Life & Living


This month Chantel Heath looks at the effects alcohol and the impact to you health and fitness.

Chantel Heath

INSTAGRAM: @chantelheathfitness

I’m a 41 year old mother of two & Personal Fitness coach. I work one to one, in person & online with clients aged 18-80. My specialisms include pre & postnatal training, cancer rehab, pilates, & GP exercise referrals. I run fitness classes online and in person in the Suffolk Coastal area. I am also a Mental Health First aider.

Using alcohol as a reward at the end of a tiring day at work, or a hard session in the gym? Maybe your  reward is doing more harm and is actually a punishment for your body.

Alcohol and Fat loss

First off, let’s talk about the obvious – alcohol is loaded with empty calories, meaning that the calories are not used for anything, there is no nutritional value and no benefit to your body. If your goal is fat loss, then even a glass each evening can really scupper your progress. A large glass of wine has around 226 calories, which across a week adds up to 1582 calories. But what does that actually mean? Well, in order to gain 1lb of body fat we need to consume around 3600 excess calories. So over the course of a year those glasses of wine could add up to around a 23lb fat gain. On the flip side, having 1 glass of wine less each evening could see you losing just as much body fat!

But it’s not just the calories that are the problem. Alcohol can also negatively affect your metabolism, slowing it down and making it harder for your body to burn fat. Plus, it can mess with your sleep, leaving you feeling groggy and unmotivated  the next day. Studies have shown that alcohol can interfere with your body’s ability to recover after exercise, meaning you may not see the gains you’re hoping for.

Alcohol and your health

Let’s start with hangovers! I doubt I need to go into huge detail on this one; the dry mouth, nausea and pounding headache. Obviously not great and we feel like this after drinking because we have poisoned our bodies. Alcohol is toxic, hence the word ‘intoxication’. But beyond the immediate effects there are a huge amount of other impacts on our bodies, including:

Mental health issues

Increased risk of many cancers

High blood pressure

• Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

Liver damage

Stomach and digestive disorders

Kidney disease

Fertility problems

Weakened immune system.

Alcohol and your sleep

So many people I speak to swear they sleep ‘like the dead’ after a couple of wines, and many people actually use alcohol to help them sleep. But it really isn’t helpful. It’s a sedative, so it can definitely make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep faster, but it actually disrupts your sleep cycle and prevents you from getting the restful, restorative sleep your body needs. It can interfere with the production of a hormone called melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. As a result, you may find yourself waking up frequently during the night. All of this adds up to poor quality sleep. Studies have shown that alcohol reduces the amount of time you spend in the restorative stages of sleep, such as deep sleep and REM sleep. This means that even if you’re getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night, you may still wake up feeling tired and sluggish. This then has knock on effect  for your energy levels, immune system, motivation, mood and appetite.

Alcohol and your hormones

If it’s gains you’re chasing, alcohol can interfere with the production and regulation of several hormones in your body, including testosterone, cortisol, and growth hormone. These hormones are essential for building muscle, burning fat and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Low levels can make it harder to see gains in the gym. Alcohol can also increase the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that can lead to muscle breakdown and fat storage.

Many people have no idea what a huge effect alcohol can have on estrogen levels. Estrogen plays a key role in the reproductive system, as well as in bone health, heart health, brain health and other bodily functions. Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the delicate balance of estrogen, leading to fertility issues and worsening symptoms of PCOS and endometriosis. In fact, some research suggests that post-menopausal women who drink alcohol regularly may have a higher risk of breast cancer. This is because high levels of estrogen have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, and alcohol can raise estrogen levels in the body.

Additionally, alcohol can interfere with the liver’s ability to break down estrogen, which can further increase estrogen levels in the body. This can lead to a condition called estrogen dominance, where there is an excess of estrogen relative to other hormones in the body.

The takeaway

While moderate alcohol consumption is generally considered safe for most people, many people do not drink moderately! Moderate consumption is generally considered to be less than 14 units per week, which is only around 6 pints, or 1.5 bottles of wine.

So, when it comes to alcohol drinking,  less is definitely more from a health and fitness perspective!