The effects of Sober October

More than 67,000 of you have decided to go sober for October! For many of you i’m sure it seemed like a fantastic idea to raise money for charity while doing something good for your health and possibly your waistline.  But now it's over half way through the month and your motivation may be waning a little? To keep you going here’s a little info on why your body (let alone your wallet and waistline) may already be thanking you.

FAT LOSS

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If we are trying to reduce our body fat, alcohol isn’t our friend. If you normally drank like the average londoner, for each week of October you will have reduced your calorie intake by ~1400 kcals from alcohol alone. Over the month that's equivalent to ~1kg in fat just from drinks.... WITHOUT the mixers! It's not just the calories in alcohol that hinders your fat loss mission

Alcohol is like lighter fluid for the body, as soon as you ingest it the body immediately and preferentially begins to metabolise it and puts on hold burning any carbohydrates let alone any fat. So until your body has processed and detoxified your body of that alcohol, the energy from that dinner or late night snack will be stored as body fat.

By going sober this October you’re also likely to be reducing your intake of calories from of high sugar/high fat foods. This is because alcohol acts as an appetite stimulant, triggering you to seek out tasty foods, and in your tipsy state of lowered inhibitions the chips, pizza or chocolate probably seem easily justified!

HEALTH EFFECTS

At the end of the day alcohol is a toxin, and it's believed that the only reason (most) of us have the ability to metabolise it is to process the small amounts of alcohols found naturally in things like fermenting fruits. By going sober this October you will have helped to detoxify yourself from some of the nasty effects alcohol can have on health and your training.

The enzymes required to break down alcohol require nutrients including zinc, and alcohol itself actually stops the absorption of several vitamins including vitamin A and D. These vitamins and minerals are vital for maintaining health, ranging from supporting immune function, to cardiovascular function and bone health.

Alcohol is primarily metabolised in the liver, it changes how the liver functions: instead of burning fat the liver actually starts to produce fat, pumping it into our blood which can give rise to health problems such as fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Beyond helping to reduce your risk of these nasty diseases, going sober may even be helping you to fight off and/or recover faster from illnesses including the numerous colds flying around at the moment. This is because alcohol reduces the amount and proportions of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut which act to support your immune system. Alcohol also damages the lining of your gut creating ‘leaky gut’. This means bacteria or undigested food particles are able to pass between the cells in your intestine which triggers the immune system to have a bit of a freak out and creates inflammation in your body. This kind of chronic low grade inflammation is implicated in the development of a range of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease but even in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

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TRAINING EFFECTS

Alcohol ingestion after exercise directly interferes with exercise recovery by reducing the ability for muscles to replenish their carbohydrate stores and delays re-hydration. But the indirect effects of alcohol on sleep, inflammation and nutrient availability also inhibit the body from repairing and building muscle after training.

And if your immune system is compromised that means more sick days and more days under inflammation inhibiting progress and more days missing valuable training sessions!


(SEMI-)SOBER BEYOND OCTOBER?

So after Sober October you are likely to have:

  • Boosted your immune system to fight off pesky colds

  • Reduced your risk for chronic health conditions

  • Increased your post workout recovery, boosting strength gains and performance in workouts

  • Lowered your body fat?

  • Saved money?

To keep getting the most out of your training and protecting your health, reducing alcohol intake to a moderate level is one of the most powerful diet changes you can make. We have all heard people say things like ‘binge drinking is the worst for your health but moderate drinking is alright. This isn’t too far from the truth, the problem comes with knowing what moderate and binge drinking are actually defined as. It might just surprise you:

Moderate: LESS than 14 units per week with no more than 3 units on any particular day

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3 units =

  • 1 pint of beer or cider than ~5.5%

  • 250ml glass of wine around 12%

  • 3 single 25ml shots of distilled spirits e.g. rum, vodka, gin

Binge:  consuming 6 or more units of alcohol in one session… yep two large glasses of wine or two pints of beer is a binge!


Want to give it a go? Here are a couple of tips for avoiding the booze!

  • Plan ahead - if you have an occasion like a wedding or birthday coming up and you know you’ll fancy a drink plan for this to be the day you have a drink or two.

  • Remove “nonessential” drinking. What we mean is the glass of wine at home, or the ‘one for the road’. Take a look at your week and see if a sneaky beer has become a habit and make a change.

  • If you have a work dinner or event and you really want to have that alcoholic drink feeling but without the buzz, most places offer non-alcoholic beers and wine or a slimline tonic and lime often hits the spot. If you’re a real cocktail kind of person most bars are more than happy to make you whatever non-alcoholic cocktail you fancy. How about a Blueberry Mule mocktail

Now is the perfect time to maximise your training and health through nutrition, getting ‘in credit’ before all the Christmas festivities begin.