Alcohol and its effects on health

In chemistry, alcohol is a compound with a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached to a carbon atom. However, in our daily lives, we give the name alcohol to ethanol, a hypnotic drink that causes sedation. Alcohol is produced in a process of fermentation where yeast acts as a catalyst and ferments sugar in natural products such as grains, grapes, apple, among others.

But how is alcohol processed within the body? Does it affect our health? Is it appropriate to drink alcohol if you are planning to exercise?

After drinking alcohol, it is absorbed in the stomach and other parts of the gastrointestinal system, directly into the bloodstream. After absorption, it is broken down in the liver, and a small amount is lost in the urine. The body can’t handle too much alcohol, and almost 90% of it stays in the blood and eliminates very slowly. It reaches all the organs in a short period of time and shows its effects in almost 30 minutes.

Is alcohol appropriate for exercise and health?

One of the most frequent questions is what would happen if someone is working out and consuming alcohol frequently. The short answer is that alcohol beats the whole purpose of exercising in various ways:

  • First off, we need to know that drinking alcohol causes dehydration through increased urination and sweating. Dehydrated individuals grow tired quickly, and it reduces their exercise performance.
  • Alcohol compromises the normal function of the liver. Thus, your liver won’t have the same capacity for storage and breakdown of glucose. During exercise, your body needs more energy, but alcohol interferes with glucose production.
  • Alcohol contains a high number of calories and causes fat deposition. Thus, if you’re planning to obtain clean gains or lose weight, you won’t have good results.
  • Alcohol disrupts your sleep patterns and growth hormones. They are both required for muscle growth. Thus, most drinkers may experience slow muscle gain.

Your fitness goals are not the ones being affected by alcohol. It can also cause serious health-related issues:

  • Chronic drinkers tend to struggle with addiction and tolerance, which may even lead to family dysfunction and mental problems.
  • Drinking excessively over a long time can compromise our cardiovascular health, causing an irregular heartbeat, stroke, and hypertension.
  • Heavy drinking can cause inflammation of the liver or fatty liver. When this habit is held for a lot of time, fibrosis of the liver ensues and may end up in cirrhosis
  • In some patients, drinking heavily can cause pancreatitis and increase the risk of esophageal cancer, throat cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.

A final word about alcohol

Not every study published about alcoholic beverages is bad. Drinking a little amount daily can cause the level of good cholesterol to get high. However, this is more common with red wine, and it is due to the antioxidants and other substances in this particular drink.

Another topic that deserves special consideration is how alcohol affects sleep; one of the most important functions of the body. As mentioned previously, alcohol impairs our sleep pattern, a problem that becomes worse as the patients continue to drink heavily. It reduces the rapid eye moment phase of our sleep, and we end up with a disrupted sleep that is neither refreshing nor satisfying. Additionally, alcohol can cause sleep-related disorders, such as respiratory depression and sleep apnea, which is why many alcohol drinkers are chronic snorers as well.

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