Alcohol may be inhibiting you from living your best life
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Alcoholic beverages are one of the most broadly used and socially accepted drugs on the planet. Paradoxically, they are also one of the greatest obstacles to peak mental and physical health. The trillion-dollar question: is the use of this generally accepted social lubricant really worth it to you, and what are the alternatives?
Aside from making you a suddenly spectacular dancer, a fearless and pitch-perfect karaoke star, or a comedian of Seinfeldian proportions, alcoholic beverages (which I will refer to as “alcohol” henceforth) have a significant impact on our bodies.
Health Canada has recently updated its Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to state that negative health implications begin to surface when weekly consumption of any kind of alcohol (beer, red wine/white wine, spirits, etc.) exceeds two drinks. Yep, that’s right, more than two drinks in a week and you are increasing your risk of developing certain cancers. More than six per week increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Not only do you not get better at drinking as you age, but you actually become more of a lightweight. Your decline from Animal House hero is due mainly due to a decrease in muscle mass and total body water percentage, a greater quantity of which in your youth helps to slow the metabolism of alcohol in your blood system.
More concerning is that, in recent years, regular alcohol consumption and binge drinking have increased among those over the age of 55, but they remain more susceptible to the negative effects of inebriation: falls, cardiovascular events, and hangovers. In plain English, you lose your inhibitions without any of the bounce.
You may have heard that a glass of red wine each day helps facilitate positive heart health. Well, maybe … and maybe not. The relationship between fitness and alcohol consumption is a funny one. Believe it or not, those who exercise more also tend to drink more.
But we know that health habits tend to cluster—meaning that, if someone practises one healthy habit, they tend to practise more than one. As an example, those who subscribe to “a glass a day” are also more likely to subscribe to the health-conscious Mediterranean diet, exercise multiple times per week, and lead a more active lifestyle.
However, here is a reality not up for debate: alcohol consumption interferes with your body’s ability to synthesize protein. For those striving for a toned physique, this means that not only will your ability to build muscle be stunted, but you’re likely to actually lose some of the muscle tone and strength that you worked so hard for.
Sure, it’s fun to tip a few drinks back with your besties at the lake or take the edge off a particularly stressful day with your favourite vino, but knowing what you now know about regular, or even semi-regular alcohol consumption, you might consider cutting back or even going cold turkey. Why?
Want to be the most popular person in your friend group? Volunteer to be the designated driver! When was the last time you were upset that someone offered to chauffer you around town while you imbibed? Here are some other strategies to test-drive social sobriety.
Among Gen Z, there’s a notable trend of drinking less alcohol compared to older generations. This includes having their first drink later in life, drinking less frequently, and drinking smaller amounts or abstaining altogether.
While part of this pattern can be linked to a more proactive and informed approach to protecting their health, different leisure-time activities compared to older generations, and an increased acceptance of individuality, research suggests that the broader driving factors of Gen Z’s reduced consumption of alcohol are complex socio-economic realties that present Gen Z with an uncertain future. These realities include climate change, financial insecurity, and an increase in reported feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety, as well as increased pressure to perform.
In this context, steering away from the alcohol use patterns of previous generations is suggested to be tied to Gen Z’s general desire to stay in control as they work toward safeguarding what they can for the future, whether it be getting a good education, career building, protecting their public/online image, securing a stable financial position, or making conscious diet decisions intended to protect environmental health.
The number of drinks per week associated with a substance abuse problem varies by the individual. For this reason, rather than a specific number or range, a better indicator of an alcohol abuse problem may include …
If you or someone you know needs help with substance use, services are available to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
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|Alcoholics Anonymous||free meetings and support||. aa.org/find-aa|
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