Alcohol – Good, Bad, How to limit consumption and effects

This is part three of my alcohol series. If you missed part one or two here they are:

Will alcohol stop you losing weight?

Will alcohol prevent you gaining muscle?

Now let me start this article by saying …

Alcohol is not all bad!

Good points

Improve cholesterol

Moderate alcohol consumption can; raise good (HDL) cholesterol, lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, and reduce your risk of clogged arteries which lead to heart attacks.

Reduced risk of heart disease

Moderate alcohol consumption reduces risk of heart disease. Moderate drinkers have a lower risk of death from heart disease than teetotallers or heavy drinkers. This may be due to increasing HDL cholesterol levels.

Powerful anti-oxidant

Red wine in particular has been shown to be great for your heart. Studies report drinking up to 2 glasses a day can reduce your heart disease risk by 30-70%

Red wine contains flavonoids from the grape skin, which have a powerful anti oxidant effect in the body protecting us from free radical damage.

Other bad points

Cancer promoting

There is a strong correlation between chronic alcohol consumption and cancers on the intestinal tract. Although alcohol itself is not carcinogenic the problem may be related to the metabolite acetaldehyde, a chemical compound within alcohol.

Damage sperm

Animal studies show alcohol can damage sperm and lead to genetic abnormalities. So if you’re planning on becoming a father you should really limit intake three months leading up to conception.

How to limit consumption

Simply decide

Simply deciding to take your health by the reins and reduce your alcohol intake can have long term benefits.

Consciously deciding ‘ I WANT’ to drink less is very powerfull and a lot easier to maintain than ‘I know I should reduce my intake.’

When confronted with the opportunity to drink or not, you wont because you’re simply ‘not drinking.’ keep it simple and stay strong.

Take on a challange

Go teetotal for a set period of time, like a month. This will help you form new habits and you will find something else you like to drink or do during the time you would normally spend drinking. Your results in and out of the gym will improve further incentivising your want to not drink.

Avoid being thirsty

Turning up to a social event and being ‘thirsty’ will surely make you drink a lot in a short space of time. Start on water or get some on the way to the event.

Be wary of you reference group

Your reference group are the people you spend your time with day to day. Did you know one of the biggest predictors of a persons alcohol consumption is the behaviour of their partner or best friend. You are the boss of you, not your friends or their peer pressure.

Alternate with water

Simply alternating your alcoholic beverage with a glass of water will reduce your alcohol consumption and also helps to offset the dehydrating effect the alcohol will have.

How to limit alcohols effects on your health and your training

Be vigilant of your own behaviour

A group of 12 men each drank 32g of alcohol before lunch. They then consumed more daily calories and opted for more high fat, salty foods than when they consumed non alcoholic larger or a soft drink.

Accept that bad choices are likely to follow a drink so plan some extra calories by going lower the days before. Or prepare food so you’re less likely to binge on a kebab on the way home.

Drink alcohol after a meal

Drinking after eating will reduce blood values of ethanol due to reduced speed of gastric emptying. The food in your stomach needs to be partially digested before it leaves the stomach, this will slow the speed alcohol enters your blood.

If you don’t eat, the absence of food in your GI tract will also allow alcohol to be absorbed a lot quicker which is why people tend to get drunk quicker if they haven’t eaten.

Being female helps

Women tend to clear and eliminate alcohol from their bodies slightly quicker than men. Based on breath alcohol levels; men 0.078mg/L/hour. Women 0.087mg/L/hour

Avoid artificial sweeteners

Artificially sweetened alcohol mixers have a marked effect on the rate of gastric emptying (how quick food leaves your stomach). This rapidly increases blood alcohol concentrations.

Don’t smoke

Alcohol appears to work synergistically with tobacco smoke in increasing risks of various oral and oesophageal cancers.

Individuals who smoke 10+ cigarettes daily and consume 1.5 bottles of wine have a 150 fold increase of oesophageal cancer. Moderate consumption of either has a negligible risk.


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