it sort of sedates you out of wakefulness. Unlike natural sleepiness, drowsiness from alcohol leaves you to wake up during the night leaving you unrested,” explains Sean.

Alcohol and weight-loss

Those looking to lose weight need to be wary of how much alcohol they’re consuming, given the high number of calories they contain. A bottle of red wine is approximately 600 calories, beers could be anywhere between 80 to 400 calories – a huge amount to consume even if you’re having only one drink.

James says, “There's a paper from 2020 which states that one standard drink per day is detrimental for health and increases your chances of death. One drink. There are seven calories per one gram of alcohol, ten beers are nearly 2000 calories; especially the heavy ones from craft places that are 200 to 400 calories per drink. That's a lot, and think about all the other things you consume. Your body has to get the alcohol out before anything else. Your body won’t metabolise anything because it sees the ethanol as a poison and eventually, your body's preferred source of energy turns into alcohol.”

However, all hope isn’t lost. It’s all about balancing acts and getting things right for yourself. Switching to non-alcoholic options or trying out low-calorie alternatives can be a great way in lowering your calorie and alcohol intake.

Working out can help, by not only speeding up the process of getting the alcohol out of your system, as well as by not letting the calorie intake affect you.

James’ solution, one he uses for his clients at least is having them switch to low-calorie alcoholic beverages. “There’s always something you can do, you can always look at your alcohol choices and look for a low-calorie one. It’s not going to help the alcohol problem within your body, but it can help from other health standpoints. If we're looking from a body composition standpoint, something I try to get my clients to do is to pick a different type of alcohol. So, if they’re into beers or ciders, I tell them to try spirits. You’re going from drinking beers or ciders that are 250 to 400 calories, to drinking a gin and slimline tonic or a vodka with diet soda which is 67 calories - you could have four gin and tonics to one beer.”

Sean’s also recommends non-alcoholic options that are now available at the supermarkets and bottle-shops. He says: “Non-alcoholic beers are great alternatives, they’re great to have in the fridge. Sometimes you go to a party or barbecue or anywhere like that where people are drinking, try going there with non-alcoholic drinks and see how you respond in that environment. In most cases, people just feel drunk still because they get caught up in the happy-go-lucky environment- it’s just the placebo effect.”

On an ending note, some key takeaways would be to definitely have some balance in life and learn to say no. You shouldn’t feel like you need to earn the right to drink, but what you should be doing is balancing your habits around how much alcohol you consume – sleep well, train, switch to other alternatives and also consume less alcohol. 

Sean says: "If you can't make it better - how do you make it a little less worse?"

If you’re drinking to destress, that's directly going to mess up your sleep, which will then inhibit your ability to deal with life's stresses.

If you reduce your alcohol intake and get better quality sleep, whatever life throws at you, you'll be able to deal with it better.

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