How much is too much booze?
Scientific evidence confirms that there are more downsides than upsides to drinking alcohol, so if you don’t drink, don’t start. Alcohol reduces the amount of calories from fat that you burn, so if you are working your tail off at the gym to lose five pounds, the worst thing you can do is reward yourself with a beer! Alcohol also increases appetite and lowers inhibitions, causing your willpower to evaporate. This is dangerous because normally where there is beer, there is high-fat temptation. Alcohol also reduces testosterone levels and testosterone is the hormone you need to build and maintain muscle. All good reasons to abstain.
However, there is some evidence that one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is cardio-protective. No one is quite sure how alcohol protects the heart (yet!), but theories range from its effect on the antioxidants in other foods to its ability to moderate our stress levels. Red wine comes with the most antioxidant power, and drinking alcohol along with high-antioxidant fruits or fruit juices does enhance their positive effects. The proviso is that “moderation” may mean consuming less than you are accustomed to. So provided that your alcoholic intake doesn’t outpace the number of calories burned each day, enjoying a glass or two may provide benefits. Plus, it is way more fun.
Here is the caveat: the liver is the organ doing all the work in metabolizing the alcohol and its effectiveness is based upon its health. We can protect the liver by eliminating the other toxins that it would otherwise have to process (which is what Ace Your Health is doing every week!): a high-fat diet, and inhalants like air fresheners, household cleaners and petrochemical fumes. I’d rather avoid these things as much as possible and enjoy my wine, thanks. (And don’t even think of taking an acetaminophen tablet to help recover from or prevent your hangover; the combination creates an enzymatic mash-up that can have disastrous effects on your liver.)
If you are going to consume alcohol, it is best to drink on a full stomach, which will slow down absorption and buy some time for your liver. Because fats empty from the stomach most slowly, it is best to have some of the good fats from an omega-3 source working for you while you drink. A simple tip stolen from a doctor I work with is to take a fish oil capsule before drinking. This is an easy magic bullet that helps to slow alcohol absorption and protects the liver, joints and brain.
All things considered, if you are trying to lose weight, avoid alcohol. Give your liver six or 12 weeks to process that fat loss. Avoiding alcohol will also give you a head start by reducing calories, which will get you where you want to go faster, and getting there faster will give you more will power. Once you are at your goal weight, make an informed choice.
And, what about the calories to work it off? Here’s a chart to show you how much…
Excerpted from Ace Your Health, 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck by Theresa Albert