When beginning any fitness/health journey we should always look at our lifestyle and if there are any quick gains that we can get and empty calories such as sugar and alcohol is the perfect place to start.
Now I’m the first to say I like a drink and moderation is a word I use in moderation but it’s widely accepted that both sugar and alcohol are not good for you. Both contain empty calories with little to no benefit for your body needs or functions (other than making you happy and drunk).
Another thing I have found interesting when I started looking into nutrition is the body uses certain energy sources in different ways and gives them different priorities. Lets say you’ve had a few beers with your friends, on the way home you grab a bag of chips or a kebab (classic night out), but your body goes whoops alcohol in the system I need to use this before I use any other fuel source.
Then it looks at the bag of chips and processes the fat and carbohydrates if your body has used up all the energy value in the alcohol and if it hasn’t it stores it as fat. So as we can see if we are trying to get fit and in most cases that means shed a few pounds cutting out alcohol or and sugar is a beneficial thing.
However I like a drink and I am totally addicted to sugar in fact I would probably find it easier to give up alcohol over sugar but that said I have cut down which if you can’t or don’t want to give up completely is a move in the right direction and to be honest life isn’t a battle and the saying a little of what you fancy does you good may be true from a mental health point of view.
This is not all your fault as there is something called the Brain Reward System. The brain knows that when you take something into your body, food, alcohol or drugs, it releases a bunch of feel-good chemicals in the reward system. These chemicals include the neurotransmitter dopamine, which your brain interprets as pleasure and this can become addictive. This Reward System is deep within our psyche how many times do we use or reinforce the reward system ‘I’ve had an hard day I’ll have a drink after work’, ‘it’s the weekend I deserve a drink’ and we use it to control others how many times have you told a child be good and you can have a sweet? Or eat your dinner and you can have ice cream. We have a lifetime of reinforcing and rewarding bad habits.
So there’s the problem a deeply rooted problem we are fighting against, we can meet it head on and just stop, failure will be high, or we can take a reasonable response that fits into our lifestyle long-term and long-term choices lead to long-term changes.
How about trying Dry January, organised by Alcohol Concern, which is now something of an annual ritual for many as a way of recovering from the excesses of the festive period. According to a recent YouGov poll, 5 million of us had a Dry January in 2017.
If stopping even for a month is too excessive for you right now how about cutting back, alternate soft drinks with alcohol, have drink free days (a current government recommendation) or drink lower alcohol beverages.
If you give up / cut down your alcohol consumption what are the real benefits?
Whilst we may like to think that having a few drinks make us sleep, it is poor quality sleep which is why we often struggle to get out of bed after a session no matter how long we stay in bed. The truth is we sleep longer, deeper and in better quality state without alcohol meaning we wake felling refreshed and alive and we take that into the rest of the day with improved cognitive behaviour, better decision making and problem solving, more creative and find it easier to learning.
Drinking 6 glasses of wine equates to losing 19-24 glasses of water from your system. Our bodies are 80% water so hydration is important for most bodily functions improved physical performance, higher energy levels, look better, and less occurrences of headaches.
Six pints of lager (dependent on ABV) is equivalent to 1080 calories and it was shown in small study by the BBC that cutting down alcohol for a month means less bodily fat but more important less fat accumulating around the organs such as the liver which in time will damage the organ and ultimately the body.
Money saved, so where do you start well why not try Dry Jan or for more information Alcohol Concern and if you are not ready to stop even for a week then why not cut down, I know most of this post was about alcohol but if you don’t drink why not try cutting out the sugar?
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