You might not like where I’m going with this article, man. So I might as well lay it on the table upfront: you should probably cut down on the booze.
Yeah, studies periodically find some health benefits from modest alcohol consumption. These are enthusiastically reported by media outlets, knowing this is a message people love to hear. But these findings are rarely considered within a holistic perspective that looks at all of alcohol’s impacts.
The fact is, for a 40+ guy doubling down on fitness to help maximize his decades ahead, alcohol has multiple negative properties that outweigh the positives. Drinking sparingly is thus a smart move for an OlderBeast.
Here’s a rundown of alcohol’s negative impacts on fitness, and links to a few useful expert articles if you want to go deeper.
EMPTY CALORIES THAT 40+ GUYS CAN’T AFFORD
Alcoholic drinks are “empty calories,” not providing nutrients you need. And they add up in a scary way. Consider this: If your average daily diet (apart from alcohol) brought in exactly as many calories as you burned, and then you added just ONE daily beer to the mix, you’d gain about 15 pounds per year.
How’s that math work?
- One 150 calorie beer * 7 days = 1,050 calories per week, or 54,600 extra calories per year
- Each surplus 3,500 calories equals a pound gained, so these 54,600 extra calories = 15.6 pounds!
But you might think, “well, I’ve been drinking that average beer a day for a long time, though…and I’m not overweight.” That’s great, man.
BUT, your “base metabolic rate” – how many calories you burn before accounting for exercise – is 70 per day lower at age 40 than it was at age 30. And it drops by about another 70 per day by age 50. So the 30-year-old you could drink that average daily beer with little impact, but the 50-year-old you is on a “gain-15-lbs” trajectory because of it. Times change, dude.
Note for discussion soon: we can change this “base” caloric burn rate with activity, of course, so we don’t need to accept the “other things equal” trend line. But for today, the point stands that a drink per day (or for many guys, an average of a bit more, maybe) is likely to start putting fat pounds around your waist…if it hasn’t already.
Take a closer look at 40+ guys you see over the next few days. What percentage of them are sporting some degree of belly? Continuation of drinking habits from the 20’s and 30’s is one of the main reasons!
WORSE THAN “JUST” EMPTY CALORIES: ADDITIONAL WEIGHT & BODY FAT IMPACTS
As if the extra, empty calories weren’t enough, alcohol contributes to higher body fat in additional ways:
- Your body treats alcohol as a toxin and thus prioritizes metabolizing it over other things. So in effect, drinking alcohol causes you to store more fat from food you eat, while your body deals with the alcohol.
- Also, as we all know, drinking occasions can be correlated with eating more, worse-for-you food than normal. That 1 a.m. super-burrito was no big deal as a 21-year-old. But for a 41-year-old….
WORSE THAN “JUST” FATTENING: OTHER MAJOR IMPACTS ON FITNESS
Beyond considerations of weight and fat, alcohol does other bad things to your fitness. Such as…
- Inhibits nutrient absorption
- Disrupts sleep and muscle recovery/growth
- Lowers testosterone, and increases estrogen and cortisol (a stress hormone)
Also, I don’t know about you, but increasingly I find if I have more than two drinks I notice its impact the next day. Not even a “hangover” per se, but a noticeable effect on my energy and workout quality. Some of the linked articles below explain the science behind this…it’s more than just “not feeling good.”
SO WHAT AM I SUGGESTING – TOTAL ABSTINENCE?
Relax. I’m not trying to re-create the Temperance Movement. Going 100% alcohol free may be a great choice for some guys. But I’m not on a soap box for you to be so radical (or myself).
But reducing alcohol – how often you drink, and how many drinks you have when you do drink – is something you should very seriously consider, brother.
A lot of guys our age sense this for themselves and naturally start to cut down. But it helps to be explicit, and make a clear goal: “DRINK LESS.” Given how social occasions can revolve around drinks, and business dinners too, this is a bit easier said than done. But the stakes are kinda high, don’t you think? (Your health, vitality, longevity). So make it happen.
Me? I mostly just drink on weekends, and normally just a couple of drinks. My college buddies would tell you this is quite an evolution (maybe they’d say it in more colorful and embarrassing-for-me language).
But man needs to evolve. Remember what Darwin said: it’s not the strongest or fastest who survive…it’s those most adaptable to changing circumstance.
Here’s useful stuff from around the Web, if you want to go deeper. But I suggest not reading these over a glass of wine…
- Thorough article with scientific study citations from Lifetime Training
- Deeper look at alcohol’s effect on sports performance (and general health) from DrinkAware UK
- Additional perspectives from Active.com (including why your day-after performance might be sluggish)
“He’s got this dream about buying some land. He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands.” (Gerry Rafferty, Baker Street—click to listen)
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