That’s the spirit: Your body on Alcohol Consumption


As the silly season well and truly passes for yet another year, a healthy dose of reality must be shared, as many sit and ponder on yet another year of resolution making. I thought best to leave my next entry until now, giving everyone time to reflect on the work Christmas functions, multiple family gatherings and ‘tis the season joy’, thus taking into account what really occurred within the body by downing all those sugary cocktails.

You see, you may feel relaxed after downing some drinks after a hard day at work, or bubbly drinking with friends or colleagues. But as you forget about the hectic working week, your insides are screaming, SAVE ME!! And this is why.

Firstly, the drink lands in the stomach. Often we accompany food with alcohol so it takes an even slower route via the bloodstream to the liver. The liver now has to work so hard to break down the alcohol that it puts off performing other key duties, the big one – processing kilojoules.

For the next half an hour, the liver is still fighting to breakdown the liquor, which it does by converting it into a known carcinogen called acetaldehyde, then it breaks it down into acetate, a less harmful chemical. Now this is where the effects really kick in. Because the liver is so overwhelmed by this process, alcohol starts to back up in your bloodstream, shooting up into your brain disrupting nerve cells which control memory, movement and mood. Enter the relaxation phase heightened with sensations of feeling warm and flushed due to the expanded blood vessels in the skin.

Being a potent diuretic, alcohol speeds up the flow of fluids to the bladder, and if your favourite cocktail was made with sugary syrup or liqueurs you now have a uncontrolled insulin spike, which may lead to excess sweating, increased heart rate and eventually lead you to make bad food choices, munching down on fatty, salty foods you would normally avoid. Now multiply this with an all day drinking binge, and who doesn’t crave that midnight kebab with the lot…

After an hour, the alcohol you consumed is transformed by the liver from acetate to carbon dioxide (what you breathe out) and water (which is wee).

The disappointing thing here is that all the kilojoules you consumed in food and drink are still hanging around, as your liver has other problems to handle and your body has now stored the unwanted kilojoules as triglycerides (a type of fat) that are stored mostly in cells around the abdomen. This is a problem area for most people and the worst place for it health wise.

The trainer’s advice: Understanding that you have to live your life and enjoy yourself every now and then, try and avoid alcohol consumption during times of intense exercise and post training, especially when using heavy resistance sets or performing high intensity routines. Put simply, alcohol will only delay recovery and erase all possible performance gains, meaning it will take longer to reach your health and fitness goals thus erasing all your hard work.

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