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The “New Year” is finally over. Super Bowl is done. My resolution for the next 30+ days? No alcohol.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a drink as much as the next guy, though more recently I’ve been drinking only one day a week as I train for more Spartan and obstacle races. But I’m not 20 anymore and the 53-year-old me doesn’t process alcohol like it used to — so I’m giving it a complete break for a while. There are also some serious health consequences of alcohol that specifically affect middle-aged guys that I want to avoid, and which I talk more about in my book. Here are a few of them:
1. Alcohol packs on fat
It’s pretty simple: if you want to lose weight and decrease fat, cut out the alcohol and give your liver a rest. Among the many critical tasks your liver performs, two of them are the metabolism of testosterone and fat. However, when you drink it overloads your liver and causes it to metabolize (burn) the alcohol as a priority rather than fat. That extra fat just hangs around in the liver and piles on the extra pounds. You’d be surprised how many calories are in your drinks – and how they add up over the days, weeks, and months. Two glasses of wine a day? That can add up to 10-15,000 extra calories a month. Giving up drinking is probably the #1 thing you can do if you are looking to lose weight – period.
2. Alcohol messes up your liver
The liver is the organ responsible for processing food and beverages into energy and nutrients as well as being a detox center for removing damaging substances from your blood. Drinking alcohol can seriously damage or destroy your liver cells, which can result in a breakdown of these vital processes.
I’ve already mentioned how the liver breaks down alcohol over fat, and that process is also a key risk factor in the development of liver diseases associated with alcohol consumption. These include alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic hepatitis, two conditions characterized by fat deposits in liver cells. Alcoholic cirrhosis, the most advanced type of liver damage associated with alcohol, involves severe scarring and disruption of liver structure and function. Not a good thing.
3. Alcohol lowers your testosterone levels
When you’re partying, your liver is hard at work breaking down the alcohol, and that process interferes with one of the liver’s other jobs: producing testosterone. So while the alcohol is going down, so are your T levels.
In a four-week study, normal, healthy men who consumed 220 grams (7.7 oz) of alcohol daily saw their testosterone levels decline significantly after only five days — and continue to drop throughout the whole period of the study. So if you’re struggling with low T you should cut back on the alcohol or eliminate it completely for a while and see how your body (an T level) reacts. Taking natural supplements can also help restore normal T levels.
4. Drinking can contribute to prostate cancer
Alcoholic beverages, especially beer, wine, and bourbon, contain congeners — substances that have estrogen-like properties that can play a role in the development of cancer. (Clear alcoholic beverages have the least amount of congeners; e.g., gin, vodka, white rum, and white wine.) Those estrogen-like traits in your drink can contribute to the development of prostate cancer by damaging genetic information in your cells and causing inflammation, two classic factors involved in the birth of cancer, even if you have just a few drinks.
5. Alcohol promotes conversion of testosterone to estrogen (not a good thing)
As you age, your T levels decline and your estrogen levels tend to rise, as do levels of the enzyme (aromatase) that converts T to estrogen. Drinking alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to get rid of excess estrogen, because the liver, which is responsible for eliminating extra estrogen, has to focus on metabolizing the alcohol instead. That leads to an accumulation of extra estrogen, which contributes to extra weight and fat cells as I mentioned above. And these fat cells are where aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen.
In case you were wondering what higher estrogen levels mean for men — think, low testosterone, man boobs, increased body fat, an increased risk of prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, heart attack and stroke, as well as a higher risk of bone loss and fracture. That’s just for starters. All stuff you want to avoid as you age.
6. Drinking reduces libido and sexual performance
You may feel superhuman as you leave the bar, but wishing won’t make it so. Long-term use of alcohol is associated with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Even among younger men (18-25), alcohol use plays a role in premature ejaculation.
7. Drinking alcohol is just wasted calories
Alcohol contains virtually no nutritional value, and drinking can contribute to malnutrition because some people get a large percentage of their daily calories from alcohol (and sodas) rather than food. So the message is “don’t drink your calories” — get them from nutritious, plant-based organic sources — not beer and wine.
I want to perform at my peak athletically, sexually, and mentally as I age. And I want to continue to stay in peak physical health. I’m considering this an “alcohol fast.” Maybe it’s something I’ll end up doing on a more consistent basis as the benefits are pretty convincing. Join me for the next 30 days and beyond – and lets all reap the benefits together!