Rethink Your Drink

This is the time of year it is still bearable that you find yourself  thinking about that after work drink on a nice patio outside where you can unwind from your day, people watch and enjoy a refreshingly cold skinny margarita while catching up with friends. While this sounds like a lovely way to spend your afternoon and evening, most of us don’t stop at just one drink. Drinking can be beneficial or harmful, depending on your age, health status and of course how much you drink.

Alcohol affects every organ in the drinker’s body, most dramatically your liver. With moderate drinking, the liver can process alcohol fairly safely.  However, heavy drinking overtaxes the liver resulting in serious consequences.  A liver clogged with fat causes liver cells to become less efficient at performing their necessary tasks, resulting in impairment of a person’s nutritional health. Alcohol is very rich in energy, packing 7 calories per gram.  But like pure sugar or fat, the calories are void of nutrients.  The more calories an individual consumes in alcohol, the less likely it is that they will eat enough food to obtain adequate nutrients.  Alcohol affects the brain, the liver, the kidneys, the heart, the blood vessels, the lining of the stomach and other systems. Your body can be affected in the following ways:

  1. The kidneys increase urination, leading to fluid loss.
  2. Blood vessels in the skin open up, causing flushing and the heart to work harder.
  3. The liver starts working over-time to detoxify the blood and can’t keep blood sugar regulated.

To make matters worse, chronic alcohol abuse not only displaces calories from needed nutrients, but also interferes with the body’s metabolism of nutrients, leading to damage of the liver, digestive system, and nearly every bodily organ. The effects of alcohol not only effect your physical health but also your mental heath.  Alcohol abuse, which can lead to alcoholism, is a pattern of drinking that result in harm to one’s health, interpersonal relationships, or ability to work. More than 30% of Americans say they have had problems with alcohol.

Researchers say the percentage of Americans who say they drink has changed little over time, averaging about 63% since Gallup began surveying Americans about drinking habits in 1939, however the most recent poll shows that the frequency of drinking has risen from 54% in 1996 to 71% in 2006. Recent studies have suggested that drinking alcohol in moderation — particularly wine — may promote better health, and researchers say the increase in number of drinks per week may be a reflection of this.

For the past 10,000 years or so, wherever humans have gathered, there has been alcohol. Some never touch the stuff. But most do. It is used to celebrate, commiserate, mourn, remember and, often, to forget. It is different things to different people: libation, anesthetic, emotional crutch, social lubricant, addictive substance, sacred potion, killer or commodity. So be mindful before you begin to drink of how it could affect your work, health, your workouts and relationships.  Moderate use of alcohol can be an enjoyable, safe experience if used with caution. If you do choose to drink, sip each drink slowly, and always consume alcohol with food.  Space drinks out to no more than one drink per hour, and consume plenty of water in between drinks, and don’t let it impair your ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you find yourself skipping your workouts to enjoy a cocktail or munching on junk food during and after you drink, you probably should consider how your social times is affecting you, and make the necessary changes and sacrifices in order to get back on track with your goals.