It brings me no joy to write this article today, but with National Wine Day having come and gone last week, I hope you at least appreciate that I did not send this out and ruin the party!
But I care about you and I care about your health, and I cannot have my readers living their lives in the dark.
I’m sure if I asked you, you could list of all types of “benefits” to moderate drinking. There is of course the BIG reason: decreased risk of stroke. Alcohol acts as a blood thinner, so it can help to prevent blood clots.
You may have also heard all types of other claims. I have heard everything from the decrease in risk of diabetes, to actually helping you to LOSE weight, to improving your immune system, to increasing bone density.
WOW. Wine must be a miracle drug!
Unfortunately, research is just not reliable these days and when you look at how alcohol impacts people in real-life terms, these claims start falling apart.
The one thing that IS true: alcohol thins blood. This does technically reduce the risk of stroke.
But, just like any drug, there are side effects and also like other drugs, there are far more negatives than positives.
It’s kind of like saying that not eating is “healthy” because it leads to weight loss. Yes, you will lose weight if you starve yourself long enough, but there are SO MANY reasons why that is a bad idea.
So let’s look at the two BIG reasons why wine is hurting you more than helping:
1) Ethanol is not a normal carb.
If you have ever tracked your food or counted calories, then you know that a glass of wine has between 100-150 calories.
So, as long as you don’t eat too much for dinner, you are fine! Right?
I think we all intuitively see the problem with this, because if you take it to the extreme, you could just have three glasses of wine, skip dinner altogether, and come out the same!
But besides the clear social impact that having wine for dinner would produce, it also doesn’t work out calorically.
Ethanol, unlike other carbs, does not break down the same way, meaning that a calorie is not just a calorie.
When you eat 100 calories worth of potatoes, all of the cells of your body can use those calories and only what is left over will go to the liver to be used there. This usually equates to about 20 calories total going to the liver.
Contrast ethanol, where 100 of 100 calories go to the liver, where they must first be broken down, then processed. That means that 100 calories of ethanol are more like 500 calories of potatoes!
So just from a caloric perspective, this is not a good start and explains why it can be so hard to lose weight when you drink consistently.
2) Where to start…
There are actually a bunch of other negative factors, but the one that I want to focus on here is the impact that alcohol has on sleep, which in turn impacts just about everything else you do.
When you drink, you make it nearly impossible for your body to get a good night’s rest. Yes, you may fall asleep faster, but you will wake up in a fog.
For many of you, this fog is so normal, you may not ever realize it. But I have never met a “moderate drinker” that does not follow up their nighttime downer with a morning upper, like coffee.
You should not NEED caffeine in the morning to get you going, but if you drink, your body and your brain will not have recovered from the previous day’s stressors.
And this is where the wheels can start coming off. Not right away, but over time, moderate drinkers tend to see the following trends:
More mood swings
Poor stress management ability
Increase food cravings
Low level depression
And all because you are missing out on your body’s most important recovery tool: sleep. QUALITY sleep, I should say.
Wait…so are you saying I can’t drink??
I think it’s interesting that the same people who cannot imagine a day without a glass of wine are also the ones that complain about not being able to lose weight, having poor energy, getting headaches, and failing to reach the level of success that they would like.
It becomes a vicious cycle where you drink because you are stressed and you are stressed because you drink.
So, it’s about not about “can” or “can’t” – you can do whatever you want. It’s about recognizing that alcohol is a drug and that it should be used recreationally, not medicinally.
And I hope you at least begin to believe that alcohol is NOT making you healthier. It’s fun and can be great for celebrations, but it’s time to face the facts…a glass of wine a day will not keep the doctor away.