Alcohol vs. Crossfit

Great article thanks to CF South Bay! Enjoy!

No one can deny: drunk can be fun. Not much has changed since high school/college other than maybe my alcohol tolerance and propensity to prank/trespass/sleep in public places. However, how much I value my health has definitely changed, hence the frequency I partake.

‘EtOH’ is organic chemistry for ‘alcohol’ or ethyl alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. I sometimes hung out with a crowd that would refer to alcohol by this name (yeah, nerds partied, too). Calling it EtOH redefined alcoholic beverages to be perhaps more deviant than just throwing back some beers given what we’d sometimes do with it — brew our own beer to create it, extract/isomerize elicit substances into it, among other things. Making it into numerous games also redefined it — pong, flip-cup, etc. Calling it another name highlighted the values I identified with then.

Now, I just like calling things what they are. Alcohol is a serious toxin in the body and even in moderate amounts it’s definitely at odds with health goals. Alcohol’s also been called a crutch, a social lubricant or yet another product we rely on to help us define happiness. Whatever your persuasion, alcohol came into our diet relatively recently and hasn’t been around from an evolutionary perspective long enough to produce any significant adaptations to its seriously toxic short and long term effects.

The list of facts below summarizes effects of non-excessive alcohol use. Excessive is defined by most health sources as more than 1 drink per day. However, for women, this level of use has been associated with increased risk for breast and other cancers, as well as for those with other negative nutritional and lifestyle factors. And while 1 drink per day may not be ‘excessive’, for the subset of population that is trying to improve fitness beyond just wellness or avoiding disease, these facts should hopefully be even more meaningful.

Alcohol & Performance

  • Consuming alcohol after a workout can cancel out any physiological gains you may have received from the activity.
  • Alcohol use drastically reduces protein synthesis resulting in a decrease in muscle growth, and even short-term alcohol use can impede muscle growth.
  • Even a small amount of alcohol severely disrupts sleep resulting in suppressed vital hormones (particularly HGH by as much as 70% — a hormone integral to sustained muscle building and repair) and decreased oxygen availability resulting in decreased endurance.
  • Alcohol is toxic to testosterone levels essential to muscle development and recovery. Alcohol disrupts the fluid balance in muscle cells, resulting in reduced ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your muscles’ main source of energy, as well as dehydration and slowing of repair processes.
  • The body metabolizes alcohol sugars into fatty acids and promotes the storage of other carbohydrate as fat.
  • The metabolization of alcohol by the body is an oxidation reaction with the enzyme dehydrogenase. This creates an elevation of NADH (remember the Kreb’s Cycle?) which reduces the production of ATP, resulting in a lack of energy. Women have much less dehydrogenase which is what accounts for the effect of higher intoxication for the same amount of alcohol consumed by a male of the same size.
  • Alcohol use inhibits absorption or can use up important nutrients. To name a few: Thiamin is integral to metabolizing carbohydrate, proteins and fat, hemoglobin creation; B12 is essential to maintain healthy red blood and nerve cells (and lots of other functions); Folic acid is part of a coenzyme involved in the formation of new cells; zinc is essential to your energy metabolic processes.

Alcohol & Health Risk Factors

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases, neurological impairments and social problems. These include but are not limited to:

  • Neurological problems, including dementia, stroke and neuropathy.
  • Cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension.
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Social problems, including unemployment, lost productivity, and family problems.
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.
  • In general, the risk of cancer increases with increasing amounts of alcohol.
  • Liver diseases, including: alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis (which is among the 15 leading causes of all deaths in the United States), other gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis.