If you eat smart and workout regularly, you are doing better than 80% of the population. In this case is it ok to indulge in alcohol every once in a while or should you keep feeling guilty every time?
Can Alcohol Be Part Of A Healthy Fitness Plan?
We should recognise alcohol for what it is – an energy enhancer that helps us lose our inhibitions. In fact, it is a mild form of poison which the body immediately starts clearing out the minute it hits the bloodstream.
In short, the cost of drinking alcohol to our health is really the extra calories and the mild toxication that you will suffer. As a result of which your liver and kidneys will be working overtime. While they do that on priority, all their other normal functions are put on hold. Normal functions of the liver include blood purification, bile production for digestion of fats, immunity, etc.
But does this mean that your health will be forever compromised if you continue drinking?
I consider drinking alcohol to be similar to buying a luxury item – it is an indulgence for which you are willing to pay with wealth (or health, in case of alcohol), which you have earned. Even when buying a luxury item you will not spend more than you can afford. It is the same with alcohol.
If you have a healthy lifestyle and would like to indulge in alcohol once in a while without completely overwhelming your body, then minor indulgences can be part of a healthy fitness plan.
How Much Is Ok To Consume?
On an average it takes 1 hour for a unit of alcohol to clear from your system (Ref1).One unit of alcohol is defined as 10ml (or 8gms) of pure alcohol (Ref2). The infographic below defines how many units and calories are present in popular drinks:
The Department of Health in the UK advises that- “Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units a day and women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day. ‘Regularly’ means drinking every day or most days of the week.” (Ref3)
If you indulge in this everyday then you are compromising your normal liver function everyday! The more alcohol you have the more time it takes to clear from your system. This is how you can be smart about this:
- You want to make this an infrequent indulgence, your best bet is to have alcohol 3 times or less in a month
- Consider the daily limit (3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women) to be one sessions limit
- Refer to the infographic to know how many servings of different types of alcohol you should ideally consume in one session
- If you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle, then consuming alcohol will set you back on your progress. It is best to quit in the weeks that you are aiming for either
But How Do I Get High On Such Low Units!?
There is a difference between having a drink or two to unwind and relax, and drinking so much that you lose control. Many people who drink to have a good time hardly remember what they did.
Losing control with slurred speech, being clumsy and saying things you don’t mean and maybe even throwing up hardly qualifies as a good time for you or the people with you. Or maybe it does?! 😛 In that case, reserve the binge drinking for rare occasions i.e. once or twice a year.
Enjoy the alcohol for its taste and for the occasion. If you need alcohol to lower your inhibitions so that you can have ‘fun’, you should think about ‘Why you can not be uninhibited without alcohol?’
Should I Prefer One Alcohol Over Another When It Comes To Calories?
Hard alcohol or spirits have the least calories. But since you rarely have them without mixers, it makes sense to choose wine over spirits. You can enjoy a 150ml glass for longer than 30ml of any hard liquor. In that sense even beer is preferable to spirits if you want to enjoy it over the course of a long evening.
When it comes to mixers, consider the fact that a glass of juice (250ml) can have ~140 calories that you have to account for in addition to the calories from your drink.
A few tricks that will help you when it comes to drinking:
- Opt for light beer or wine over dark beer; dark beer over whiskey; whiskey over cocktails
- Have your spirits with soda water or neat i.e. with no mixers
- Diet soft drinks are ok when it comes to calories but in effect it is a chemical load dumped into your body. Your liver would have to deal with it once it is done clearing the alcohol. In short, they are best avoided
- Have a snack before you head out for drinks. This will make the appetisers less appealing and save you some unnecessary calories!
- Do not forget to drink 1-2 glasses of water before you hit the bed
Ref1: NHS, UK
Ref2: Wikipedia, Unit of Alcohol (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_of_alcohol)
Note: Definition of a standard unit of alcohol is taken from the UK system. It is primarily used by the beverage companies to declare the number of units on the label of their drinks. This is for the consumers benefit.
Disclaimer: This advise is relevant for only healthy individual not suffering from any lifestyle or metabolic disease like cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, etc. Please seek advise from your physician before starting a new fitness regime or increasing alcohol intake.