I drink. Over the holidays, I drink more than usual. Perhaps you do too, and perhaps you can make better use of this information than I do.
I’m not the only one who imbibes a little more during the holidays, as the month of December is seen as make or break time for the liquor industry. Still, with perhaps a little knowledge of the effect this has on you and your weight loss (or weight maintenance) routine, you can resist over-doing it this season.
The alleged benefits of alcohol consumption
Moderate alcohol intake might be good for you but studies that extol the virtues of it for preventing heart disease do not qualify as concrete proof. The studies are not controlled and randomized, but instead rely on self-reporting of alcohol intake. What’s more, they lump ex-drinkers (who are usually people who have had a drinking problem in the past) and lifetime non-drinkers in to the same “abstainer” category.
According to a 2005 study in Sports Medicine., “Available evidence suggests… moderate alcohol consumption may have favourable effects on blood coagulation and fibrinolysis (whatever that is – I think it’s good); however, compelling experimental evidence is lacking to endorse this.”
In short, regarding the question of whether or not alcohol can be good for your heart, the answer is: maybe. However, we know for sure that what is far better for your heart is exercise. Speaking of which…
The effect of alcohol on exercise
If you’re taking in excess calories over the holidays, then you want to try and burn those off, and this is where booze is not your friend. Have you ever tried exercising with a hangover? It’s no fun.
But it’s worse than that, according to the same 2005 study mentioned above alcohol decreases athletic performance because it “adversely affects energy supply and impairs the metabolic processes during exercise.” Chronic use also causes muscle fibre wasting, and that’s bad too.
The calories! Oh, the calories!
I will sing the praises and rub the feet of any person who can make a zero-calorie beer substitute that doesn’t taste like the bottom of a birdcage.
Booze has calories; lots and lots of calories, and this will add up and add to the number on the scale, not to mention it will add to that pinching feeling you get in your favourite outfits.
It gets worse.
According to a 2001 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition “increasing alcohol consumption was associated with a higher total energy intake.” That means more calories, but not just any calories – bad calories: more animal products and saturated fat, and fewer vegetables.
So, if you drink, you take in a bunch of alcohol calories, and you’ve also got that “decreased inhibitions” thing going on. You know, that same alcohol-infused behaviour that makes you hit on the young guys at the office Christmas party is also what is making you eat more unhealthy food.
And again, it adds up. No wonder people find this season stressful. You’ve got a pile of work to do for the holiday season and your clothes are getting tighter by the day.
Some tips for taking it easy on the ethanol
- Do you really need to go to that party? Only go to parties you really want to attend.
- Club soda is your friend, and it looks just like a gin and tonic. No one will know.
- Make your drink last. Don’t chug.
- Delay drinking. Don’t reach for alcohol early in the evening, but wait until the party or event is in full swing.
- Drink water in-between alcoholic drinks. You’ll imbibe less and be less dehydrated, which means a reduced hangover.
- If you’re entertaining, ask people to take leftover booze home with them, or find another way to give it away.
Have a fun and safe holiday season, and don’t drink and drive.