It keeps you doing the cha-cha dance of fitness.
¨The groundwork for all happiness is good health.¨ — Leigh Hunt
I had lunch with a good friend yesterday, and I was amazed at how great he looked from the last time I saw him four months ago.
With the pandemic changing the way the world lives and the norm quickly becoming a life of sitting at home, eating until your heart’s content, and being okay with it, I was not used to seeing individuals actually looking healthier during this time.
He let me know that he had lost 42 pounds over the past four months and was quickly getting back into the best shape of his life.
Having recently been able to slice 10 lbs off of my “base weight” as well (I went from a standard 162 lb to a standard 152 lb), I knew that this was possible because of the pandemic and asked him how was he able to do it to see if anything was similar to my experience.
He started listing off the various things he implemented that made a huge difference and then slipped in that he completely cut out alcohol. He didn’t harp on it to make it seem like a big deal and didn’t go into any extra detail, but the fact that he said all together was important to me.
He didn’t say he cut back or reduced his intake but said he decided to cut it out completely because he had a number of goals that he wanted to hit and alcohol was not helping that endeavor in any way.
As I thought about my fitness journey over the past few years and the fact that today, at 41, I’m in better shape than I was at 31, the fact that I stopped drinking alcohol completely over two years ago has to account for a large reason for that.
Here’s what I look like now versus before I stopped drinking
In fact, I would argue that for anyone attempting to truly get into great shape, you will be aided tremendously by greatly reducing or just cutting out alcohol altogether for several reasons.
Alcohol slows down your metabolism
Our body typically uses three sources, fat, carbohydrates, and proteins, as energy sources. That is one of the reasons why most diet health plans focus on the mix of this for your body to ensure you are burning the right amounts for proper weight loss.
Unbeknownst to most people, our bodies also can use ethanol (the type of alcohol found in most alcoholic beverages) as an energy source as well.
This energy source is broken down through our liver through various enzymes, and because it is highly toxic, is given precedence over any other metabolic process in our body.
Therefore, when we are drinking alcohol, our body diverts the energy that it was using to break down fat and carbs and instead turns it to breaking down any ethanol in our body as quickly and efficiently as possible.
This is why you will feel so much slimmer and trimmer a few hours after working out when you haven’t been drinking, as opposed to how sluggish and bloated you might feel the morning after a night of drinking.
Your body is so focused on removing the ethanol from your body through your liver enzymes that it’s not able to divert any energy to burn calories from fat or carbohydrates as you would probably prefer.
What this means is that as hard as you work out the next morning to burn calories and shed some pounds after a night of drinking, you are more so just working out the toxins from the ethanol you were filling your body with instead.
While still important and helpful to your body, it greatly slows down your body’s ability to sheds pounds as fast as you would if you were not drinking at all.
Alcoholic drinks can be heavy with sugar and carbs
Depending on what type of drink you desire, there’s a good chance that your alcoholic beverage could be loaded with sugar.
Whether you are drinking a margarita on Cinco De Mayo or a rum and coke on a regular Saturday, there’s no telling how much sugar has been added to the drink of which you’re not aware.
Alcoholic beverages are not required by law to tell you how much sugar they are putting into drinks and since you are probably having a lot of drinks made for you at a bar, it’s highly likely that you are not thinking about that in any capacity before purchasing anyway.
One myth that I do want to dispel now is that alcohol does NOT turn into sugar in your body. This is a common myth because of how quickly you will probably consume calories due to alcohol consumption and the seeming speed at which appears to turn into fat in your body.
This is more related to the slowing down of your body’s metabolism due to the information above than anything else.
However, it is true that many beers have a fair amount of carbohydrates and can quickly hurt the progress you’ve been making in the gym by loading your body with nutritionless calories that will sneak up on you much faster than you may have expected.
A typical six-pack of beer will result in about 918 calories along with around 77 carbs. That’s not too far off from eating six slices of cheese pizza without getting any of the benefits of the actual nutrients that it could aid your body as well (982 calories with 108 carbohydrates).
So, you’re getting all the bad stuff without any of the possible helpful nutrients to your body.
And while you may have avoided or decreased the chances of this happening by drinking wine or only liquor, the last reason is probably the most obvious and most inspiring reason that you should quit.
Alcohol is the one bad decision that leads to many others
We’ve all been there.
You’ve made the decision that you are going to get in the best shape of your life this year and take your game to the next level.
Monday comes and you are super excited to hit the gym and not let anything stand in your way.
You are excited by Friday, as you haven’t missed a workout all week and are doing great things.
Friday afternoon comes around, and your buddies ask you out to the bar to catch up on the week and celebrate life in general. You know you have to get up to work out Saturday morning but figure as long as you can make it there by 10 am, you’re fine.
So you think, “Why the hell not? I’ve earned it.”
You just need to be in bed by 10 pm to ensure you don’t oversleep, so you’ll have a beer or two and be home by 7 pm.
7 pm turns into 9 pm which turns into 1 am.
Since it’s 1 am and you’ve been drinking all of your calories, as described above, your body has been singularly focused on breaking these enzymes in your body.
When this happens, your blood sugar may drop because your body is still burning energy but yet has no nutritional product coming in that it can use to offset this decrease.
This results in your body becoming tremendously hungry because of its desire to consume some calories that it can actually use to offset the burning of these calories.
Therefore, instead of eating that grilled chicken with broccoli that you left in the fridge from meal prepping all week, that large pepperoni stuff-crusted pizza sounds like the much better decision at the moment.
This bad decision to eat this pizza will then lead to you deciding to go to bed at 3 am instead of 1 am (because you have to wait for the pizza to get there and then eat it), which then turns into you waking up at 10 am instead of being at the gym at that time.
This leads to you probably not getting out of bed until noon, ditching your workout altogether that day, and then deciding to eat whatever you desire since you already broke your diet.
You start your diet again on Monday with the same fervor you had last week, but when your friends call again on Friday afternoon asking you to go out and grab a beer, you think again, “Why the hell not? I’ve earned it.”
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Alcohol is that gift that seems to offer a lot, as he gives a lot in terms of time with friends and memories that you will never forget.
However, there are a number of things that alcohol will hold you back from and ensure you never get in life and one of those things is a fitness level in which you can really be proud.
The constant cha-cha dance of two steps forward and two steps back will keep many people putting in the work but not seeing the results of their efforts long term.
This can create a debilitating cycle that leaves many thinking why are they putting in the work at all.
However, if you’re willing to put down the bottle for a few weeks and months and dedicate yourself to seeing what you’re capable of accomplishing without it, I feel fairly confident that you’ll realize this is the missing piece that your fitness regiment was missing for a long time.
And while you may be missing out on a few fun Friday nights with your friends if you do, you could possibly be missing out on an amazing rest of your life every day with your new self if you don’t.