Alcohol: Not just empty calories

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When we think about alcohol in terms of the effects on our bodies we generally think about those extra calories we don’t need.  Sometimes I wonder if people forget that it is a toxin to our body. Most of us (including myself) probably would have had some sort of holiday drink…or ten…or more.

wineNot everyone realises how damaging alcohol is to the liver. A lot of the time I hear “but red wine is good for you right? It’s filled with antioxidants.”

This is in fact true, the antioxidant in red wine actually comes from the red grape itself, and it is called resveratrol. To me it is better to eat fresh grapes and a range of other fresh fruit and vegetables to assist with your antioxidant requirements than use the red wine as a source.

I say this not because I’m against people drinking, the odd one is okay. Alcohol becomes a problem to the body when people are not losing weight or have/are developing lifestyle diseases.

Alcohol is classed as a liver loader so adds more stress on to the liver’s detoxification processes and our bodiy’s ability to retain vitality. If alcohol consumption is high continuously, then you could be at risk of a condition called fatty liver. Exactly how it is titled; the liver becomes littered with fatty deposits.

When a liver cell is damaged and then dies, fat globules come along and replace the dead cell. This happens due to a lack of antioxidants in the body; free radical production from the alcohol then overrides the liver’s ability to repair its damaged cells with antioxidants.

However, the liver is very good at regenerating itself but needs a good solid 12 months of reducing all liver loaders and making use of natural foods filled with antioxidants, to aid repair. I understand it’s not easy for everyone to just give up cold turkey, but definitely look at reducing your intake and increasing your antioxidant intake by at least five-fold.

Tips to heal your liver

•  As mentioned above reduce alcohol intake
•  Start your day with warm water and squeezed lemon juice, not coffee or other caffeinated drinks.
•  Eat more green and bitter vegetables, such as broccoli, kale and asparagus, to name a few.
•  Increase the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables
(lots of different colours are good; as each colour represents a different family of antioxidants).
•  Avoid medications when possible
•  Reduce chemicals in your environment
•  Reduce fatty/ added sugar processed foods
•  Drink lots of water
•  Get on to some good liver herbs like milk thistle and dandelion.

Remember alcohol is an energy-dense non-nutritive substance i.e. no good nutrients come from consuming it, so do you really need to drink it regularly? If your answer is yes and then you add an explanation like “because I need it to de-stress at night” then something you are not happy with needs to be addressed in your life.

Additionally, since this is a fitness magazine I also wanted to highlight alcohol intake in the world of sport. It has always astounded me the most sports events are sponsored by alcohol companies (usually beer companies).  Studies show that heavy alcohol intake is likely to have a major impact on post–exercise recovery.

It may have direct physiological effects on rehydration, glycogen stores, recovery and repair of soft tissue damage.

More importantly, the athlete is unlikely to remember or undertake strategies for optimal recovery if they are intoxicated.

Therefore, the athlete should attend to these strategies first before any alcohol is consumed. No alcohol should be consumed for 24 hours in the case of an athlete who has suffered a major soft tissue injury.

The athlete should rehydrate with appropriate fluids in volumes that are greater than their existing fluid deficit. If the athlete has performed in humid weather conditions or extreme heat for long period of time electrolytes, water and carbohydrates will be necessary. Otherwise, just water and carbohydrates will be sufficient, but remember everyone is different so experimentation will be needed.

What I really want you to take away from this is the awareness of how alcohol can really affect our energy and the way our body functions. Then decide for yourself if it is something you want to continue as a regular component of your lifestyle.  www.fuelnutrition.co.nz

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