Over the past 15 years I’ve had a very on again, off again relationship with alcohol. I drank a bit during my last years of high school, didn’t drink during my undergrad (seriously), drank a LOT during my Masters, and then casually drank as a working adult in the real world. Currently (and for the past 1.5 years) I’ve had about five drinks total. Let me be clear up front, I’m not against casual drinking, or judgmental of anyone who does it, this is just a decision that I’ve made to go along with my current goals. Trust me, there are times where I think that a drink would be amazing, or a good way to wrap up a crappy day!
Alcohol and I have had plenty of great times together… and some not-so-great times. When I started to train seriously, alcohol just didn’t register in my mind. It wasn’t an outright decision at the time, but I was on a competition prep plan for about six months straight, and it definitely didn’t fit into my plan. After going that long without a drink I realized that I didn’t miss it. Add in the fact that I was outright scared of how bad a hangover would feel and I easily said good bye to the booze.
Since then, I’ve come across a lot of articles on alcohol and its impact on your body – especially in someone focused on serious training. These findings have only supported my thoughts on alcohol and my physical goals. Again – this is MY decision based on my personal goals right now. I would never say that I’ll never have another drink in my life, but for normal day to day living right now, it’s not helpful and therefore not worth it!
Here are some of the reasons why alcohol isn’t part of my life right now:
- Muscle growth. Alcohol lowers testosterone levels (which may seem like a good thing to female readers, but it’s not). Testosterone helps to burn fat and build muscle, so lowering that in any way is not helpful to our overall body composition. Lowering your metabolic rate makes it even harder to lose fat in the long run.
- No hangovers! This bonus should be pretty clear – hearing about other people suffer through a hangover is enough to make me not miss drinking at all. Yuck.
- No poor food choices. This relationship is pretty clear too, you drink and the idea of pizza, poutine, or McDonalds at 2am is brilliant. Then you wake up surrounded by fast food wrappers and no memory… maybe that’s just me…
- Recovery and rest. A lot of people will have a drink to help them sleep, but in fact alcohol has the opposite effect. It hinders your ability to enter the deepest phases of a sleep cycle, meaning you sleep lighter and never reach the peak of rest and recovery time – when your body repairs and rebuilds itself best (read: muscle growing time).
- Empty calories. Alcohol is calorie dense, but nutritionally void. Actually, alcohol supplies almost twice the number of calories as protein and carbs! Throw in the fact that your body will prioritize the metabolism of alcohol over other nutrients and you’re left with a lot of extra calories being stored in your body… and it’s definitely not in your muscles. The saying “beer belly” had to come from somewhere, right?
- Slows / hinders nutrient absorption. Your body uses vitamins to process alcohol, specifically B vitamins, which is depleting it from your stores. For general health purposes, you never want to be vitamin deficient, but with regular drinking activities, you likely are. This is a reason why alcoholics look unhealthy – poor skin tone, dry brittle hair and nails – their body is lacking it’s vital micronutrients.
There you have it, some of the reasons I’ve decided to cut booze out of my life currently. The way I look at my life is that if I’m putting all this time and energy into doing everything I possibly can to help myself train hard and improve, I’m not going to detract from it with alcohol. And, let’s be honest, I’d way rather eat my calories in amazing food than drink them!