9.27.2017

Alcohol & Running

That glass of wine or cup of beer --- is it adding value to your life and more importantly, is it negatively impacting your life?

Alcohol can be a touchy subject and trust me, this gal delights in a glass of wine but my heart and soul keeps going back to these questions:
Is it good for me?
Is it harming me?

Even the Bible can disagree.

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 
~ Ecclesiastes 9:7

Do not get drunk on wine, which lead to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 
~ Ephesians 5:18

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 
~ 1 Timothy 5:23

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astry by them is not wise. 
~ Proverbs 20:1

And this brings me to today’s daily reading from the New Testament.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
~ Galatians 5:16-24

But being a woman of faith and science (yes, that is possible), I decided it was time to buckle up, sit down, and do some research biology-wise.

How alcohol is metabolized:
The liver is responsible for metabolizing 95% of the ingested alcohol. The rest is excreted via breath, urine, sweat, feces, milk, and saliva. All ethyl alcohol is first converted to acetaldehyde and then into acetate/acetic acid before it is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for simpler excretion. Acetaldehyde is a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen. Not something I really want in me, right?

Alcohol is broken down in the liver with the help of the enzymes ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) and ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase). Rates of metabolism by the liver can vary but in general, the liver process one ounce of liquor (or one standard drink) in one hour. In other words, one ounce of alcohol will produce a 0.015 blood-alcohol concentration and a person will this concentration will rid their body of essentially all alcohol in 10 hours. Again, not a situation I really want to be in.
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I won’t go into details but the health consequences of alcohol include:
Alcohol metabolism and cancer
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Alcoholic Pancreatitis

And more importantly, the runner in me has been asking, how does alcohol intake impact running performance?

Perhaps there is a bit of an ego or pride involved here (I know, not good Christian qualities) but the question has been in the back of my mind on whether or not that glass of wine could be negatively impacting my running performance. I do feel it is negatively impacting me through headaches and poorer sleep quality but could it be impacting my running and resting heart rate?

Alcohol is a powerful diuretic and dehydration and running do not mix. This could result in muscle cramps, muscle pulls, muscle strains, general fatigue, etc which are all related to being dehydrated. Alcohol adds non-nutritional calories to your diet and inhibits the metabolism of essential vitamins and minerals such as inhibiting the conversion of B vitamins to generate energy from carbs, protein, and fat. So far this does not sound good to the runner body.

Yes, there are some reported benefits of alcohol on heart health but too much alcohol can increase your risk of heart disease by raising your blood pressure and blood lipids. Alcohol can negatively impact recovery due to its dehydrating nature and may interfere with glycogen synthesis. Since alcohol is a blood vessel dilator, alcohol may impair healing from muscle soreness and more acute injuries.

And what about resting heart rate? Alcohol does indeed impact. At first sip your heart rate begins to increase and even though reports say it then does come back down, the fitbit community has repeatedly chimed in a 2-3 beat increase in RHR the day after drinking alcohol. And for those science minds, the increase is due to alcohol being a vasodilator and dilated blood vessels means more blood flow and that means more heart beats.

There is so much more to this story and it is hard to sum up all the impacts on alcohol in one article but in a nutshell, I think I have unveiled why the Bible seems to contradict itself.

Alcohol does have some good to it, but is also has some bad. I think it is a “drug” easily overlooked in the potential damage it can do. It has become the social norm to go out and grab a drink and I have seen many runners race to a bottle of beer after crossing the marathon line to celebrate their success. And yes, I always thought that was ridiculously crazy - the grabbing a beer, not running a marathon. That is wonderfully crazy!

I also feel I have unveiled enough reasons to support my underlying nagging feeling that alcohol just isn’t for me. Yes, I do like that glass of wine and I do love to sip on one when cooking but I also love my life and want to give 100% to all I do and maybe, just maybe, foregoing that glass of wine will help me grow into a better wife, mom, runner, follower of Christ.

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