Some useful facts about alcohol
Let’s face it, many people enjoy an alcoholic beverage every now and then. Whether it be at the end of a long day, when socialising with friends or celebrating a victory, the taste and/or effect of alcohol can sometimes be just what we crave. In fact, alcohol consumed in moderation is associated with a lowered heart disease risk due to its ability to increase levels of ‘good’ HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and reduce blood platelet stickiness. Red wine contains polyphenols, saponins and a compound called resveratrol, all of which can help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and protect from heart disease.
However, there are some key points which will help you understand what happens to the alcohol once you take a drink. Alcohol is absorbed into your body through the stomach and small intestines. Food slows down the rate of absorption, that’s why alcohol affects you more quickly when taken on an empty stomach. Alcohol travels through the intestines to the liver and then onto your heart, brain, muscles and other tissues. This happens very quickly, all within a few minutes.
As you drink, the alcohol passes into your bloodstream. Ethanol is the intoxicating part of alcohol and its molecules are so small that they can actually pass into the gaps between brain cells. Here they can interfere with the neurotransmitters (the brain’s central post office) that govern all the brain’s activities. If you drink faster than one standard drink an hour, alcohol will start to flood the brain. Depending on how much and how fast you’re drinking, it can affect the brain stem (even causing it to shut down) and this can interfere with vital body functions.
The body is unable to store alcohol, so it breaks it down in the liver. The liver firstly changes alcohol into acetaldehyde (this is toxic), then into acetate (harmless), which is then broken down into carbon dioxide and water. About 90-95% of alcohol consumed is broken down by the liver, 5-10% is excreted through urine, breath and sweat.
Your body breaks down alcohol at a rate of roughly one drink per hour. However, the body’s ability to process alcohol depends on your age, weight and sex. Women have less body water than men so the concentration of alcohol in their blood stream is proportionally higher. So, if a woman weighing 60kgs drinks a double gin then a man of the same size will hypothetically need to drink a triple gin in order to reach the same blood alcohol content (BAC) level. There is also some evidence that women may have smaller amounts of the enzyme ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase – responsible for breaking down alcohol in the liver and lining of the stomach) and this might contribute to their higher BAC levels.
In terms of your training, moderate drinking probably won’t affect your exercise performance too much (provided you don’t consume alcohol before training) but you need to account for the calories it provides if you’re keeping an eye on your waistline. Two 175ml glasses of wine will give you roughly 240 calories on top of your daily food calories – the same as a big doughnut. A can of premium lager contains the calorie equivalent of a Danish pastry (260 calories). It is also important understand that drinking alcohol does not supply energy for exercise. Although a concentrated source of kilojoules (29kJ), alcohol does not contribute to glycogen stores and thus, does not fuel muscles.
We are not the alcohol police, we only hope that you better understand the effect of alcohol on the body and do not jeopardise achieving your training goals. Our advice is to:
· avoid binge drinking
· avoid alcohol in the 24 hours prior to competition
· avoid alcohol if injured (dilates the blood and increases swelling)
· avoid refuelling after exercise with an alcoholic drink
· rehydrate with water or a sports drink and a nutritious meal
· alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water
· be aware of the dehydrating effect of alcohol
· drink a glass of water before gong to bed
· continue to drink responsibly and keep training hard
Stay en forme,
“If you are young and drink a great deal it will spoil your health, slow your mind, make you fat – in other words, turn you into an adult.”