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  • mariasylvesterterr

alcohol and your body

are you a cocktail person? 🍸

admittedly, i was not a cocktail person until i moved to new orleans. it's not the taste of them so much it is the craft: the thoughtfulness, the creativity, the patience behind a cocktail.

there's an honest yet inconvenient truth waiting for me at the bottom of every spritz: i don't really like drinking alcohol.

of course, i adore the occasional daiquiri, a champagne cheers, and a bloody mary with brunch. in general though, my body is not big on alcohol, and i've had to learn to respect that.

you know i don't do blame games with nutrition and movement. absofruitly not. i do think having an informed understanding of how alcohol affects our bodies is the first step to making choices that feel good for you.

if you've been here for a while, you may recall a previous issue of Brunch when i shared that alcohol is not a nutrient. we don't get energy from alcohol like we do from food.

folks are quick to assume alcohol is "just carbs." alcohol is, in a way, its own macronutrient that requires a separate metabolic process for breakdown. and sadly, none of that energy gets stored as glycogen for future energy use.

consider some of the ways we feel energy:

  • restful, uninterrupted sleep

  • hydration to efficiently break down carbs and fats for energy

  • a healthy gut microbiota for harvesting energy from nutrients

even moderate alcohol intake can disrupt all three.

all that to say: we're not going to beat ourselves up for being tired, uninterested in movement, or sluggish the day after drinking. your body is operating slower and less efficiently than it usually does.

and, if you're a rare breed of individual that wakes up energetically and runs a 5K after drinking... well, we'll see you when you get back, i guess. 😅

besides the energy drain, there's a few other ways alcohol affects our bodies:

impacts to nervous system:

your heart rate variability (HRV) is a metric that signifies the health of your autonomic nervous system, which is made up of your parasympathetic [think rest + digest] and sympathetic [think stress + exercise] nervous systems.

alcohol revs up our sympathetic nervous system, which is typically suppressed by our friendly neurons in the frontal lobe. HRV drops when our sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated. alcohol can impact your HRV and resting heart rate for up to four days!

nutrient absorption:

alcohol impairs absorption of both macronutrients and micronutrients; in short, your body is prioritizing detoxification over other metabolic needs. additionally, alcohol can decrease production of digestive enzymes and increase stomach acid, which inflames your stomach lining. heartburn or sad belly after drinking? yes, i feel you.


you may know that rebound effect of anxiety the morning after drinking. moderate alcohol intake releases a relaxing feeling thanks to the stimulation of a chemical called GABA. as we drink more, alcohol can deplete GABA which can create feelings of panic and tension.

muscle recovery:

i do love the idea of eating plenty of nutritious foods on a day you plan to drink. however, the nutrition of your food fights a losing battle in the presence of alcohol. in other words, alcohol intake contributes significantly to the breakdown of your muscles, and you can't out-protein your cocktails' side effects. the process of building new muscle and strengthening current muscle is slowed by alcohol intake.

if you're looking to support your body while it processes alcohol, here's some of the top ways to do so:

1. give a buffer before sleep

your body is working to detox while you sleep, which means your sleep is less efficient than when you're sober. give yourself a few hours between your last drink and when you head to sleep to help.

2. hydrate between drinks and include electrolytes

water between bevies, baby! give your body the help it needs to process alcohol by delivering on water while you're drinking alcohol. put out a Liquid IV or electrolyte option on your countertop for when you get home.

3. take a rest day or active recovery day

leave the alcohol calorie guilt behind you. take a day off from strenuous activity after drinking. it will help your muscles and your fitness in the long term if you fully recover from your evening drinks.

know this: as much as it's Your Plate, Your Business, i also believe it's Your Bubbly, Your Business. you can choose to drink or not drink. you can have a cocktail in your hand or a water. you can make decisions for your body that feel best for you.

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