I bet you are totally excited to find another article that helps to justify your drinking habit and how good it is for your body (I know that when I was a 6 cups of coffee a day drinker, I loved every article that promoted all of the positives of my habit … so that when someone asked, “Are you really going to have ANOTHER cup of coffee?” I could respond, “I am preventing Parkinson’s!”
Unfortunately, this is NOT going to be one of those types of articles… But stick with me here, because if you are looking for reasons to cut down, I just might have one or two good reasons that will push you over the top–far beyond the concerns of getting a beer belly!
“What Did I Just Do…?”
We all know that alcohol leads to bad choices– driving when you shouldn’t, waking up next to a stranger, drinking eight beers when you wanted to have only two, texting your ex … the list goes on! All bad, but none of those really have any long-term effects on your health or weight loss plan. Unless, of course, you die in a car crash or catch herpes from that awesome partner you don’t even remember!
The “What did I just do?” that I want to talk about here are worst health choices you make while drunk– digging through the freezer for a sweet treat or the pantry for a fat or salty fix. Insert your favorite here….
Don’t feel guilty, that is not a problem of “self-control” but actually a physiological reality.
Because of a mechanism deep within our brains called Palette Fatigue, our brains actually try to tell us when we have had “too much of a good thing” and try to supplement that with foods from other categories. From a historical perspective, this was a powerful safety mechanism to prevent us from going into protein toxicity or eating too much of a poisonous plant. However, in today’s day in age, where hyperpalatable foods surround us everywhere, there’s nothing like drinking low calorie beer and then polishing off half a pizza before you have time to realize what you are doing.
I’m Free, Free Radicalling!
Drinking causes a massive increase in the production of free radicals in the body (a natural off-shoot of the process involved in creating energy from food) because of how our body processes them.
“Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons. They quite literally dying/dead cells. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start chain reactions, like dominoes, where dead cells destroy other healthy cells”
These same free radicals that go about like a cannon on a ship, start destroying all cells at an ever cascading pace until we put enough anti-oxidants in our system to neutralize them. Unfortunately, there are direct ties between these deficient cells and many types of cancer … so there is a definitive real connection between Booze and Cancer – yikes!
As if that was not enough, alcohol interferes with the body’s normal defense mechanisms against these compounds through numerous processes, particularly in the liver and causes us to flush out those very anti-oxidants that are there to protect us. This pretty much creates the perfect storm for a faulty system.
But wait a second! So, what about all of those articles that say, “antioxidants in wine are super good at preventing cancer”? What the small print in those articles doesn’t say is that you only can absorb anti-oxidants in your guts when consumed with a fat. This is important– So, a couple of glasses of wine paired with your steak is good for you? But what happened when two leads to four glasses? Only destruction!
Keeping your Poo Where it is Supposed to be
Modern science is finally coming around to the integral importance of your health of your gut– something that most nutritionists and naturopaths have known forever. You probably are now inundated with Facebook ads about Kombucha or the power of Apple Cider Vinegar for weight loss. This is because fermented foods give your gut bacteria what it needs to thrive. Obviously, this is not new information as Germans have been putting sauerkraut on sausage for hundreds of years to help digestion. But, for most of us this is definitely a new trend in modern health.
“Problems with these Gut bacteria are associated with diseases ranging from Cancer, to pretty much all of the autoimmune diseases and many mental health conditions, to our ability to absorb vitamins and fight of our bodies intruders … aka preventing the common cold.”
As anyone that has had a hangover and thrown up all morning knows, alcohol and your guts are not friends. Excessive drinking (don’t get too excited by the word excessive … clinically that is no more than 3 drinks a day and 7-10 drinks a week) has catastrophic effects on our gut microbiota.
This occurs in two main ways. First, it pushes the equilibrium between good gut bacteria and bad bacteria to the dark side (start imagining that Porter your drinking as Darth Vader J) a process that normally is kept in check. Worse, it is the main culprit in creating a condition called “Leaky Gut Syndrome”.
What is in the world is Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) you ask? Well, let me tell you! LGS is when your guts can no longer keep the bad bacteria in your intestinal tract where it belongs. Instead, the bacteria leaks out of your hut and runs wild in your blood, your liver, comes out through biggest organ, aka, your skin, and more! … bringing their toxins with them and distributing it where it is not supposed to be.
Basically, as if a septic pumpers began spraying its contents up and down your neighborhood street– YUCK!
Burn Baby Burn!
Ever supplement for years that I shoved into my body was to increase my Metabolism … the body’s natural furnace which allows you to lose weight in your sleep. Metabolism is the most powerful mechanism in weight loss and blows out of the water the whole “Calories in vs Calories out” fallacy as the way to lose weight.
Alcohol has a pretty significant impact on this powerful mechanism. While it can increase the heat in the furnace (alcohol has a proven positive affect on your metabolism), it also locks out all other calories from being burned … meaning your body puts consuming your own fat and the food you just ate in storage until it is done with these empty calories … in effect stopping in its tracks your weight loss plan.
In addition, because the calories do not contain any nutrients, they in effect turn off your bodies mechanism to stop putting things in your stomach … meaning the likelihood of you putting in more alcohol … or that order of hot wings goes up.
So what is the lesson here – again, a drink of wine with that steak … actually a pretty good idea as it revs up the furnace and once you burn thru that glass you will more quickly burn up the steak! But a bottle of wine with Dinner … BAD NEWS because your body uses its engine to only burn off the alcohol and then decides to store the steak on your belly.
One other note here – Maintaining adequate blood sugar levels is one of the key functions of your metabolism, but when you drink alcohol, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is one of the first elements of metabolism to be shoved aside in your body’s rush to excrete the toxins as efficiently as possible. Alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to make glucose and to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood – causing dangerous drops in blood sugar levels. This again impacts your appetite and the likelihood you may make bad food choices.
Catabolic going Catatonic
Everyone knows that the booze wrecks your liver (if you don’t, you’re probably in the category of people that still think smoking is an okay habit) – but for purposes of weight loss this is not the focus. Where I am going here is that when you are process alcohol, you completely stop the catabolic process … in essence shutting down your consumption of fat as fuel!
This means, enjoy that glass of wine/beer but know the opportunity cost! This is not as much of a problem with 1 or even 2 glasses of wine say, as your liver can plow through that in a hurry – but if you decided to plow back a bottle or ½ a box … know that you have added 1000-2000 calories that are going to be stored directly as fat, and stopped your weight loss for a day +
You are getting Sleepy
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the line “I drink to help me sleep”. In todays, high stress world, I get the need to self-medicate – but what you have to know is that you are creating a vicious downward spiral by doing this.
“Alcohol, while helping you become unconscious, has a dramatically negative impact on restful restorative sleep.”
There is a giant difference between unconsciousness and sleep. Sleep may be the single most important thing you can do to help with weight loss and increase your health. It is while we are sleeping that our guts get rebooted, we process out our chemicals, we rebuild our muscles, our brains process memories making them stick, your body decreases it inflammation, our immune system get fortified, your brain opens up space for creative thinking and problem solving, and your stress gets processed and flushed … Basically EVERYTHING you need to live to be 100 J
But when you drink – all of that gets screwed up. It interrupts your circadian rhythm and your blood sugar both of which are likely to wake you up hours after you have passed out, it blocks REM (restorative sleep that gets you the awesomeness above) and some studies show that it outright prevents it. It aggravates breathing and sinus problems which is why you snore when your drunk (your partner may be waking you up ;)) and it forces parts of your body that should be in hibernation (aka your bladder) to work preventing your body from focusing on the really important stuff above.
All of this is bad because you wake up tired, crabby, not ready to take on the world – which than creates more stress during the day (stacking on top of the stress you never got rid of) – which leads to the need for more self-medication.
Only way off this ride is to literally get off, get some sleep and let your body take care of itself!
My Favorite Dwarf is Dopey
Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that makes you feel good … check that … feel TOTALLY AWESOME! Its why we enjoy roller coasters, accomplishing things and SEX! Our body naturally pours it on like fantastic frosting when we are doing awesome things that are healthy activities that it wants us to keep doing.
Unfortunately, more and more modern activities are creating “False” positives and triggering the release … Sugar, Cocaine, Porn and Booze!
The twist with Alcohol is that it not only releases this feel good drug or maybe a better way is saying “Enhancement” drug … but it also releases glutamates which is what causes depression/a feeling of unworthiness, sedation or slow thinking, and clumsiness.
“By jacking up dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s actually making you feel great (or maybe just better, if you are drinking to get over something emotionally difficult). The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release, but at the same time you’re altering other brain chemicals that are enhancing feelings of depression. “
This is why the emotional hangover can be way worse than the physical one … and like the problems with sleep lead to the “Not wanting to get off the ride” mentality … trying to stay just ahead of it!
Worst of all, artificially “Forcing” the high at a regular basis, wears your brain out and desensitizes you to things that should make you feel great. Bluntly – Drinking makes you enjoy vacations with your partner less … SEX WITH YOUR PARTNER LESS! WTH!
It quite literally puts a barrier between you and your lifelong happiness, all the while making you think it makes you happy.
Putting it all together
The more reading I have done the more I have realized that alcohol pretty much sucks … at everything that will help me live to be 100.
Sure, it has its place … as in, I am not going to stop drinking … don’t be silly … But I am changing my approach with Booze to a more positive one.
How does this look?
- Drinking a glass of wine or two with my dinner on days that I am high carb (I carb cycle to keep my metabolism guessing) to enjoy the antioxidants and metabolism boosts
- Limiting my consumption on any given day to 3 drinks to not destroy the fat burning engine I am creating
- Limiting my consumption on any given week to under 10 to keep my weekly caloric/metabolic load in check – making my Monday morning weigh ins more fun.
- Not drinking before bed – to protect my sleep like a grizzly bear
- Drinking water between every drink to give my Guts, Kidneys and Liver a chance to catch up
- Having as much “Sober Sex” with my Fiancé as I can – to truly enjoy the experience and not have my body connect the dopamine release with what is in my belly … but instead what is in my heart … how amazing it is making an awesome connection with her!