So what does happen when we have a drink? And what happens when we have too much? Here's what I found. You'll have to let me know what you think.
We often hear jokes about beating up the liver when it comes to drinking and there's a lot of truth to those jokes. The liver breaks down 90% of consumed alcohol and the remaining 10% is passed with the lungs (pretty convenient for breathalyzers), urine, and sweat.
The liver's primary function is to detoxify our body. Nothing else can do it for us (I'm looking at you cleansing supplements). Alcohol is recognized as a toxic substance, thus when we consume it, our liver goes to work to break it down and detoxify our system. The problem being that it can only break down about one drink per hour.
So think about that, our bodies can metabolize one drink an hour. And that can vary by food, genetics, gender, and body type. A full belly of food can soak up the alcohol and slow it's release into the blood stream. An empty stomach, has a much quicker absorption rate which is why people who drink on an empty stomach feel the symptoms much quicker... but that's pretty well known by drinkers. Then of course, some drinks are stronger than others. Some, much. MUCH. Stronger. And of course that impacts the absorption into the blood stream and blood alcohol level too.
The vast majority ignore that one drink an hour rule and throw caution to the wind and put our liver way behind schedule. This comes in the form of multiple drinks, bonging/shotgunning beers, shots, shots, and more shots. That easily turns into 3, 4, 5 or more drinks in an hour. And it often doesn't stop there. That might help explain why we feel so awful the next day when we party deep into the night and early morning, with every drink putting off a little longer our duration until we return to a normal, functional human being. So when you add all of those drinks up, and 12 hours later the next day, when you say to yourself... "self, I wonder if I could get a DUI for driving even though I haven't had a drink in 12 hours." The answer to that, is yes, yes you can. If you're still feeling it and tasting it, and others can smell it in your sweat, you're still very possibly and likely legally impaired.
Back to our liver. When alcohol is consumed, our liver converts it into aceteldahyde, a toxic substance, then into a harmless acetate, then into carbon dioxide and water. Pretty impressive for an hour's work.
Our liver also needs water to function properly. And alcohol acts as a diuretic, so our liver is forced to search for other sources of water and steals it from our body. This causes severe dehydration which is why we experience sore muscles (my calves hurt after drinking) or horrible headaches. Here's where it gets interesting and complicated... And counterproductive to our health and fitness goals. Alcohol slowwwws our metabolism down, meaning less burned calories. And our bodies can't store alcohol like it does protein, carbs and fat. So when we have a drink, it stops metabolizing anything else in our system and goes to work on the alcohol.
When people begin puking and screaming at the porcelain, it simply means their body has recognized that they've exceeded an acceptable level of toxicity and attempts to expel anything it can to lessen the load of the system.
Outside of how we process it, a few other things are going on. It directly effects our nerves that send messages telling our body what our brain told it to do and slows those messages down and mixes them all up... which is why our coordination changes and our ability to drive, talk or walk changes. Most people know this as slurred speech, stumbling, and dangerous driving.
It also tells our portion of the brain responsible for self control to not be so responsible. And the more we drink, the less responsible our brain is willing to be. Queue bad decisions, dancing on tables in front of office mates, going to bed and waking up with regret, saying stupid things, you name it. We've all heard the stories. Some funny. Some not. Some embarrassing.
Excessive alcohol can increase estrogen and lower testosterone levels. This is why some men who are beasts on the 12 ounce curls have bigger boobs than biceps. Seriously.
Our muscles are 70% water. The severe dehydration can negatively impact the recovery process of a good workout. Regular consumption will make it hard to build muscle, meaning no definition and little to nothing to show for your hard work in the gym.
In the long haul, excessive drinking can cause bad bacteria to grow in our insides, causing liver disease. We can develop fatty livers. Not good. But a change in habits can reverse the process.
We can also develop cirrhosis. Our liver can typically repair itself, but repeated damage can limit this ability and cause scarring. This results in a poorly functioning liver and the terminal end of liver disease.
Our liver is good to us. We should be good to our liver. It's the only existing item that can remove toxins from our bodies, no matter what the label says on all of those detox sales scams. It's a blood purifier. It produces bile to help our bodies absorb dietary fats, cholesterol and vitamins A, D, E, and K. It creates blood clotting proteins (thanks to vitamin K).
So to bring it all back. Alcohol really doesn't bring anything positive to the table in a physical or long term manner. And I know some people will respond and joke that it brings good times to the table. And I'm not going to tell anyone what to do. I do believe moderation is key and I will still continue to drink on occasion. But I wanted to learn more about what was going on. And since I did, I wanted to boil it all down to one article and share.