Drinking and Crossfit – Coach Michael

A CrossFitter’s guide to Drinking…

[editors note: if you aren’t 21 or of legal drinking age in your particular country, this article isn’t for you. Do homework instead.
Also, I’m not a dietitian, doctor, or anybody with any sort of important sounding credentials. I’m not an expert of any kind. I’m probably not even wearing pants right now. I’m merely a nerd who likes to dig into these things and present my results.]

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”
Benjamin Franklin

As anyone knows, we as CrossFitters, are quite fond of alcohol. I attribute this to the fact that the character of person it takes to partake in this lifestyle usually goes by the clichéd motto, “Work hard; play harder.” I often hear as a coach when a WOD is over, “Is it bad if I gave a drink after this?” I usually laugh and say, “Nope! Will you get me one too?” Fundamentally I am joking, but fact is we a re adults and enjoy/need a release in the high stress society will revel in. Yes, my life and business is fitness and health, but I hope at this point I am not in the norm of the all-knowing health model. I work out hard. Eat clean. Never see a doctor unless something is falling off. I expect myself to treat my body (and mind) to the highest standard. I happen to also enjoy the occasional adult beverage. (Sorry, I am not sorry).
I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from people with questions like, “I want to try the Paleo Diet, but I love beer. What can I do?” I hear ya, friend.

How it works… I could dig REALLY deep into the science of how alcohol works, but that sounds more like a boring term paper and less like a fun blog, so I’ll keep this section short. When you consume an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol (ethanol) makes its way to your stomach where around 20-25% of it gets absorbed into your blood stream immediately. The rest of it continues to your small intestine where it is absorbed by the blood stream. Once it’s in your blood stream, the alcohol slowly heads toward to your liver where it is metabolized (broken down).

As the all-powerful Wikipedia tells us, “Alcohol is metabolized by a normal liver at the rate of about one ounce (one shot, a normal beer, a regular sized glass of wine) every 90 minutes.” Many different factors affect this rate – like body fat percentage (lower the body fat, lower the blood alcohol level) and gender (women typically process alcohol slower than men). Any amount consumed over that doesn’t get processed immediately, and instead saturates your blood until your liver can process the excess alcohol.

Think of it like a trip to the DMV. There are 47 people in line, but only two people working the counter, which means you’re going to be waiting for hours until you can finally get outta there. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, the first drink or two can help loosen you up or relax. As the amount of alcohol in your blood increases, the effects become more and more pronounced. The scientific term for this is… “drunk.”

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
-Oscar Wilde

The bad stuff first…

First and foremost: Beer is not paleo. Sorry. Neither is liquor. Some consider wine Paleo as it’s made out of grapes, and Tequila because it’s made agave, but technically speaking…none of it is considered Paleo. Alcohol is pretty much void of any nutrients – its calories, although plentiful, are empty. It’s the first of any fuel to get burned as energy in your system, which will lead the rest of the calories in your system (mostly the carbs) to get stored as fat as they’re going unused rather than being burned as fuel.

“Drinking beer doesn’t make you fat; it makes you lean… against bars, tables, chairs, and poles.”

Alcohol stimulates insulin production when consumed. Just like with grains and other sugars, this can lead to increased fat storage.

Alcohol is a severe diuretic. Which can cause all sorts of health issues if you don’t keep an eye on it. Essentially, it makes you urinate out way more fluid than you’re taking in, which leads to dehydration. Bad. Dehydration= Hangover.

Alcohol impairs your body’s hormone regulation. Which is a big factor when it comes to building muscle or losing weight. There are also studies that show that the congeners (byproducts of fermentation) in alcoholic beverages have an estrogenic effect.

It can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns. When you drink 30-60 minutes before bedtime, you are effecting your sleep whether you realize it or not. The effects kick in once all of the alcohol has been metabolized, so although you might fall asleep (pass out) right away thanks to consumption of alcohol before bed, it’s going to disrupt your body and your sleep.

Alcohol generally contains a lot of liquid calories that can be consumed in large quantities without realizing it. If you’re a bigger dude, it make take you 6, 10, 12+ beers to get drunk… which you’ll do and combine with your normal dinner. With each beer being 100+ calories, that’s 1200+ calories consumed not including food. This doesn’t even included mixed drinks that bring in tons of calories and sugar on top of the alcohol.

The inconvenient truth about alcohol is the decision making when ordering at any eating establishment. All of a sudden, every possible terrible food sounds like a great idea – 4AM Taco Bell, six slices of pizza, a mountain of Chinese food, and everything in between. Even if you’re consuming alcohol responsibly, it’s oftentimes served with smothered wings, chips, pizza, piles of french fries, and more.

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and answer to, all of life’s problems.”
-Matt Groening, Creator of The Simpsons

Don’t go pouring out the wet bar just yet.

The good:

There are SOME beneficial effects of MODERATE alcohol consumption. First and foremost, alcohol consumed in moderation can make you feel good. Stress is a massive factor when it comes to weight gain and health issues – if a glass of wine at the end of the day helps you relax and unwind, I’d say its positive effects outweigh its negatives. Notice I said A glass… if you’re pounding bottles every weekend to forget how miserable your week was, it’s time to reevaluate and reflect.

Wine, need a reason? Red wine actually has quite a few healthy antioxidants in it, and can be healthy for a number of reasons.
And from marksdailyapple.com “Alcohol as a blood thinner enhances vascular health, and the phenolic content (potent antioxidants) can pack a healthy punch. Research has compared alcohol abstention with moderate and “heavy” drinking.  Moderate alcohol consumption appears to lower the incidence of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, total and ischaemic stroke, as well as result in an overall reduction in mortality…Moderate drinking in those over 65 with superior cognitive and memory function. It has also been linked to higher bone density in postmenopausal women.”

Fun Facts:
• 100 proof liquor contains 50% alcohol
• 80 proof liquor contains 40% alcohol
• 40 proof liquor contains 20% alcohol
Traditional wine has approximately 8-14% alcohol, while regular beer has 4-6% alcohol (Not craft). Naturally, this means that you’ll need more beers to reach your desired level of inebriation compared to a liquor drink or wine. More beers = more carbs and more calories = caloric overload!

The goal when drinking is to consume as few calories and carbs as possible while still providing you with the “benefits” (I’ll leave how much you’re looking for up to you) of that alcoholic beverage.

Quoted from marksdailyapple.com “Your mileage may vary. Just because something is in the FAIL category doesn’t mean you can’t ever have one again, just save them for special occasions, or drink in extreme moderation.”

EPIC WIN
Red Wine (organic if possible) – ~130 calories and ~5-6g carbs. Full of the healthy stuff previously listed.
NorCal Margarita – (Rob Wolf’s fav!) tequila, club soda, and lime juice – ~150 calories and ~5g carbs
Whiskey/Brandy/Scotch/Cognac – Full of healthy antioxidants as well. 64 calories and zero carbs.
Vodka/soda or Vodka/rocks with lime (my drink of choice) – >2g carbs, 66 calories + lime juice (>10 calories)

IF YOU MUST:
White wine – ~130 calories and ~5-6g carbs. Not a terrible option, but not nearly as many of the healthy benefits you get with red.
Light beer – ~100 calories and ~3-5g carbs. This varies on the type and brand of beer. Yes, lower in calories and lower in carbs, but beer is created from a grain and it’s easy to consume LOTS of these very quickly.

FAIL
Regular beer – ~150 calories and 10-14g of carbs. Made of grain, easy to consume half a dozen of them without batting an eye, and full of calories and carbs. If you’re a real beer drinker (I am), do so in moderation. I’ll refer you back to the “what are your goals” section to determine what “moderation” is for you.
___________ and coke/sprite/orange juice/cranberry juice. Sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, calories, sugar. The innocent cranberry juice you added to your vodka? 120 calories and 30 grams of sugar.
• ___________ and Red Bull – Although I love Red Bull’s marketing, I hate their drink. Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics which will put wings on your dehydration. On top of that, the alcohol tries to slow you down, the caffeine tries to speed you up – your body has no effing clue what to do.
• Pretty much anything frozen – Sugary margaritas, daiquiris, pina coladas, hurricanes, vodka Red Bull slushies (yes these exist, stay far far away). There’s enough sugar in these drinks to make Def Leppard think ‘that’s a bit much’.
Sangria – Think of it like wine but with 20 packets of sugar added in.

Plan for success.

Identify the days you’ll be drinking. My guess is that it will be Friday, Saturday and, depending on the season Sunday afternoons. Whatever your decision is, decide which days you’ll be drinking and how. If you can manage with just one drink to get you through the night, good for you. If you need more than that, I’d make sure those dates are spread further apart.
If you have a party to go to next weekend, spend your entire week being incredibly diligent with your diet and choices. Be strict on your meals, stick to only water, and work from there.
Make sure you eat BEFORE you go out – you need that food in your system before the alcohol. Critical.
When you get to the party or wherever you’re going, alternate alcohol with ice/soda water. This is your best option against dehydration which is most of the cause of hangovers and poor physical performance.
Don’t mix and match. Don’t switch from beers, to shots, to liquor, to margaritas, to jagerbombs, you are an adult, act like it! Pick something and stick with it.
Stop drinking at least an hour before you’re going to go to bed. If you’ve been drinking, CHUG WATER. Yes, it’s going to make you want to pee. Yes, you’ll have to get up to pee during the night. Because you’re dehydrated and your body can only retain so much water, you’ll require a lot of it to get back to level.
Avoid mixers that are high sugar like vodka and cranberry, rum and coke, Red Bull and vodka, pretty much any________ and _________ is probably loaded with calories and sugar.  A Long Island Ice tea has 700+ calories. A pina colada has 600+ calories. Same goes for a margarita. Drink it on the rocks with a bunch of fruit.

Scared about not being able to restrain yourself? Worried about your friends poking fun at your slow drinking? Let me put on my responsibility hatVolunteer to be the designated driver. That way, your friends will love you and OWE you as they don’t need to pay for a cab, and you have a built in excuse why you’re not drinking. I didn’t drink through most of college, so I was the DD a lot – it was kind of nice having everybody owing me favors all of the time!

“If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt.”
-Dean Martin

The aftermath…Your best friends are in town for one night, or your out at a bachelor party/friend’s wedding/watching a big sporting event…or it was Tuesday and you had nothing better to do. You were accidentally “overserved,” clearly through no fault of your own, and now it’s the next morning and you feel an extra in The Hangover.

I will save the time on explaining biochemically what a hangover is by asking you to google VASOPRESSIN.

How can I be so thirsty when I drank so much last night? You are SEVERELY dehydrated. You’ve lost essential electrolytes and water last night, so get it back into your system.
Coconut water can help you get re-hydrated more quickly than just water. Any Juice is another good option to get you started.
No Coconut water? Eat a banana! Your body is potassium deficient.
Take a shower, a hot shower. Drag your butt off the couch/bed/park bench that you woke up on, and take a long hot shower. Or, if you need a slap in the face, try cold showers!
Pounding headache? You’re severely dehydrated so working out is NOT the best option… but some quick light activity could wake you up! Try doing some push ups or jumping jacks and get the blood flowing out of your brain and into the rest of your body.
Don’t take acetaminophen (Tylenol). From askmen.com ”The reason is that when your liver is busy metabolizing alcohol, it processes the painkiller differently than it otherwise would, resulting in toxic compounds that can cause liver inflammation and even permanent damage.”
If you NEED to, take Ibuprofen. If you can tough it out without the drugs, do so…but take ibuprofen if you have to.

Spoiler alert: drinking isn’t healthy for you… but neither is staying up too late, spending too much time on a computer, not spending enough time in the sunlight, spending too much time in the sunlight, flex in front of the mirror, etc. And yet we all do lots of these things, either because we have to or because we want to. My goal isn’t to make you into the perfect model human being but rather removing any barriers you have toward living a healthy lifestyle while still letting you live the life you want. If you decide that you want to drink, good for you. If you decide that you don’t want to drink, awesome! I won’t ask you do anything you don’t want to do, and vice versa. You know yourself best. You know what you can handle and how your body reacts to certain things. Be smart.

My advice to you on drinking will be very different depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

If your goal is elite performance, rapid weight loss, or rapid muscle gain: abstain from drinking as much as possible. If you need to lose a lot of weight very quickly (maybe you have a wedding coming up, a competition, or a vacation), cut out the drinking completely. It messes with your sleep and your hormones, two crucial aspects of weight loss and muscle building. “But, I want to still drink!” Okay then! Readjust your goals and don’t expect elite results.

Hopefully that was everything you wanted to know, and a lot of what you didn’t, about drinking. So what say you?

“The answer to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a beer bottle, they’re on TV.”
The Simpsons-

 

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