MENU
14 Dec, 2017

Time for Drinks

375

Many of us drink alcohol to have fun, relax and be social, especially during the December holidays, but here’s how it affects your health and your waistline. – BY CHRISTINE PETERS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN

Under normal conditions, your body gets its energy from the calories in carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which are slowly digested and absorbed within the gastrointestinal system. However, this digestive process changes when you drink alcohol, because it is viewed by the body as a toxin and thus gets immediate attention.

On an empty stomach, the alcohol molecules diffuse through the stomach wall quickly and can reach the brain and liver in minutes. This process is slower when you have food in your stomach, but as soon as that food enters the small intestine, the alcohol grabs first priority and is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. As the alcohol reaches the liver for processing, the liver places all of its attention on the alcohol. If you drink very slowly, all the alcohol is collected by the liver and processed immediately, avoiding all other body systems. However, if you drink quickly, the liver cannot keep up and the alcohol continues to circulate in the body until the liver is available to process it. That’s why drinking large amounts, or drinking quickly, affects the brain centres involved with speech, vision, reasoning and judgment.

But wait, there’s more…
Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning that it causes water-loss and dehydration, causing the loss of important minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. These minerals are vital to the maintenance of fluid balance, chemical reactions, and muscle contraction and relaxation. Added to that, when the body is focused on processing alcohol, it is not able to properly break down foods containing carbohydrates and fat. Therefore, these calories are converted into body fat. Meanwhile, alcohol contains seven calories per gram and offers no nutritional value. It only adds empty calories to your diet. Also, skipping a meal to save your calories for drinks later is a bad idea. If you come to the bar hungry, you are even more likely to munch on unhealthy snacks, which are often salty, making you thirsty and leading to more drinking. Rather eat a healthy meal first, and sip water between drinks – you’ll feel fuller, which will stop you from over-drinking.

Alcohol affects your body in other negative ways:
1 Drinking may help induce sleep, but the sleep you get isn’t very deep, which can trigger you to eat more calories the next day.
2 Alcohol can also increase the amount of acid that your stomach produces, causing your stomach lining to become inflamed.
3 Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to serious health problems, including stomach ulcers, liver disease and heart trouble.
4 Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which is detrimental to your diet plans. Research shows that if you drink before or during a meal, both your inhibitions and willpower are reduced, so you are more likely to overeat, especially greasy or fried foods, which can add to your waistline.
5 Alcohol actually stimulates your appetite.

Moderation is key
In any weight-loss plan, there are three main components: Diet, exercise and sleep. As stated, a moderate amount of alcohol can increase total calories, decrease your motivation for exercise and healthy eating, and negatively affect your sleep. Despite this, many people can enjoy a drink or two without throwing those three components completely out of whack. On the other hand, drinking heavily can significantly derail energy levels, has a larger influence on dehydration, negatively impacts hormonal levels, and can significantly disrupt your sleep. Therefore, limit your overall intake of alcohol and you will reap some of the enjoyment of alcohol consumption, while not derailing your overall progress. As with all things in life, moderation is the key.

Image: Fotolia

LATEST NEWS

Kona Conquered

14 December 2017 - The Ironman World Champs race in Kona, Hawaii, is considered one of the toughest sporting events, and when blind triathlete Helen Webb crossed the Kona finish line this October, she added yet anoth...

Always Be Prepared!

14 December 2017 - When event organisers send out their final instructions for ultra-events, especially for those happening in the mountains, take note and don’t fob off the compulsory kit items, because they m...

Run With Us

14 December 2017 - From deciding to get back into shape, a journey of four years has seen friends Zoe Riley and Audrey Hattingh discover the joys of running, make new friends, get to see new places and challenge them...

Holidays are for Running!

14 December 2017 - Use these handy tips and workouts to keep your legs ticking over this December, because going on holiday doesn’t mean you have to stop training or lose your fitness. – BY RAY ORCHISON, ...

From Heartbreak to Hope

14 December 2017 - Finishing 13th at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and only missing the final by one position established Rynardt van Rensburg as one of the world’s top 800m runners, so missing out on selection fo...

50km to Glory

14 December 2017 - Having taken an eight-year sabbatical from race walking, Natalie Le Roux returned to competition in 2015 and her remarkable comeback continued in October with a new SA Record for 50km in her debut ...

Avoiding Overtraining

28 November 2017 - Ever woken up with ‘heavy legs,’ but still forced yourself through a run and got back home feeling exhausted and burnt out? Then you were probably suffering from overtraining, but the s...

Caffeine Kick

28 November 2017 - In January 2004, caffeine was taken off the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances used in competitive sports, but earlier this year it was placed back on the WADA monitoring lis...

All in Good Time

24 November 2017 - He’s just 20 and currently focusing on his studies, but Nicholas Quenet is already considered a star of South African triathlon, and it appears to be just a matter of time before this young m...

Barry’s Way

24 November 2017 - Having achieved success in trail running himself, Barry Goliath is now coaching the next generation to podium positions as well. As he tells the youngsters in his training group, “Do as I say...

Race Calendar - December 2017

23 November 2017 - South African runners really are blessed with a terrific race calendar with so many great races to do so check out these events for the coming month, including road and trail runs as well as other ...

A real Cliffhanger!

23 November 2017 - There I was, a tree root grabbed with both hands, my legs dangling off the side of the mountain, looking up for a way to pull myself back from the cliff I was hanging over, so that I could carry on...