Monday, June 6, 2011

Healthy Cocktails!

by Kris Pitcher

As barbecue season heats up, so do social opportunities to throw back a few. This along with a funny conversation with a new friend, and Bliss reader, resurrects a topic we need to talk about again. Alcohol.

"You should write about healthy cocktails." She suggested. I tried not to choke on the chicken that had gone up my sinuses from laughing as she said this with complete sincerity. It's true, I shouldn't have conversations while I'm eating. 

She's right, there is a scale of choices from worst to less than worse. But healthy? This is a stretch for me. Now, I realize people are going to indulge in alcohol. 

I understand that the masses are not going to strike it from their menu...even though it doesn't help them meet their weight loss goals. Let's go back to the science of why it impedes our progress. 

Alcohol has definite direct effects on your body - it contains seven calories per gram. These are empty calories meaning they don't provide your body with any essential nutritional value. It effects your metabolism, causing fat to be stored instead of being used as an energy source. 

Alcohol reduces the blood flow to your muscles, causing weakness and deterioration. It reduces testosterone in the blood and increases conversion of testosterone into estrogen, causing increased fat storage and fluid retention - this is a big issue for men. Women's estrogen level increases, increasing our fat storage and fluid retention. Feeling puffy? 

It creates imbalances in your liver causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fatty liver and hyperlipidemia (build-up of fats in your blood stream). Need more? Alcohol cuts off the supply of oxygen to the brain, resulting in a "blackout" caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the brain killing tens of thousands of brain cells.

What about sleep? Many women like to have a glass of wine before bed to wind down. It actually causes increased fatigue and physical stress to the body disturbing the sequence and duration of sleep and altering the time it takes to fall asleep. It's counter productive.

Alcohol inhibits nutrient absorption, both short term by shutting down your metabolism (your body has to deal with the alcohol) and long term by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines - making it difficult to transport nutrients. The short term shut down causes all that food you've eaten to be stored as fat. For later.

What's the bottom line. If you choose to drink, do it moderately. Always have a big glass of water for every one alcoholic beverage you have. And don't be surprised when it slows down your weight loss goals, it's counter productive. 

I don't expect people to do what I do - I'm an athlete and alcohol just doesn't fit into my plan. Having said that, I'm not going to sugar coat this issue for you like the rim of that fancy lemon drop. Ultimately, the choice isn't mine. Last call, it's yours.

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