Wellness

Alcohol & Fitness: How to find a healthy balance - Part 3

Healthy Tips For Before, During, and After Alcohol

I FREQUENTLY GET ASKED IF I DRINK ALCOHOL AND IF I MAKE CLIENTS CUT IT OUT, AND IF YOU KNOW ME, YOU KNOW THAT ANSWER!

If alcohol is something you've decided can be a healthy part of your life, I've compiled some clear information on how it affects the body and how to take care of and replenish your body before, during, and after in this 3-part series.

PART 1: HOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS OUR BODY

PART 2: ALCOHOL, NUTRITION, AND FITNESS GOALS

drinks.jpg

 BEFORE

  • First, know your limits and set a boundary for yourself before your first drink.

  • Pace yourself and aim to savor and sip rather than gulp and guzzle.

  • Eat a well-balanced meal beforehand to slow down the absorption into the bloodstream and help stabilize blood sugar.

DURING

  • Go simple. My favorites: red wine, sparkling rosé, prosecco, blanco tequila with fresh lime juice and chili salt.

  • Avoid sugary mixes, concentrates, juices, and mixing various types of alcohol.

  • If you do choose to enjoy a more sugary cocktail (because...live a little...), follow up with extra water and move on to a low sugar drink after one.

  • Hydration: Alcohol is dehydrating so aim to drink 1 glass of water for every drink consumed and sip on water with your drink to avoid drinking down your delicious cocktail all too quickly and reaching for snacks when you aren’t actually hungry.

  • Eat a Balanced Meal: If you show up to happy hour or dinner with an empty belly, choose a healthier option with protein, complex carbohydrates like a grain or starchy vegetable, and a healthy fat such as olives.

  • Avoid eating heavy carbohydrates with alcohol to avoid a blood sugar spike (especially before bed).

  • Avoid consuming alcohol too close to bedtime to help improve the quality of your sleep.

AFTER

  • If you’re feeling hungry before bed, reach for a healthy fat like olives, cashew or sunflower seed butter, raw nuts, or half an avocado with rice vinegar and flaky salt to help stabilize blood sugar.

  • Drink a full glass of water before you head to bed along with a multivitamin that has a good dose of vitamins A, B, C, Zinc, and Magnesium.

  • Supplement with milk thistle (silymarin) – an herbal supplement that helps protect the liver, reduce inflammation, and metabolize toxins (aka alcohol) while helping balance blood sugar.

  • The Morning After: drink 12-16 oz of water with juice of one fresh lemon before anything else hits your system to stimulate the digestive system, support the liver and give your body a dose of vitamin C.

  • Follow the lemon water with healthy fats and fiber, a good dose of greens (perhaps a juice of all greens and lemon) or 1 tsp of liquid chlorophyll (since I know you won’t be craving a gigantic salad) before your coffee.

  • (In case you forgot last night..) Nourish your liver, help remove toxins, and replenish vitamins A, B, C, E and Magnesium with a Multivitamin.

  • Take a Probiotic.

  • GET A WORKOUT IN AND SWEAT! (non-negotiable)

fitness.jpg

LOOKING TO CUT BACK? HERE ARE A FEW TIPS:

 
  • Choose a few nights a week that are Alcohol-Free

  • Choose drinks with a lower percentage of alcohol

  • Keep track of how much you drink in one sitting and per week

  • Drink a glass of water before and after an alcoholic beverage

kirstenbubbles.jpg

You can still enjoy moderate alcohol consumption and the social aspects of drinking and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Determine how important your health goals are to you, consider your personal bio-individuality and genetics, pay close attention to your motivations behind drinking, and follow my healthy tips for before, during, and after.

And make sure that whatever you choose to drink, it’s totally worth it! Because life is too short for it not to be enjoyed and a good cab tastes extra delicious with a healthy meal. 

IMPORTANT: Make sure the drinks you are consuming are enjoyable rather than a form of therapy, numbing, social anxiety, peer pressure, or because you believe it’s beneficial to your health and well-being. Our relationship to alcohol, knowing our personal limits and how to maintain a healthy balance is extremely important.

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a question regarding social drinking and your fitness goals? Do you have any words of advice for others trying to navigate creating a healthy lifestyle? Ask or share below or start the conversation on social using #runningwithforks.

Alcohol & Fitness: How to find a healthy balance - Part 2

Alcohol, Nutrition and body composition

I FREQUENTLY GET ASKED IF I DRINK ALCOHOL AND IF I MAKE CLIENTS CUT IT OUT, AND IF YOU KNOW ME, YOU KNOW THAT ANSWER!

If alcohol is something you've decided can be a healthy party of your life, I've compiled some clear information on how it affects the body, tips for combining eating and drinking, and how to take care of and replenish your body before, during, and after.

PART 1: HOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS OUR BODY

ALCOHOL and BODY COMPOSITION GOALS

The alcohol and fat loss question can be confusing when you see certain individuals consuming alcohol on a regular basis and still maintaining their lean and fit physique while you feel like alcohol has the opposite effect on your body. It's true that alcohol has a better place in weight maintenance than in weight lossThis could be due to your body's hormonal response, the excess empty calories, the types of food combinations consumed while drinking, or a combination of these factors.

If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass and increase your strength, alcohol isn’t helping support those goals either. You’ll have less energy the next day to carry you through your workout and the ability of your muscles to recover and rehydrate will be impaired after drinking.

Ask yourself if drinking alcohol makes it more challenging to stay on track by increasing your cravings (which may lead to overeating or making poor nutritional decisions), affecting your sleep, and hampering your workouts. If the answer is yes, drinking alcohol may not be something that supports your goals right now. If it does fit into your lifestyle, come up with a game plan for how to enjoy it without derailing your current progress. This might mean switching the type of alcohol you typically choose, cutting back on the quantity or being conscious of the foods you eat before, during, and after drinking.

 

ACTION: Plan your drink choices ahead of time, set a limit for yourself, and eat a healthy balanced meal beforehand to stabilize your blood sugar and slow down absorption.

alcoholbalance.jpg

NUTRITION facts of alcohol

While fun and enjoyable, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and is considered "empty calories", with no nutritional value and no place to be stored in the body.

The amount of calories and carbohydrates/sugar will vary with each type of alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) as well as within each type. For example, the calories and carbs will be lower in a glass of dry wine vs sweet wine due to the sugar content and a light beer will have less calories and carbs than a strong IPA. For a lighter and healthier option, your best bet is to choose a dry red wine, a glass of bubbles, a light beer, or a cocktail made with clear liquor, citrus, fresh herbs, and bitters.

Side note – you still need to be aware of the sneaky ingredients that may be hiding in your alcohol. I recently learned that some tequila brands contain corn syrup (shame on you Jose Cuervo) and are not made from 100% agave. Choose blanco or silver tequila for more the purest options.

 

CALORIES / CARBOHYDRATES

  • 1 oz liquor 90-100 calories / 0 g carbohydrates

  • 5 oz glass of wine 100-125 calories / 4-10 g carbohydrates

  • 12 oz light beer 100-160 calories / 5-10 g carbohydrates

  • 12 oz IPA or craft beer 160-425 calories / 12-40 g carbohydrates

REPLENISH LOST NUTRIENTS post-alcohol:

Even in moderate amounts, we still get depleted of certain nutrients when consuming alcohol. Those nutrients primarily include: B-vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and electrolytes.  It’s important to replenish these nutrients the next morning to help reboot your system and get you back on track more quickly. See Part 3 for how to replenish and my tips on taking care of your body before, during, and after.

lemons.jpg

FURTHER READING/TIPS:

PART 1: HOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS OUR BODY

PART 3: HEALTHY TIPS FOR BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

The Take Home Message

You can still enjoy moderate alcohol consumption and the social aspects of drinking and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Determine how important your health goals are to you, consider your personal bio-individuality and genetics, pay close attention to your motivations behind drinking, and follow my healthy tips for before, during, and after.

And make sure that whatever you choose to drink, it’s totally worth it! Because life is too short for it not to be enjoyed and a good cab tastes extra delicious with a healthy meal. 

IMPORTANT: Make sure the drinks you are consuming are enjoyable rather than a form of therapy, numbing, social anxiety, peer pressure, or because you believe it’s beneficial to your health and well-being. Our relationship to alcohol, knowing our personal limits and how to maintain a healthy balance is extremely important. 

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a question regarding social drinking and your fitness goals? Do you have any words of advice for others trying to navigate creating a healthy lifestyle? Ask or share below or start the conversation on social using #runningwithforks.

Alcohol + Fitness: How to find a healthy balance - Part 1

The Science: How Alcohol affects our Bodies

cocktail.jpg

I frequently get asked if I drink alcohol and if I make clients cut it out, and if you know me, you know that answer!

It’s not uncommon for alcohol to be on the “avoid” list in the wellness community, and recent studies have shifted from the once held belief that alcohol in moderation can be beneficial to our health. Now, this doesn’t matter all that much if you’re someone who doesn’t care to drink, but for those that do choose to enjoy it, and want to keep it in your diet, it can be a confusing topic when it comes to your health and fitness.

If alcohol is something you’ve decided can be a healthy part of your life, I’ve compiled some clear information on how it affects the body and how to take care of and replenish your body before, during, and after in this 3-part series.

ALCOHOL AND METABOLISM

Okay, here is the simple science behind alcohol and how the body digests it. First, understand that alcohol is not processed like other foods and the body has no place to store it, therefore, it has to be immediately metabolized. 

As a general guideline, our bodies are only able to process about 1 drink per hour, which will vary with gender, weight, food intake, supplements, medications, etc. With that in mind, if you’re drinking faster than your liver can metabolize it, the alcohol hits the blood-brain barrier – which is why you start to feel tipsy and uncoordinated, those inhibitions go to the wayside, and your appetite is stimulated. Avoid drinking with an empty belly to help slow down the speed of absorption into the bloodstream.

Because alcohol elimination becomes top priority, your metabolism on the whole transitions to a fat-storing state until it’s eliminated. So, that pizza you think is a really good idea on your way home from drinks…not so great for your fitness goals. 

 

HEALTHY TIPS:

  • Slow down how quickly alcohol is absorbed by keeping a moderately full belly when drinking and primarily choose fat and protein combinations to help stabilize the blood sugar.

  • Limit your intake to no more than 2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women and no more than 8 drinks/week for both men and women.

EFFECTS ON BLOOD SUGAR:

Alcohol consumption interferes with your blood sugar, the hormones that help maintain healthy levels, as well as many other major bodily functions. So while you might be craving carbohydrates and are thinking it will help absorb some of the alcohol, in actuality, you’re craving carbs due to a blood sugar response and the effects of alcohol on hunger and inhibition. The bad news, refueling with carbs will only leave you crashing again a few hours later, or in the middle of the night, thus interrupting your sleep.

 

HEALTHY TIP:

  • It's ok to occasionally choose a fresh muddled cocktail or margarita (the real kind obviously), but if you plan to have more than one drink, fully enjoy, sip, and savor that delicious cocktail but then switch over to a low sugar beverage.

cropped muddled.jpg

EFFECTS ON SLEEP:

Have you ever noticed that you toss and turn a bit more on nights you’ve had a few drinks, or that you crash when your head hits the pillow but then lay wide awake at 3am? Alcohol elevates certain hormones that make you more alert, preventing deep REM sleep, and causes a nighttime dip in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that can lead to restless sleeping.

So if you have plans for a workout the next morning, be aware that the lack of sleep, added fatigue, and impaired muscle recovery will in turn affect your performance.

If you’re someone who already has trouble sleeping or has issues with hormones related to blood sugar (insulin) and stress (cortisol), alcohol will only make matters worse. 

 

HEALTHY TIP: 

  • If you're feeling hungry before bed or know you experience nighttime hypogycemia, eat a small snack of healthy fats to help you stay more stabilized throughout the night.

HORMONAL EFFECTS:

The effects listed below are more likely related to alcohol intake above what is considered 'moderate consumption', but more than 1-2 drinks a day and you could start to experience problems and wreak havoc on your hormonal and long term health.

LADY  HORMONES…

Ladies – what doesn’t affect our hormones?! Seriously. Alcohol affects our hormonal cycles by increasing cortisol (stress hormone) and estrogen, and decreasing progesterone. If you’re someone who already wildly fluctuates with your hormones and your mood, you may want to consider how much you consume and begin tracking how your body reacts at each phase. 

Additionally, studies clearly show that alcohol creates a moderate increased risk of developing breast cancer. If you know you carry the gene for breast cancer, you may want to consider how drinking affects your long-term health and wellness.

 

ACTION: Use a tracking app such as Clue to track drinks, mood, and physical response and if you carry the breast cancer gene, speak to your doctor and consider cutting back or eliminating from your diet.

MANMONES…

Gents – (and the ladies too, actually!) – while your body is metabolizing alcohol, the liver is unable to produce testosterone. Testosterone is an important hormone for both men and women in regards to building muscular strength and making changes to your body composition, therefore, decreased levels may make it more challenging to reach your goals. If you have a specific goal you're working toward, it may be more beneficial in the short term to cut back or eliminate during this time. 

Additionally, low levels of testosterone can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, decreased motivation, decreased sex drive, and fertility issues. 

 

ACTION: Consider cutting back and moderating your intake if you experience the negative symptoms above or are having difficulty conceiving.

further READing/tips:

PART 2: ALCOHOL, NUTRITION, AND BODY COMPOSITION

PART 3: HEALTHY TIPS FOR BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

The Take Home Message:

kirstenbubbles.jpg

You can still enjoy moderate alcohol consumption and the social aspects of drinking and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Determine how important your goals are, consider your personal bio-individuality and genetics, pay close attention to your motivations behind drinking, and follow my healthy tips for before, during, and after.

And make sure that whatever you choose to drink, that it’s totally worth it! Because life is too short for it not to be enjoyed and a good cab tastes extra delicious with a healthy meal. 

IMPORTANT: Make sure your consumption is enjoyable rather than a form of therapy, numbing, social anxiety, or peer pressure. Our relationship to alcohol, knowing our personal limits and how to maintain a healthy balance is extremely important.

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a question regarding social drinking and your fitness goals? Do you have any words of advice for others trying to navigate creating a healthy lifestyle? Ask or share below or start the conversation on social using #runningwithforks.

Hydration Basics: Are you Drinking Enough?

autri-taheri-water.jpg

We are made up of roughly 45-60 percent water and how much you need to drink each day depends on a number of factors such as:

  • age and gender

  • body type and composition

  • activity intensity and duration

  • sweat rate

  • stress

  • illness and inury

  • climate

  • supplements

So, whether you’re sitting at as desk all day, getting multiple workouts in, headed out for a hike, recovering from an injury, or relaxing in the sun on vacation, it’s always important to hydrate properly and recognize when you may or may not be getting enough in.

karim-ghantous-water.jpg

How Much Do You Need To Be Drinking

A good general recommendation is about half your body weight in ounces.

That may sound like a lot if you're someone who currently only drinks a glass here and there, but as you start to become more aware, you'll be able to fine-tune how much you drink and when. Paying attention to your urine, your skin, how many glasses you're consuming each day, and the foods you're eating, will help you better understand your body and how it's responding.

And just in case you're thinking you need to go pound 12 glasses of water, your intake doesn’t come only from drinking water. It also makes up your coffee, tea, milk and nut milks, and certain solid foods such as watermelon, lettuces, cucumber, broccoli, etc. With thirst and awareness as a guide, we as humans are generally able to stay pretty well hydrated, but for those not particularly aware of the body's messaging, below are just a few reasons it's so important to drink up and tips for ensuring you're taking care of your body for the long haul.

Why Hydration and Water is Important

  • Water is the primary building block of cells

  • Regulates internal body temperature

  • Metabolizes proteins and carbohydrates

  • It is the primary component of saliva and is used in digestion and swallowing

  • Lubricates joints and acts as a shock absorber

  • Insulates the brain, spinal cord, organs, and fetus

  • Flushes waste and toxins from the body

  • Carries oxygen and nutrients to cells

  • Promotes healthy weight management

  • Boosts the immune system

Tips for Staying Hydrated

ALWAYS CARRY A WATER BOTTLE: Keep a water bottle in your bag, in your car and at the office. You can never be too prepared. Refilling your water bottle at the office also requires you to get up and walk around which helps prevent long periods of sitting when you get caught up in that pile of emails.

DRINK OFTEN: Keeping your water bottle handy helps with this, but you have to remind yourself to actually use it. Rather than chugging water infrequently whenever you remember, drink consistently throughout the day to continually hydrate.

DRINK WHEN YOU WAKE UP: After a long (or short) night's sleep, you'll want to rehydrate with a glass of water. My recommendation: drink 8 oz water with the juice of half a lemon to stimulate your liver and digestion, flush toxins and boost metabolism before anything else enters your body.

SET AN ALARM: If you tend to lose track of the last time you drank, set a timer or alert on your phone every 30 minutes as a reminder to take a sip.

REPLACE ELECTROLYTES: For workouts less than an hour, this usually isn't an issue, but if you sweat a lot or if you're doing a long workout, it's important to replenish your lost electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium) as well as water. You can do this through food in your post workout meal and adding salt to foods (1/4 - 1/2 tsp), but the easiest way is to add an electrolyte sports drink to your water bottle during your longer workouts.

POST WORKOUT MEALS: Consume nutrient dense foods and drink water after exercise to assist in the re-hydrating process.

BE AWARE OF THIRST CUES ALWAYS.

How to Test Your Hydration

Dehydration can be detected primarily by paying attention to symptoms. And if you're thirsty, you're on your way to dehydration.

Another way to test is through skin elasticity. Pinch the back of your hand and lift the skin. If a fold of pinched skin returns to its original shape especially slow (called tenting), then you may be dehydrated. 

skin test.png
urine chart.jpg

And the best way in my opinion to check for hydration levels is to pay attention to your urine. If your urine is transparent, you may be drinking too much water. Pale straw to transparent yellow is observed as normal hydration levels. And if you are seeing dark yellow, you may be on your way to dehydration or already dehydrated and should drink water soon. Anything beyond that, schedule to see your doc. 

Early signs of dehydration:

  • thirst

  • dry mouth, eyes and nose

  • decrease in energy

  • fatigue and weakness

  • increased body temperature

  • muscle cramping

  • headaches

  • nausea

  • dark urine with less volume (note that certain supplements and vitamins, such as B12, can cause urine to be bright yellow, which may not be indicative of dehydration)

Severe dehydration can also include:

  • muscle spasms

  • vomiting

  • dark urine

  • decrease in performance

  • vision problems

  • loss of consciousness

  • kidney and liver failure

The remedy for dehydration is simple: Drink water. It’s better to take frequent sips of water rather than chugging larger amounts infrequently. Adding in sport/energy drinks can help restore carbohydrates and electrolytes and pay attention to that pee!

The Sunshine Vitamin

sunshine vitamin.jpg

Did you know that 40-60% of the US population is deficient in the beneficial (and crucial) vitamin D, otherwise known as “The Sunshine Vitamin”?

This is especially true for those living in a northern region and because it is extremely rare in foods, it's nearly impossible to get all of our needs from food alone.

What is it and why are we deficient?

Simply put, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure on the skin. However, in order for our bodies to convert the cholesterol in our skin to Vitamin D, we need UVB exposure, which is typically what we are trying to avoid when we lather ourselves up with sunscreen.

When we apply an SPF of 8+ or higher, the amount of Vitamin D that can be made by the body decreases by about 95%, which is great for skin cancer prevention, but not for your Vitamin D requirements – or your overall health and well being. If you think you’re getting your daily dose when sitting in a sunny window at work or driving down the highway, think again. Window glass blocks essentially all UVB rays preventing the skin’s absorption.

Do you have darker skin AND live in a northern region (think: north of an imaginary border from Northern California to Boston)? You have higher levels of melanin in your skin which makes your skin better at screening out most of the already limited sunlight you’re exposed to for those 4-6 months out of the year.

And if getting older wasn't enough already, as we age, our body’s ability to produce Vitamin D is reduced by 75%. 

If you're a plant-based eater, have malabsorption issues, or have Crohn’s or Celiac disease, you’re at higher risk for deficiency as well.

Pregnant or trying to conceive? It's highly recommended you take additional supplementation to support both you and your baby during this time. Most prenatal vitamins contain 400 IU and studies have shown taking an additional 4,000 IU daily had the greatest benefit for preventing pre-term labor and infections.

Low levels in the body are associated with:

  • Increased risk of cancers

  • Development of diabetes

  • Decreased immunity

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Neurological disorders

  • Increased symptoms of anxiety and depression

The take-away? We all need Vitamin D supplementation!

Food vs. Sun vs. Supplements

Vitamin D is extremely rare in foods and the likelihood that you’re getting in enough daily from food alone is pretty low. Some good sources include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, fish liver oils such as cod liver oil, mushrooms, whole raw milk products, and eggs so begin making an effort to eat more Vitamin D-rich foods.

Additionally, attempt to get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen), 2-3 times per week.

However, the easiest way to ensure adequate amounts in our system is through simple supplementation and it's one of top recommendations for everyone. 

How much do you need?

The official recommendation for supplementation is only 400 IU but this is purely to prevent deficiency, not for optimal health. The recommended intake to maintain OPTIMAL and HEALTHY levels in the body (which is what we strive for, right?) is approximately 4,000 IU (from sun, food, and supplementation). That's a big difference! And if you’ve been deficient recently and are trying to regulate your stores, you might require up to 5,000/day for 6-12 weeks afterwards.

My go to D supplement is Thorne liquid D. It has 1,000 IU in 2 drops so you can adjust for your own personal requirements. 

Example:

  • Pregnant or trying to conceive and taking a prenatal that has 400 IU, add an additional 6 drops (3,000 IU) of Liquid D

  • Northern regions and darker skin: Take 4,000-5000 IU in winter months and 2,000 IU in sunny months

  • Aging population 5,000 IU

*I recommend discussing your personal vitamin D status and supplementation needs with your physician, nutritionist, or dietitian before considering a vitamin D supplement. 

And in regards to sun exposure, I am not recommending you avoid sunscreen, but balance your exposure with/without protection so you absorb your D needs while still preventing your risk of developing skin cancer.

If you're unsure of your personal needs, feel free to reach out!

Happy sunning!