Booze Bust: Can Exercise and Alcohol Go Hand in Hand?
By Collette DeBenedetto
Summer (aka drinking) season is upon us—sun, fun, barbecues, and brewskis with your broskis. Ah, the good life. But with shirts off, where are you going to hide the burgers and beer? You wouldn't think of telling your buddies that you're passing up the booze to watch your weight because, let's be honest, you were Spring Break King of '93 and you have a reputation to uphold. How do you keep the six-pack, while still having fun? It's all about balance. You don't have to say no to all of the goodies, but you do need to make conscious choices to keep your days healthy. I would not recommend going cold turkey. This is not a "diet" or practice in social suicide; rather, this is a lifestyle change.
Evil spirits abound . . .
Just because you're logging hours on the treadmill and embarrassing Arnold in the weight room doesn't mean you can put the cast of Jersey Shore to shame in the bar and not have consequences. One does not cancel the other. There are some major side effects, including packed-on fat, slower recovery, and disrupted sleep, to name a few. It's common knowledge that alcohol is a powerful diuretic and can cause major electrolyte imbalances, which puts you at a much higher risk for musculoskeletal injuries and brain impairment. Other effects include altered reaction time, decreased testosterone levels, and sleep disturbance. Furthermore, alcohol is stored as fat in your body and destroys amino acids. When you've had one too many drinks, your body's glycolysis process becomes impaired. This means your body begins to produce lactic acid, causing a decline in energy, as well as decreased muscle recovery, and increased soreness.
In 2010, the University of Houston created a 3-week experiment on alcohol and exercise using rats. The scientists took a group of alcohol-loving rats and made half of them use running wheels while the other half stayed sedentary. Once the scientists took away the wheels, the active rats drank more alcohol than the sedentary rats. J. Leigh Leasure, PhD, told Fitbie that "it's possible that exercise could cause cross-tolerance to alcohol meaning, it may make alcohol less rewarding, so people would therefore drink more of it in order to get its feel-good effects." So the more curls you tackle in Back & Biceps may just have you wanting more 12-ounce curls on the weekend.
And whatever you do, don't pop a cold one post-exercise. When you work out, your blood sugar naturally drops. After you're finished, your body focuses on replacing your glycogen stores. If you consume alcohol post-workout, your glycogen stores will not be replaced since your body will be busy metabolizing alcohol, causing your blood sugar levels to stay at an unhealthy level. It's important to first replenish with a proper recovery drink post-workout, or alternative post-workout snack.
. . . And yet, we raise our glasses.
Regardless of these issues, most people reading this will still hoist a tankard this coming weekend. You can drink alcohol, have a social life, and still be healthy. Yes, I dared to say it. I promise. You do have to make choices and moderate those choices because after all, alcohol is made up of calories. And the calories usually don't stop at the alcohol. Think of the sugary mixers and the post-bar grub. How many times has eating cheese fries with gravy from a diner in North Jersey at 3 AM seemed like a "great idea"? The keys are in choices and in moderation.
Once you're at the barbecue or bar of choice, which drink do you choose? Let's take a look at your best bets from a caloric standpoint:
- Hard alcohol. Most distilled spirits have under 100 calories and limited carbohydrates in their 1.5 ounce serving size. If you can stick to hard alcohol with a 0-calorie mixer, your waistline will thank you. We recommend water or club soda. You can also use diet sodas or juices, but then you're getting into artificial sweetener territory. Proceed at your own peril.
- Wine (red/white/sparkling). A 5-ounce serving of wine will pack in about 100 calories. But be wary here. Many restaurants will pour larger servings.
- Light Beer. Light beers have limited calories and carbohydrates, which makes them a great choice for the calorie conscious. Look for brands that have under 100 calories in a 12-ounce serving.
When looking at what to stay away from, try to nix mixed drinks and full-calorie beers—although if you're not counting calories, full-calorie, craft-brewed beers are your best bet from a holistic perspective, in that they're made from naturally healthy ingredients and free of additives, fillers, and other chemicals. Mixed drinks are packed with syrups, sugars, and sodas that can easily add in hundreds of calories to your cocktail. And no, it's not healthy even if the mixer is made from fruit. That fruit is high in sugar! They may look and taste sweet, but mixed drinks can wreak havoc on your body. Fruit by itself is great for you, but I don't think the bartender at Joe Shmo's pub down the street is grating coconut and chopping up pineapple . . . he's probably mixing canned fruit juice. The reason why fruit by itself is good for you is because it packs FIBER with it, which helps slow the digestion and absorption of the fructose, or sugar. Fruit juices have all the sugar, but none of the fiber, leaving your insulin response to skyrocket and fall. Furthermore, sugar masks the taste of alcohol and you may not realize how much alcohol you're consuming.
When imbibing, try to alternate between alcoholic beverage and water. This will aid the absorption process; keep you hydrated; and help you slow down, keeping your alcohol intake to a moderate level. Plus, when your buddies are on drink number four, you'll only be on drink number two. At that point, they may be too drunk to notice or care that you're not drinking alcohol! If you want to look like you're still drinking, one of my favorite tricks is to just get a club soda or diet soda and garnish with lemon or lime. It gives the appearance that you're drinking so you won't have to explain yourself to anyone.
If you overdo it, that's okay. Overdoing it is not an excuse to jump into a downward spiral. It's an opportunity to recognize that you didn't like the outcome of something and you can change it moving forward. Perhaps, waking up in Tijuana after a night of too much tequila doesn't feel or look so good. Your body will remind you of that in the days following. Moving forward, recognize you may need to balance and make different choices in the future.
So how much is too much? The National Health Service of the UK recommends that men should limit their intake to 3 to 4 units a day (that's about 2 to 3 standard drinks here in the States) while women should limit their drinks to no more than 2 to 3 units a day (1 or 2 drinks). You can still lift weights and drink beer too, just don't think you'll be able to drink scotch like Ron Burgundy at night and train like Rocky the next day at the gym.
Avoid the bloat. There are times when we can't avoid a bit of bloating, especially for women, but at every other time of the month, we do have a choice. Avoiding alcohol can make the difference between a flat tummy and the morning-after belly. Food that's high in sodium, like chips, pretzels, soy sauce, prepackaged soups, and pizza, can make us retain water and never want to take our sarongs off. Eating large portions of food, as opposed to small meals throughout the day, can also make our waistline look bigger. If you're going to strut your stuff down the beach, try eating a bunch of meals consisting of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, no larger than the size of your fist. It's the perfect size for your body to assimilate without overwhelming your stomach.
5 Ways to Defeat Skinny Fat
Take better care of yourself — no matter what you weigh.
- Get regular preventive health care — and know your numbers.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat smart. Go big on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains — and easy on red meat, fats, refined grains, and sweets.
- Learn positive ways of coping with stress.
- Gather support for your healthy lifestyle by hanging out with healthy people.
by Beth Shepard, M.S., ACE-CPT, ACSM-RCEP, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach
Most people know that being overweight or obese increases your risk of serious health problems — it's old news. If your body mass index (BMI) is within a normal range, you probably think you're off the hook, even if you don't exercise or eat right.
Think again. More than a decade of clinical research shows that many people are skinny fat, a popular buzzword describing men and women who appear healthy and fit on the outside. Many of these unsuspecting people have healthy BMIs, but are normal-weight obese; they're over-fat and at risk for developing obesity-related illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and more. What about you?
BMI vs. Body Fat Percent
Body mass index is a number used by health professionals to assess whether or not your weight is in a normal range based on your height. But a normal BMI of 18.5–24.9 offers a weight range of about 35-40 pounds — you could be at either end of the range, or somewhere in the middle, and still be considered normal. It doesn't account for body composition — fat or lean percent — and it's not accurate for heavily muscled or pregnant individuals. In essence, it's an imperfect measurement that offers a quick and easy, best-guess approach for assessing weight-related health risk.
In contrast, body fat percent offers an entirely different picture — it's a measurement that reveals whether or not you're carrying too much fat weight, regardless of the number on the scale.
The Big Deal
The concept of skinny fat is getting a lot of attention because we all know people who seem genetically blessed — maintaining a healthy weight without exercising or watching what they eat. But weight isn't the only thing that matters. Studies show that whatever you weigh, poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle elevate your health risks. Check out these research highlights related to the skinny fat concept:
- A recent study found 29% of subjects classified as lean and 80% of subjects classified as overweight via the BMI method fell within the obese category when body fat percentage was measured. Compared to subjects with normal body fat percentage, these individuals also had higher levels of cardiometabolic risk factors such as C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
- Another study of BMI-assessed normal-weight subjects found abnormal metabolic profiles associated with obesity, including elevated triglycerides, glucose, and C-reactive protein; low HDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Subjects with higher body fat percentages were most likely to have abnormal metabolic profiles, despite having a normal BMI.
Its true – big things do come in small packages. Chia seeds are edible seeds rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3s that contain 2.6 g of ALA (alpha-linolenicacid) in only 1/2 a tablespoon. As if that that wasn't enough, Tiffani Bachus, RD, creator of Total Balanced Body, LLC, shares that they're a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps support digestive function and acts as a natural detoxifying agent. Talk about packing a punch!
If you ever get frustrated with your rate of progress (and who doesn't), just remember; success is always guaranteed to the persistent. Nothing in the world can stop someone who knows what they want and is willing to continue paying the price until they get it. It just takes time.
Become the architect and builder of your own dream body. You WILL build the body you want eventually if you're patient enough and you refuse to quit. And set your goals HIGH! Create a fantastic blueprint. Michelangelo said, 'The greatest danger is not that we set our goals too high and miss them, the greatest danger is that we set our goals too low and we reach them.'
Fitness Tip: Stand and Sit Up Straight - No slouching on the cardio equipment please! Stand up straight, hold your head up high, and get more out of your cardio workouts! Standing upright and supporting your own bodyweight uses the stabilizing muscles of the torso. The more muscles you use during any exercise, the more fat burning your body can do!
Fitness Tip: One Size Does not Fit All - Don't forget that weight training machines are designed to fit all different shapes and sizes. Make sure you take the time to adjust each weight machine to fit your body height and dimension. A few extra moments will reduce your risk of injury and make the exercise more effective.
Exercising While Your Pregnant
A Pregnancy Fitness Guide
Exercising While Your Pregnant - A Pregnancy Fitness Guide
There was a time when exercise during pregnancy was discouraged-but not anymore! Times have changed and we've gotten smarter about women's health. Most experts now encourage exercise during pregnancy.
In 2002, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began recommending that pregnant women should exercise moderately for 30 minutes most days, if not every day (unless there are medical reasons prohibiting it).
Exercise benefits mom by:
- Improving muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness
- Reducing the risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Preventing excess weight gain
- Improving sleep patterns
- Preparing you to hold and carry your growing child
- Improving appearance and posture
- Promoting circulation and stimulating the digestive processes (which help prevent hemorrhoids, constipation, varicose veins, leg cramps and swelling in the ankles)
- Alleviating some of the discomforts of pregnancy, such as lower back pain
- Strengthening the muscles needed for labor and delivery, which can ease delivery and labor time
Exercise benefits baby by:
- Preparing the fetus to transition to the non-maternal environment
- Increasing placental efficiency for blood circulation, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to fetus
- Decreasing fetal fat without decreasing overall growth of the fetus
- Increasing newborn's readiness to self-calm and self-quiet
- Increasing fetal movement, which possibly helps develop oral language skills by age 5
The exercises you can do during pregnancy depend on two things: your current health and how active you were before you became pregnant. If you were not active before, don't use pregnancy as the time to begin a strenuous fitness regime; if you did exercise before pregnancy, you can continue your program with some slight modifications.
Before you begin (or continue) any exercise program, discuss it with your healthcare provider. Together, the two of you can plan an exercise program that is consistent with your current level of fitness and health conditions. It is mandatory that you consult a doctor first, especially if you have any of these conditions:
- Heart Problems
- Asthma or chronic lung problems
- High Blood Pressure
- Thyroid Problems
- Extremely over or under weight
- Muscle or joint problems
- History of spontaneous miscarriages
- Repeated C Sections
- History of previous premature labors
- Carrying multiples (e.g., twins, triplets)
- Incompetent cervix
- Persistent bleeding
- A previously sedentary lifestyle
NOTE: If you experience problems such as bleeding, premature labor, dizziness, severe abdominal pain, or feeling unusually tired, during or after exercise, you should stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider before continuing.
You've been here before.
You told your friends that you were going to lose weight last year...only to fall off the wagon two weeks later and give up.
You managed to successfully fit into those old pair of pants back in January...before getting sick.
You won that weight loss competition at work...and immediately put all of the weight back on.
You started a blog to track your progress...and then gave up after two weeks.
You went to the gym for a whole month straight...before things at work got busy.
You've told yourself dozens of times before that "this time its going to be different" ...before doing things the same way as before and getting the same results.
This time, it really IS different.
This time, you've identified your kryptonite and know how to avoid it.
This time, you've identified how to build systems and remove emotion from the equation.
This time, you've built your support team.
This time, you've finally learned how to eat right and not let drinking stand in the way.
This time, you've decided to put your money where your mouth is, like Saint.
This time, you've stopped collecting underpants and put your focus on phase two.
This time, you've learned how to track your progress.
This time, you've finally realized that "eventually" never happens.
This time, you've finally realized that the ONLY person who believes your excuses is you.
Prove them wrongWhen you tell your friends you're going to get in shape, they might say "good for you" while secretly doubting you.
And who can blame them? You've been here before.
Prove them wrong.
And while you're at it, prove that little voice in your head that says "you can't do this" WRONG too.
Every single day, quietly "go to work" and get a little bit better.
Be thankful for all of the times you've failed before.
They got you where you are today.
And today's a brand new freaking day.
This time, it's different.
Now prove it.
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