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There’s no doubt heavy drinking is a ticket to an early death.

The CDC estimates 88,000 Americans die annually from alcohol-related causes, which includes car accidents, a cornucopia of cancers, and liver disease. 

Fifteen million Americans are believed to have an alcohol dependency disorder, and until recently alcohol killed more people than opioids. 

That’s not to mention the disastrous effects of alcoholism on quality of life, mental health, productivity, and relationships.

Of course, you’ve heard all this before, and don’t need me to tell you heavy drinking can ruin and shorten your life. 

That said, you’ve also probably heard that moderate drinking is good for you. That’s the claim doctors, scientists, and beverage companies have promoted for years—heavy drinking is bad for you and moderate drinking is beneficial.

Now, though, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction after a series of studies emerged that seemed to show alcohol is dangerous in any amount. 

For example, CNN published an article titled “Even one drink a day could be shortening your life,” in reference to one such study (which you’ll learn about in a moment). Now, the fashionable opinion is that any alcohol is bad for you, full stop, and even moderate drinking is an invitation to long-term health problems.

Is this true, though? 

Are you shortening your life by having a glass or two of wine or beer each night?

Well, the simple answer is no, probably not. 

The more complicated answer is that there’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term effects of alcohol and there’s no one size fits all answer for how much alcohol you can safely drink.

So, what exactly does alcohol do to your body, and how much can you safely drink? 

Keep listening to learn the answer.

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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!



Alcohol. Is it bad for you? Is it good for you? Does it depend on how much? And we all know that too much alcohol is bad, but what about moderate drinking? Is that going to impair health in any way? Is it going to enhance health? Does it blunt muscle gain? That’s something I’ve been asked many times. Does it lead to more fat storage?

That’s another common question. Those are some of the things we’re gonna be talking about here. Now, before we get to the show, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you wanna help me help more people get into the best shape of their lives, please consider picking up one of my best selling health and fitness books I have.

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So let’s start with a quick alcohol 1 0 1. So this is a drug also known as ethanol. It’s produced by fermenting grains and fruits and other carbohydrate containing foods. And it contains calories, but those calories are not processed in the same way as food calories. And we’re gonna talk about that in a minute.

Now alcohol’s, most immediate effects are psychological, of course, and as it is a central nervous system depressant. If you have a small-ish amount, it reduces anxiety, it increases sociability and causes. Almost like a mild, euphoric type of feeling, but if you have too much, then super unconsciousness and death.

Now, I had mentioned that the body processes alcohol differently than food. It processes the calories contained in alcohol differently than in food. So with alcohol, when you drink it, the ethanol is processed by the liver and it turns into a toxic compound called acetaldehyde. Now because this stuff is very poisonous, the body has to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and it can do that by converting it into another substance called acetate, which it can then convert into carbon dioxide and water.

Now the problem is the body can only process so much ethanol so quickly, and that accounts for a lot of the negative side effects of drinking too much or too frequently if you have too much acetal to hide in your body. At any given time, or if you have too much Ace Acetaldehyde, maybe not as much as as a binge drinking session, but if it’s just too much, too often, it causes problems in the body.

Now one of the interesting physiological aspects of how the body processes the acetaldehyde is while it’s working on clearing it out of its system, it short circuits, its processing of dietary fat and carbohydrates. For example, fat oxidation levels plummet, so fat burning plummets when the body is processing acetaldehyde.

And so what that means then is, If you are eating fatty foods while you’re drinking, which many people do eat fried foods, for example, you are going to store the dietary fat as body fat at an accelerated rate. And so that is why drinking regularly can. Lead to excess body fatness if it’s combined with a calorie surplus.

Let’s remember that there’s nothing here that can get around energy balance if you are not consuming more calories. Then you are burning, you are not going to get fatter by drinking. You might find that your body starts storing fat a bit differently. Like you’re probably gonna have more visceral fat if you’re drinking regularly and that’s not good.

But your absolute body fatness, if we wanna look at it in terms of total pounds of body fat, is not going to change unless you are in a calorie surplus. But if you are regularly in a calorie surplus and regularly drinking alcohol and regularly eating fatty foods, when you’re drinking alcohol, you can gain fat quickly.

You can increase your total body fatness quickly. I. Now the body does not have any way to convert ethanol into body fat. That should also be noted. So alcohol isn’t directly making you fatter. If all you had was some alcohol, uh, with no food with it, especially no dietary fat with it, you’re not gonna get fatter.

The body can’t. Do anything with the calories and alcohol other than process them in the way that I described just a couple minutes ago. Alright, now let’s talk about alcohol and muscle growth. So research shows that moderate drinking, and I’ll explain what that is in a minute, is probably not gonna get in the way of muscle gain, uh, unless maybe it.

Contributes to a lifestyle that gets in the way of muscle gains. So if you stay out late drinking and you’re not getting enough sleep, then of course that’s gonna get in the way. But the alcohol itself probably does not. However, if you drink too much and too often, then it’s going to reduce your testosterone levels and depending on how significant.

That effect is that can certainly get in the way of muscle and strength gain. And studies also show that drinking too much alcohol can interfere with post-workout recovery in several ways and directly interfere with muscle and strength gain. So if you want to get as jacked as possible, you really are gonna want to limit your alcohol intake.

And again, we’ll talk about amounts in a minute. Now, this might be me repeating myself slightly, but I just wanna make this point. As far as alcohol and fat loss goes, you can do just fine cutting, drinking alcohol so long as it is moderate and so long as you are counting for extra calories that are coming with the alcohol.

So the, the calories and the alcohol itself are not an issue, but if you’re drinking beer, for example, there are more calories in it than just what comes from the alcohol and. That’s pretty much it. Don’t drink too much account for the calories, and if it, if drinking is leading to overeating, well then that would be a reason to cut it back or maybe cut it out.

Or if it is getting in the way of your workouts because you feel a little bit hungover and when you’re supposed to work out the next day, then that could be a reason not to drink. But those are mostly behavioral things. Alright, so before we talk a little bit about the health side of drinking alcohol, let’s define moderate drinking.

Something I’ve said a couple times. Well, unfortunately there isn’t a consistent definition out there for what moderate drinking is, but in most countries it is 30 to 40 grams of alcohol or less per day. So that’s one or two servings for men and about half that for women. Now, keep in mind that is grams of alcohol, grams of ethanol, not an alcoholic drink.

So beer for example, is about 5% Alcohol generally, and wine is about 15%. So if you’re having 200 grams of beer, then that’s about 10 grams of alcohol and about 30 grams of alcohol If it is wine. So given that definition, given that level of intake, is moderate drinking bad for you? Well, the research is split on this.

Some studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption has small health benefits, and others have shown that it has no benefits whatsoever. But the weight of the evidence is that it’s probably not bad for you, at least physically speaking. It really depends of course, how you respond to alcohol. But if we, if we, if we look at it strictly physiologically, moderate drinking does not seem to be bad for your health.

So, for example, there is a study that was conducted by scientists at the new Field Department of Clinical Medicine, and they looked at the drinking habit habits of 12,000 elderly men between 1978 and 1991. And what they found is that the risk of death was lowest among the moderate drinkers. These are people who had one or two drinks, uh, per day on average, and it was higher among non-drinkers and people who drank more than two drinks per day.

Other studies have found more or less the same thing as well. So for example, studies conducted by the American Cancer Society, Copenhagen University and the University of Munster have found that drinking on average, one or two, having one or two drinks per day is generally associated. With living longer than having no drinks per day or three or more drinks per day.

Now, the problem with a lot of that research is that it is merely observational, right? So that can establish correlations. It can suggest there are relationships, but it can’t establish causation. It can’t explain cause and effect. You can’t take those studies and say, see, drinking alcohol makes you healthier.

Now one of the reasons for that is there are a lot of confounding variables in play here. You have wealth, you have preexisting health issues. You have people who had to stop drinking because they were drinking too much and it was hurting their health, and now they’re a, a non-drinker with impaired health because of all the drinking they used to do.

And that’s why researchers have taken that line of work further and tried to control for some of those variables. And when you look at that research, you find that the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption mostly disappear. And when you look at the weight of that evidence, I think it’s fair to say that the health benefits generally associated with moderate alcohol consumption are completely overblown.

For example, one of the largest studies conducted on this matter to date was done by scientists at the University of Cambridge, and they looked at the drinking habits and the health of over 600,000 people. And what they found is after controlling for confounding variables as well as they could moderate drinking, had more or less no impact on longevity.

They also found that when people drink more than a hundred grams of alcohol, now remember that’s alcohol, not alcoholic drinks, but over a hundred grams of alcohol per week, the risk of dying increased. So I think it’s fair to say that one to two drinks per day is probably not gonna hurt you. It’s not gonna harm your health, but it’s probably also not going to help you.

It’s not gonna give you any noticeable health benefits. Now as far as evidence-based guidelines for moderate drinking go, I’ll say this, don’t have more than one gram of alcohol per pound of body weight per week. And remember, that’s gram of alcohol, not alcohol drink per se. And the reason for that is if you have a bigger body, you can safely consume more alcohol than people who have a smaller body.

Furthermore, don’t have more than a quarter of a gram of alcohol. So 0.25 grams of alcohol per pound of body weight on any single day. And if you do, make sure that you cut back on subsequent days to stay within the limit of one gram per pound of body weight per week. Don’t get drunk more than a few times per year because a lot of the negative effects associated with drinking alcohol are when you binge drink repeatedly or chronically drink too much.

So have a high daily intake of alcohol and also I would say aim to stay below the. Guidelines that I just shared, treat those as maximums, not as recommended levels of intake. Like don’t go above those and ideally stay beneath them, I would say as, as much as you can. And it should also be said that if you can’t do that, if you can’t drink moderately, uh, as I’ve just laid it out, don’t drink at all.

It’s really gonna be better if you just stay away from alcohol. Just completely abstain. All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from?

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New stuff that I have coming and last, if you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at [email protected] and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Alright, thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.

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