How Alcohol Affects Nutrition

Alcohol Nutrition

Can you still be healthy and fit if you drink alcohol?

Probably…

It just depends.

What type of person are you?

Are you someone that parties like a rockstar every weekend or someone that enjoys a cocktail or two in social settings?

If you are someone that has been enjoying themselves a bit too much, then maybe it’s time to prioritize getting back in shape?

Alcohol metabolism is an extremely complicated subject, but for the sake of this blog we are going to attempt to simplify what matters most. If you have a goal of improving aesthetics or performance then we highly advise removing or at least minimizing alcohol consumption.

Alcohol metabolism

How does our body process alcohol? Our body processes alcohol like most other toxins; it tries to get rid of it. There are several ways our body tries to eliminate alcohol, but the most common pathway is discussed below.

Alcohol enters the body and is first metabolized to acetaldehyde (primarily in the liver) by alcohol dehydrogenase. Acetaldehyde is a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen. Although it is an intermediate and short-lived byproduct of alcohol metabolism, its exposure to human organs and tissue has the potential to cause significant damage. Next, acetaldehyde is metabolized further to a less toxic byproduct called acetate, which is then broken down into water and carbon dioxide and eliminated.

Alcohol cannot be stored in the body, so it is mainly metabolized/oxidized by the liver where the required enzymes for its metabolism are found. Alcohol is metabolized as a fat and yields 7.1 kcal/g. The body can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol every hour, and this depends on a range of factors including liver size and body mass. A liver of a healthy male can metabolize 80-100 g/day and 30-60 g/day for a female.

Alcohol is rapidly processed by the liver to protect it from central nervous system depression and injury. This disrupts your body’s ability to process fats in the liver and can result in fatty liver disease. Moveover, alcohol metabolism causes oxidative stress on the body which is why it should be limited.

But, you are an adult and you should make your own decisions!

Negative Health Affects of Alcohol

Alcohol research shows that it also negatively affects hydration status, quality of sleep, hormone production and balance, fatty acid synthesis, and muscle protein synthesis. Excess alcohol can lead to malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies. Alcohol is technically a poison that your body has to convert into less harmful substances in order expel it. Also, our body’s ability to break down and metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates is hindered in the presence of alcohol.

Your ability to process alcohol depends on a number of factors including:

  • Natural genetic tolerance
  • Individual combinations of conversion enzymes
  • Ethnicity & genetic background
  • Sex
  • Weight
  • Age

No different than the 7-14 day food log we use to assess average calorie and macro intake, we recommend tracking your alcohol intake for 7-14 days as well.

  • Are you drinking more than you thought?
  • Are you drinking out of habit or is it deliberate?
  • Is alcohol helping you enjoy life or is it stressing you out?
  • Is alcohol negatively affecting you in other aspects of your life?

The habit of “needing a drink” after a long stressful day is a reaction that can eventually turn into an unwanted habit.

It is extremely important for you to create awareness in your life around things that could be inhibiting you from reaching your goals. Simply creating awareness in your life could be the thing that allows you to change your behavior from unconscious automatic reactions to conscious deliberate decisions. Try to avoid using drinking as stress relief.

Life Hacks

  • Save alcohol consumption for social settings, try to avoid drinking by yourself.
  • When you’re drinking, drink slowly and enjoy it. Try to delay your next drink an extra 10 minutes or so each time you want a drink to minimize consumption.
  • Avoid or minimize sugary calorie wasting drinks like frozen margaritas, long island iced teas, etc.
  • If you truly don’t want to drink, swap alcohol for a club soda w/ a lime. Nobody will ever know!
  • If you choose to drink, enjoy it! Savor it. Enjoy it mindfully with great company.

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