alcohol-muscle-growth-fat-loss

Why You Should Drink: the Truth About Alcohol vs Muscle Growth and Fat Loss (Updated October 2013)

Written by on April 18, 2012 and it's about , , ,

(Updated October 2014) You’ve probably heard that alcohol calories will make you fat and that beer causes beer bellies. You may have heard that alcohol consumption negatively affects your metabolism and testosterone production, or even that it hampers protein synthesis. You might also be thinking this is nutrionazi Shane ordering you to vacate the bar. If you knew me better you’d know otherwise—being a beast is about enjoying life, not raining on peoples’ parades. If I wasn’t too busy dancing my glutes off at a rock ‘n roll show—beer in hand, I’d be the one at the bar telling you that you don’t need to worry about a few shots of vodka or a hearty glass of scotch.

That might sound strange coming from the guy telling you to put down the cupcake and stick to the steak, but the facts on alcohol consumption back up my lack of concern for the state of your shredded abs while having a drink with your friends. Most of the hype surrounding the negative effects of alcohol are exaggerated, avoidable or just plain wrong.

B-b-but the experts say that I can only have a couple drinks a week or my results will be significantly diminished! Yes, a lot of bloggers and hardcore fitness dudes say exactly that, and some of them may even be very intelligent and muscular pillars of health. This information seems legitimate because of all those guys that are rockin’ really unattractive beer bodies. Yet you’ve probably seen incredibly fit guys prancing around the bar with their biceps flexed thinking they’re God’s gift to the ladies—and they may have been incredibly drunk at the time! (why else would they be prancing around like that?) So how do we solve this conundrum?

I say turn to the research. When mainstream media fails us, it’s time to dig into the studies a little deeper.

First, some basic facts about alcohol:

A) There are lots of different types of alcohol, and the type we drink is called ethanol. It’s formed from the fermentation of dense carbohydrates (wheat, corn, potatoes, grapes, etc) and during that process transforms into a new kind of macronutrient: alcohol. It’s a non-essential nutrient, so total abstinence isn’t bad for our bodies, just our parties.

B) It weighs in at 7 calories per gram. Carbs and protein weigh in at 4, while fat weighs in at 9. This makes alcohol a fairly dense little demon. It’s also consumed in liquid form, which makes it incredibly light on the appetite. This means that we can consume a lot of calories quite effortlessly. Not a big deal for us ectomorphs, but for the beefy boys this is bad news.

C) Similar to protein, alcohol results in a lot of thermogenesis. As you may already know, people with high protein diets burn more calories and produce more heat. This also happens with alcohol consumption. Whiskey really will keep you warm—go figure. This somewhat negates the fact that alcohol packs a heavy punch calorically.

D) Regular alcohol consumption seems to positively affect insulin sensitivity. (study, study) This is where stuff gets really interesting, because this allows your body to direct calories away from fat storage during your day to day life. This is potentially why regular alcohol consumption is associated with longer lifespans and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. I should point out that this is for people who regularly consume reasonable amounts of alcohol, not for the guys who have 20 shots in a row once a month (those guys put most of the calories in the toilet).

E) Alcohol is absorbed throughout our entire gastrointestinal tract (GI) and the rate at which it’s absorbed is affected by how much food we have hanging out in there. Alcohol gets immediate processing priority though, because our liver loves to use alcohol as fuel. It’s nearly impossible for alcohol itself to be stored as fat because our liver is incredibly good at metabolizing it and terribly inefficient at converting it into fatty acids. Fat gains from alcohol calories, if any, will be very very negligible. I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

F) Alcohol suppresses fat oxidation. This means that your body is much more likely to store fat, as it can’t be oxidized away. Luckily the alcohol won’t be converted into any significant amount of fatty acids, so this isn’t necessarily a problem—unless you’re also eating a cupcake.

G) There’s an enzyme called liver alcohol dehydrogenase (LADH) that limits the amount of ethanol we can oxidize. A typical 155 pound man can oxidize one “drink” per hour. One drink is classified as 15g of ethanol, and that works out to be 1.5 shots (vodka, whiskey, tequila, etc), a pint of beer (one bottle), or a 5oz glass of wine. You would legally be considered drunk after four of them in an hour. That’s the equivalent of 6 shots of vodka, 4 pints of beer, or 4 small glasses of wine.

H) You feel nauseous if you over-drink because alcohol produces toxic byproducts called acetaldehyde and acetate. These are, in a sense, anti-alcoholism toxins, because in small quantities these toxins produce negligible effects, but in large quantities they cause you to want to avoid alcohol in the future. Sadly, these byproducts interact negatively with Tylenol, and thus you risk damaging your liver if you try and cure your hangover with it.

I) You may wonder why alcohol makes you sleepy, and then oversleep, and then remain tired the next day. This is due to the release of the inhibitor gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which makes it easier to fall asleep, but harder to fall into a deep sleep, where the real benefits of rest occur.

J) Alcohol lowers testosterone production. Dammit. But only by a little bit … maybe. Studies like this one shows that moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t effect testosterone at all and studies like this one show that alcohol increases testosterone production. Going with the worst possible outcome though, this study found that if you were to have three drinks every night your testosterone production would go down by less than 7%. This is, however, totally irrelevant. Considering the amount that your testosterone goes up if you’re eating and training properly, as per the Bony to Beastly way, this really won’t affect too much of anything, and certainly not noticeably. To put this into perspective, by eating a diet conducive to testosterone production, Tim Ferriss (bestselling author) was able to increase his testosterone production by almost 300%. So you’d be much much much better off going to the gym, doing a full body workout with heavy weights, coming home to a hearty meal, and then heading out and having a few drinks with your friends than you would be if you spent the night at home worrying. Even more so because worrying also lowers testosterone production. Plus,  If you down 10 beers in a binge drinking spree though, you’ve got a 23% reduction in testosterone that lasts for 16 hours. (study) Could be better, could be worse.

K) Alcohol probably won’t affect your ability to synthesize protein. The protein synthesis rumours you may have heard stem from studies done on rats, but the studies on humans have been finding, well, nothing. There aren’t any. In some hardcore alcoholics their ability to synthesize protein is diminished, but this has to do with a condition (chronic alcoholic myopathy) that sometimes comes along with the alcoholism, not the alcohol itself. (study) So we really don’t know what happens to protein synthesis when a healthy dude is a moderate drinker. The reason I say that it probably won’t affect your ability to synthesize protein is that this study looked into the body composition of alcoholics and found that they preserved muscle mass just fine regardless of how long they’d been alcoholics and how much alcohol they’d been consuming. If you wound up with chronic alcoholic myopathy that would change, of course, but that’s irrelevant for your non-alcoholic drinker, who obviously wouldn’t have it. So, presumably, you could have a couple drinks every day for decades and your muscle would be just fine, indicating that your ability to synthesize protein would also be just fine. (Admittedly this is an assumption.)

L) While the overall body of evidence currently indicates that moderate alcohol consumption likely comes with a lot of perks, alcoholism comes with a plethora of negative side-effects (especially when combined with smoking). I’m not addressing alcoholism here because I feel that goes without saying. Alcoholics are riddled with heart disease, health problems and higher rates of cancer. Abstainers though, surprisingly, have the next highest mortality rate.  Moderate drinkers have been proven time and time again to live the longest (study, study, study, study), which is admittedly a little peculiar, since the mechanisms behind the supposed head benefits of alcohol aren’t well understood yet (although this study sheds some light on that). If you stick within light to moderate alcohol consumption (1-3 drinks per day) then you probably have nothing to worry about and can potentially collect on a bunch of health benefits, including a stronger immune system, a decreased chance of getting the common cold, Alzheimer’s, dementia, metabolic syndrome, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and depression. (studystudystudystudystudystudy, studystudy) The absolute healthiest amount to drink is one drink per day, and the negative effects start to come after about 3.5 drinks per day. Consider a glass of wine your new health supplement.

Moderation for the Win (The Inverted-U Curve) Alcohol, muscle, testosterone, fat storage, health and lifespan – Inverted U-Curve

Alcohol is a beautiful example of something called an inverted-U curve (the curve that looks like a hill). The inverted-U curve describes situations where total abstinence produces minimal results (and more would be a lot better), a slight intake produces modest results (and more would be a little bit better), a moderate intake produces optimal results, a slightly heavier intake produces okay results (and a little bit less would be a little bit better), and a high intake is back to producing minimal results (less would be a lot better).

This is so true with alcohol consumption that when Malcolm Gladwell describes the inverted-U curve in his latest book, David and Goliath*, he uses alcohol to illustrate the point:

“A classic inverted-U curve can be seen in the relationship between alcohol consumption and health. If you go from not drinking at all to drinking one glass of wine a week, you’ll live longer. And if you drink two glasses a week, you’ll live a little bit longer, and three glasses a little bit longer still – all the way up to about seven glasses a week. (These numbers are for men, not women.) That’s the upslope: the more, the merrier. Then there’s the stretch from, say, seven to fourteen glasses of wine a week. You’re not helping yourself by drinking more in that range. But you’re not particularly hurting yourself either. That’s the middle part of the curve. Finally, there’s the right side of the curve: the downslope. That’s when you get past fourteen glasses of wine a week and drinking more starts to leave you with a shorter life. Alcohol is not inherently good or bad or neutral. It starts out good, becomes neutral, and ends up bad.”

*Surprisingly fitting book to quote, considering David and Goliath is about the naturally skinny guy using his intelligence and training to gain the advantage over the naturally enormous guy.

So… if I’m not an alcoholic do I need to worry about alcohol making me skinny-fat?

No. (study, study) What all this means is that if you go out drinking you don’t need to worry about losing your hard earned muscle or adding fat to your frame…. unless you’re also doing nutritionally dumb things while drinking your alcohol. You may tend towards doing one of these three things:

1) Not getting in your daily nutritional needs to build muscle because you’ve filled up on beer and skipped 3 meals. This will limit your muscle growth, but has more to do with your habits surrounding alcohol than the alcohol itself. Eat like a bear and your problems disappear.

2) Ordering drinks that are full of sugar. I won’t call you a sissy, but I will remind you that since alcohol reduces fat oxidation, all of that sugar heads straight towards your belly. Luckily, once you develop a healthy lifestyle you’ll find that you don’t crave tons of sugar, and your taste in ultra-sweet alcoholic drinks will likely disappear.

3) Drinking a ton of alcohol and then eating processed fat-person food, because alcohol has left you hungry and stripped you of your inhibitions against eating junk. With my small stomach and appetite this was never a problem for me, but I’ve seen many a friend build a belly this way.

So if you drink stereotypically masculine drinks and eat like a beast all your problems are solved? Almost. Red wine, whiskey, scotch, tequila, vodka, rum and gin pretty much only have calories from alcohol in them, meaning they’re pretty solid choices. I got lucky here, because my three favourites are on the golden list: red wine, whiskey and tequila. This presents a problem for most guys though, since beer has carbohydrates in it. You could order light beer, which has fewer carbs, but who wants to be drinking light beer? Not me.

At this point I want to point out that even if alcohol were bad for muscle growth, there’s always room for moderation in any diet, no matter how strict. This applies to beer, and, as much as it pains me to say this, this even applies to cupcakes. The problem is that three beers turn into 10, and one cupcake every couple days turns into 2 cupcakes every day. If you keep 90% of your diet “clean”, then you can still achieve near-maximal results. The difference between 90% and 100% compliance is very negligible. When the occasional indulgence becomes a daily habit though you start to notice your fitness goals sprinting off into the distance while you’re left bony and gasping for breath. A couple beers is nothing to stress over though, especially since if this is a regular part of your lifestyle you also get all of the benefits, like increased insulin sensitivity. So while you may regularly be consuming a few carbs at a bad time, you’ll also be improving your body’s ability to build muscle and lose fat.

A lot of you reading this article are probably at a point in your life where you’re willing to temporarily make dietary sacrifices in order to rapidly achieve an incredible physique, strength and health transformation. I’m testing the Bony to Beastly program right now, up 21 lean pounds in 10 weeks, and at exactly that point in my life. Sometimes I’m willing to forego moderation in exchange for accomplishing what I want to accomplish—quickly. I still drink though.

Here’s a good way to drink while still rapidly accomplishing ludicrous goals:

1. Fat Loss: If you’re going to be drinking a fair amount and want to lose fat while doing it, simply avoid fats and carbs. This includes several hours before you start drinking, as your body takes a long time to process food. Your pre-pre-drink meal should thus be really really high in protein. While you’re drinking you’ll be taking in calories in the form of alcohol—and that’s okay. After you finish drinking have another protein filled meal: greek yogurt, chicken, lean meat, low fat cottage cheese, etc. If you’re only having a drink or two a night I wouldn’t worry about it, and the net effect will likely be positive. In this study they gave one group 150 calories of wine each day and the other 150 calories of grape juice. The wine drinkers came out leaner. Not by much (1kg leaner than the other group after 3 months of dieting) … but still leaner.

2. For Muscle Gain: Have a couple/few drinks and enjoy. Similar to #1, protein is the top nutrient you’ll want to be consuming surrounding your drinking to minimize fat gain, but I wouldn’t stress about it. It’s important to make sure that you keep up your large intake of beastly foods in order to fuel muscle growth of course, but this doesn’t really have anything to do with alcohol unless you really take your drinking to excess.

3. For long-term health and a badass beastly lifestyle: Have a drink or two most nights. Beer, wine, whiskey—whatever. Kick back, relax, unwind. The alcohol comes with several long-term health benefits and will have a positive effect on your ability to build muscle and dodge fat. In addition to that, if you enjoy your alcohol while hanging out with friends, reading a book, or unwinding however you like to unwind you also get all the health benefits of relaxing.

Now if your goal is simply to look better, alcohol can definitely help, even in the short term. Simply give some to your lady and she’ll find you more handsome in no time!

Cheers!

Resources; when writing this article I read a lot of pub med studies, and revisited a lot of books and articles from my favourite researchers and writers in the nutrition, health, athletics, and strength fields. Special thanks to nutritional badass Alan Aragon, supplement review website examine.com, sports nutritionist John Berardi, nutrition consultant Martin Berkhan, author Malcolm Gladwell, and researcher/writer/fellow wine lover Tim Ferriss.

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So, what'd you think? 81 responses below.

ScoDala

That was an awesome well written article

Shane Duquette

Glad you liked it man!

Aaron

This all sounds really good. What ‘med studies’ went into supporting the claims pertaining to the biochemistry? My understanding of ethanol metabolization is different, so it would be great if you cited those.

Shane Duquette

I got that stuff from a human metabolism textbook and from the sports performance nutrition gurus over at Precision Nutrition.

How is what you know different? If I’ve fumbled anywhere I’m game to double check and correct where necessary :)

gsunnyg

this is a lot different then what you normally hear about alcohol and its damaging effects on bodybuilding. Great to hear a different side.

Shane Duquette

Glad you liked it man! Typically the downsides are dependent on the dose. So long as you drink responsibly you should be just fine :)

Lewis f

Great post

Flo

I’m telling you one thing. This article is bad and wrong, you drink alcohol your body is deshidrating , you need water to keep your body hydrate. So here is a bs, sorry but really this article makes people confuse :(. So if you drink alcohol drink double water of the amount of alcohol.

Shane Duquette

Deshidrating, eh?
Flo … are you drunk?

;)

Doug

Flo, you’re correct that alcohol is a diurectic. But, add water of 20 times its volume and you get beer which actually rehydrates you. 1 litre of beer ultimately gives you 500ml of water.
Hear-say / mis-representation of facts is wrong and leads to the confusion you have!

Shane Duquette

Hey Doug, thanks for the comment man. That’s really interesting! I hadn’t heard that beer actually hydrated you more than it dehydrated you. That’s cool :)

p.s. I edited out the idiot part of your comment. Hope that’s cool.

Aaron A

That was extremely informative. I’m about to start a training cycle and love to drink so when I found this gold mine of a no-fluff article I was really impressed. Bookmarked immediately. You guys are doing great things. A buddy of mine always wondered how after some drinking nights he would have better abs than not, and I just related some of this to another buddy who’s trying to lose a few lbs. Good stuff man!

Shane Duquette

That’s awesome man, glad you liked the article!
Ahaha yeah some guys drink on purpose the night before to appear leaner and more vascular the next day. A couple glasses of wine does a pretty good job of it ;)

Vlad

Well, yeah, the thing about appearing leaner after a night of drinking is only due to the dehydrating effect of alcohol. You lose some water and appear leaner. And as any shortcut, it’s temporary and I assume far from healthy. So take it from a broader perspective (inspiration from Woody Harrelson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0Gm0TbSENw included . )

Shane Duquette

I wouldn’t really say flushing out some water retention is likely all too unhealthy, but you’re right, it’s just a trick some guys use, not any kind of longterm anything. :)

Explains the phenomenon Aaron describes though!

Vlad

Oh, I did not mean the actual loss of water, more so a habit that it might lead to.

Matt

Great article, both interesting and informative!

Dan

Great article mate. I have 2 or 3 beers a night and have been doing so for years. I’m 34 years old and weigh 78kg with an 82 cm waist. I always eat healthy and work out in some form most days. Great to see an article written with a different slant – am sick of all the doom and gloom articles re alcohol consumption!

Shane Duquette

Right on man, glad to hear you’re able to enjoy a couple beers and still be fit as a fiddle :)

Dan

Forgot to say I’m 180cm tall – skinny guys rock!

ronnie

Hi… nice read… nd especially relaxing for guy like me who loves his rum as well as his career as an actor where he needs to look super fit…. I want to know wat exactly is da measure of one drink u r refering to… is it 30ml or 60ml? Also , I wud like to mention dat j hav had several phasss in my life being an abstainer modrt drinker nd also an abuser….. dese phases cum in cycles… physique wise also I keep changing from fat to slim to super lean to fat…. depending on da lifestyle m undergoing at dat particular point of time…. ryt now m n abstainer nd pushing it hard to burn it out… ur article was quite inspiring …. its just dat aftr about a cupl of weeks of drinking regularly da intoxication threshold shoots up and I cant resist but increase da intake level…. goes upto 7 to 9 60ml pegs everyday….. workout n diet goes fr a toss… fats appear…. goes on till sum time in a daze…. one fine day da trance breaks nd I get into complete abstinance for months nd try to get bak in shape working out like an animal….. after reading ur article I soo feel like keeping it in modrtn nd enjoy both ends of life simultaneosly…. however cud u guide me as to the trick of feeling da buzz nd enjoying keeping myself restricted to a certain nmbr of drinks fr da rest of my life?

Shane Duquette

Some people handle alcohol better than others. If you’re susceptible to alcoholism you may find abstaining much more enjoyable and way better for you in the long run.

innerpsychic

Thank you for an intelligent and down to earth article written from a perspective of being a normal healthy person. I am so tired of all the mind-controlled freaks out there telling people how to live without really knowing very much!

Obviously what you write is based on your experience as well as some education. I learned some useful things. Now I wish someone could do the same for a short, aged lady who has put on stubborn weight and loves a few beers a night ( They really help me to relax and sleep) I think I know the answer and it means quite a lot of exercise and attention to diet.

Shane Duquette

It may mean focusing on the big picture instead of the little details, and finding a way to understand how the two apart. Easier said than done, of course!

A beer or two a night probably isn’t the source of your problems, and usually it’s a surplus of calories that leads to gaining stubborn weight.

If you emphasize a nutritious diet made up mostly of whole foods … and then you eat at a calorie deficit, your fat should slowly shrink away.

And, of course, exercise is also pretty key when it comes to being wickedly healthy and looking impressively fit :)

Natural high not drunk

This article is just what people want to hear . That’s why I don’t trust it . Just like that friend you don’t like , they eventually start saying bull shit you wan to hear and you’re friends again. This is a Desperate plea for ratings and pseudo science to gain the trust of the lower self. I don’t drink to get buzzed or drunk because I know the body doesn’t want it and it inhibits muscle growth just like Tylenol or Advil does. Part of the bodies way of getting stronger is feeling sore so it knows what’s up . IE signaling muscle repair and sends nutrients to that area to rebuild. By drinking you really do inhibit that and it fucks up your immune system . ALCOHOL is a social thing and it’s ingrained in all cultures. You can still be social and not wreck your body , we only have so much time in this earthly vessel so I’ll take the safe route and save my liver and my body .

Joe

If you could post the citation of alcohol not having an impact on protein synthesis… thatd be great :)

Shane Duquette

Hey Joe, thanks for asking for it! That point (k) was actually pretty poorly worded and somewhat arrogant on my part, and what I should have said is that there ISN’T a study showing that the two are in any way related – that it’s a leap to think that alcohol would impair protein synthesis. The absence of evidence, however, obviously doesn’t indicate the evidence of absence … so I shouldn’t have made the claim with so much certainty.

I’ve adjusted it to sound less certain, and also tossed in a study to support the conclusion I drew.

Thanks for pointing that out, and I hope this helps!

Jane

“This article is just what people want to hear . That’s why I don’t trust it .”
“ALCOHOL is a social thing and it’s ingrained in all cultures. You can still be social and not wreck your body , we only have so much time in this earthly vessel so I’ll take the safe route and save my liver and my body ”
.Im sorry to hear this, (naturally high)
in order to distrust this, clearly you are well educated in the history of alcohol )in moderation)
1) not much time is this earthly vessel? well that would depend on the individuals belief system,
2) alcohol is a social thing? actually the monks created certain drinks but the ancients made it for the medicinal effects it has on the body, it is also a good pain killer and helped clean wounds in the past, in fact, alcohol is in a lot of modern medicines and drops.
3) yes it will wreck your body as will most things like pollution, smoking and taking pills for pain…..if abused.

Its nice that you feel your life is wonderful without all these things, great for you , but everyone is different, and far be it for you to ridicule the rest of the world, and remember some of these red wine drinkers hearts will still be healthy beating maybe long after yours as stopped (scientifically proven)

kris

You are so grossly misinformed. 1) Alcohol is IMMEDIATELY converted to simple sugar after it reacts with our saliva, which unless you put it to anaerobic use, is immediately stored as fat. 2) Alcohol flushes our glycogen stores from our liver, where we get our energy. Drink just a beer or two before any strenuous exercise. 3) Alcohol DOES impair protein synthesis because it blocks the pathway required for the uptake by dehydrating the muscle cells. There actually are more scientifically proven reasons why. Do the research.

Curllee

Aren’t there other things to consider than one’s physique? Ok, let’s say that alcohol does not make you fat or skinny. But what does it do to other parts of your body? What about people who are concerned with their blood triglycerides or overall heart health? Surely you don’t refute all the science about those potential risks. . .

Shane Duquette

Hey Curllee, we’re totally concerned with overall and longterm health. A lot of the studies here DO reference longterm health!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10636266
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9481115
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21343207
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15647313
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17726314
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8363004
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15455646
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15562213
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16872514
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15957170
http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d636
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7998629
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12393073
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11516237

Are you talking about the potential risks that come with binge drinking and alcoholism? We definitely wouldn’t refute those risks – that’s not good for you at all!

If you’ve got any studies/research/etc showing that a couple drinks per day has negative effects send ‘em our way. We’re not trying to put up a one-sided piece here, and we’ll gladly include any studies that show the downsides as well as the upsides!

That’d certainly be the best way to come to an informed decision :)

Hehehe we’re not die hard alcohol drinkers or anything (I think I’ve seen Marco have one drink ever) and, hell, I’d probably give it up personally (without any qualms at all) if I found out it was significantly bad for me in the long run.

So far more of what I’m seeing seems to point towards moderate alcohol consumption between somewhere between totally insignificant and mildly beneficial.

Shane Duquette

Thank you for pointing out that I should probably actively search out evidence that DOESN’T support our conclusion.

It’s always wise to try to disprove yourself. Legitimately play devil’s advocate to your own views to see if they actually hold up.

So here are a few studies looking into risks.

First, cancer:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7920205

This study shows that smokers are especially at risk for cancer if they consume lots of alcohol. Drinking seems to be fine up until about 4 drinks per day. Much beyond that and the risk seems to go up.

Looking into some other forms of cancer, the risk seems to be low, even among alcoholics (which is a little surprising):

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7882548

This one shows that heavy alcohol consumption can cause some cancer, but again we’re talking heavy alcohol consumption, not moderate:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10470282

There are also studies showing a REDUCED risk of cancer from moderate drinking:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957519/?tool=pubmed
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957519/?tool=pubmed

The vast majorities of the studies I’m finding are showing the positive effects of drinking.

I can’t find a single one showing any downsides to moderate drinking combined with an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Even when combined with an unhealthy lifestyle (like heavy smoking / not eating any vegetables) alcohol only seems to factor in if it’s taken to extremes.

Shane Duquette

(For heart health all I can find are the positive ones I posted in the article.)

Jeff

3. Alcohol slows down your ‘fat-burning’ metabolism

Your liver has to convert the alcohol you drink into acetate and then the acetate becomes your body’s main source of energy so instead of burning off ugly fat for energy…

Acetate is now used meaning you do not burn any fat and…

One study has already showed your body’s ability to burn fat decreases up to 73% for a few hours after having a couple of drinks and other studies say drinking more than a couple of drinks can lower your fat burning ability for up to 4 days.

Shane Duquette

Woot, glad that’s backed up elsewhere.

This would go along well with point “F”, where I mention that fat oxidation is impaired with alcohol consumption.

I pasted that into Google and I see the post it came from … but they don’t reference a study. Do you have it by chance?

Could probably mention some more of the specifics :)

Matt b

All I know is I’ve drank my whole life and I work my ass off doing physical labor I eat like a beast and im as healthy as an ox and wouldn’t you know I’m 29 and I creasing my muscle . I try not drinking but find that muscles and joints are more fatigued. Here’s to your health and hard work!! U do eat foods high in antioxidants . I climb and play sport run and have four kids. I seem to only get in better shape! Now do consider I have a fast metabolism but staying active from mind to bady takes the cake.

Monica B.

Well, Shane… I just want to say I think your article is LOVELY! You backed it up with plenty of ‘study information’. I really like how you handled some of the responses.. he he. Some people must not of actually read what you wrote being that you had to repeat yourself in following posts! I recently started reading your articles and I look forward to the up coming! Also, what more proof do you need when the results of the ‘experiment/study’ are right in front of you….You drink moderately, workout, and lead a healthy life style. Did they not see your picture… Some of my friends and I are the same way and we are Healthy and Fit! Hell… Maybe, later I will post a comment arguing with you about something you really did not even say! heh

Shane Duquette

Thanks for the kind words Monica.

I look forward to getting in an argument with you. If that’s your plan – creating straw men – I think I’ll win … unless perhaps I’ve been drinking … ;)

We’ve got four articles for women already written up and they’re saweeet. Just waiting to finish up the http://www.bonytobombshell.com blog so that we’ve got a platform to publish ‘em from. Stay tuned!

We’re also posting a new Bony to Beastly article tomorrow, so stay tuned for that too.

rachel mai

Seems to me that it is largely a matter of context.

Traditionally the French eat a lot of rich food including high fat cheeses and a fairly high alcohol consumption and have very little heart disease. If you have ever been in France, nearly everyone is skinny. Or at least they were last time I was there. It has been a few years aand EEC. regulations may have messed up the quality of their food too.

American food is a mess unless you seek out food produced organically by healthy means.

People on natural traditional diets have mainly consumed alcohol and been fine so long as their lives are fairly well balanced and they don’t have alcoholic tendencies.

Shane Duquette

Exactly!

Well said Rachel.

(As for organic, that may not even be necessary. Whole food in general is pretty good. That’s totally a matter of personal values, budget and circumstance though.)

rachel mai

Thank you Shane!

Most of these people here are not old. I am a nutritionist(among other things) and pretty into the science of food values. Wholefoods are best but if you knew about commercial food production you would probably be a lot more in favour of organic and a bit freaked out about commercial.

I am ooften broke and my income fluctuates a lot but I make sure that me and my pets consume organic as much as possible. Or at least the better produced foods.

Chicken, eggs, fruit and veg. nearly all organic Meat. Beef I cannot alwys afford organic but I eat it for the protein.

When you consume commercial produce you are eating irradiated chemically saturated food that has no minerals. It’s true that young people appear wuite well on this food generally but it is also a fact that by midlife many have had various organs removed and cancer is 100 times more prevelant than it was 120 years ago.

I know some of that can be put down to environmental pollution generally. However what we ingest is the biggest culprit.

If you habitually eat organic produce you will be turned off by the other kind. In the long run it does make a difference but you wont find that acknowleged too much in any popular media including most of the internet. People are not being told the truth about food.

Shane Duquette

Hmm, are you talking about factory farms versus family farms, local vs imported, or organic versus conventional?

Organic can be from a factory farm and loaded full of just as much pesticides as conventionally grown foods. Similarly, conventionally grown foods can be farmed by small local farmers who use minimal pesticides.

Organic just means non-GMO and no synthetic pesticides and herbicides. It has nothing to do with commercial/non-commercial, corporate or non-corporate, pesticides or no pesticides, etc.

I think I might not be understanding you though?

rachel mai

I don’t disagree with you, but to be labeled “organic food by law has to be grown without chemical fertilisers and pesticides and not be geneically engineered. It also cannot be irradiated.
It still is normally produced in a commercial operation but I was usung the word “commercial” to indicate food produced the way it is produced in mass production farms. I could go into detail but I won’t.

People generally still don’t know what they are eating and what it does to their bodies.
The damage from eating food produced the way most people’s food is grown may take a long time to show up but it does sooner or later.

You are not stupid and I think you take care of your health quite well. We can get away with a certain amount of non perfect foods in our diet, especially if other factors are in our favour, such as healthy relationships, occupations and a generally rewarding lifestyle.

I am not in favor of being rigid about things. I just wish people knew more about the environment they are living in.

Shane Duquette

“We can get away with a certain amount of non perfect foods in our diet, especially if other factors are in our favour, such as healthy relationships, occupations and a generally rewarding lifestyle.”

So, so true! Could not agree more.

“I am not in favor of being rigid about things.”

Agreed. I think you need to know enough to take care of the fundamentals – the stuff that makes the difference – but beyond that, striving for total perfection is often counterproductive.

We seem to agree on the end goal, just perhaps not some of the much finer details about how to get there ;)

Shane Duquette

Living longer and a better understanding of the human body are also culprits when it comes to the increasing rates of cancer!

Cancer happens to a lot of us in old age. Now that so many of us are reaching old age, more of us are dying of cancer. (We used to die out younger from a variety of other causes, like plagues, “consumption”, infections, etc.)

We all need to die of something, and these days we’re a lot better at diagnosing the cause of death. So a lot of deaths are now attributed to cancer whereas before they were mysteries. The cause of death in humans often heart disease or cancer, and, assuming we’ve lived 80-90 years … that’s not so bad!

I don’t disagree though. If we can reduce our chances of getting cancer then that would of course imply that we could live even longer!

rachel mai

Conventional belief.

Once you remove death in infancy, childbirth and from septacemea people actually lived as long or longer than they do now on average. You can research this if you like. But apart from those things they were healthier than modern people.

Also I don’t know if you haven people with inoperable cancer but in many cases it appears on the outside of the body.

100-120 years ago cancer was not being misdiagnosed. Ever. They had doctors, x-rays and everything needed to detect it. It was not very common.

A whole medeaivel village in England was recently dug up. The skeletons had no tooth decay, no arthritis, were better formed and most of them were of old people. Organic food, fresh air and plenty of activity obviously had benefits. All waste was returned to the fields. They used manure and crop rotation. Their bodies were not starved of minerals.

You may not know this but they may have drunk beer and not water as much water was not safe at those times.

The things you are saying about health and longevity are what most people say. It is possible to read up on it and find out the truth if you are interested.

Shane Duquette

Yeah! I’ve heard that same argument from the Paleo community – that even many thousands of years ago humans were able to live quite long lives. I’ve never looked into it. Really interesting.

Whatever reason people died younger, that would still reduce the rate of old-age diseases, no? From what I can gather my understanding is that we’ve gotten a lot better at recognizing and treating cancer. That’s a whole other topic though, and admittedly one I know very little about.

As for non-organic food being the source of all these troubles, I just don’t think we can make that claim. They’ve been around for several decades now and the studies aren’t finding any problems! (Keep in mind these studies are funded by government organizations from around the world, anti-GMO organizations, pro-GMO organizations, WHO, etc. We’re not talking about just partisan Monsanto studies or anything.)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/

Crop rotation, staying away from mono-cultures, and some other traditional farming practices are great. They’re practiced by organic and non-organic farms. (Although I know those practices are more common with organic foods.)

Organic foods run into problems of their own, too. Their pesticides and herbicides, like rotenone, are more often more toxic than the non-organic ones. They run into more toxic contamination issues too, since they’re often less strictly regulated. They also run into the downsides of using manure – bacterial issues (E. Coli, etc.)

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/07/18/mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

That isn’t to say that organic is bad – far from it. I love organic food and eat tons of it. You make a valid point that they’re a little higher in some nutrients sometimes too. That’s a fairly negligible difference though, I’d say (it seems, based on the current evidence).

I also think opting for locally grown food from trusted sources (organic or not) is great, circumstances permitting. That’s definitely my preference as well.

I suspect that the problem our generation faces has more to do with more inactivity + slightly more calories + more processed foods. (Fresh air may play a role too – I don’t know.)

That’s a tough issue though. It’s very hard to say for sure, and many people dedicate their entire careers to figuring that out and still haven’t reached a consensus.

Just because most people say something doesn’t mean it’s wrong! ;)

Monica B.

Super pumped for the women’s articles. I have just flat lined at the weight and size I am at the moment. At this long moment…. I am a certified Muay Thai Kickboxing/Kickboxing instructor and working toward a self-defense/combative certification AND I am starting my personal trainer certificate. I am always up and running. In ways that activity has been a benefit and a huge speed bump. Instead of just taking the protein I was advised to take I recently started experimenting with protein, carb., and fat intake for my body.
Something not so extreme. I sure in the hell had a hard time trying to fit in so many meals per day. It is discouraging. I have been stuck at 113 lbs. for years.

Sooo…reading your articles lit that under your ass fire back up (the motivational under your ass fire not the food poisoning one)! I hope the women’s articles help! I am shooting for the gain again. Instead of working to just maintain.

Shane Duquette

Ah that’s awesome Monica!

If you’re looking to build some muscle and strength that’s our specialty as far as women go too – you should consider signing up for our Bony to Bombshell beta test! We’re just finishing it up.

Why so many meals? Only way to consume enough calories?

“not the food poisoning one!”

Ahahahahahhaa

Monica B.

Yes to the calorie consuming. Also for the metabolism boost and health benefits of fresh veggies and fruit. I did not want to have to take a bunch of supplements to get all those vitamins, minerals, protein, etc…They are not big meals. Just hard to squeeze it all in! Some say 5-6 meals is the correct amount and others disagree. Sooo…I am at a loss!? Thoughts? I will for sure check out the beta test.

Shane Duquette

Well it’s a myth that you need to eat frequently for metabolism boosts or anything like that.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any pros or cons – for a lot of us thin guys ‘n gals it makes more sense to eat more frequently simply because we find our stomachs are rather small. We thus handle snacks and small meals well.

Check this out:
http://bonytobeastly.com/muscle-building-myth-5-thinking-you-need-to-eat-every-2-3-hours/

Rita

So, I drink 1-3 glasses of wine every night, workout 5 days a week, and eat mostly organic/Paleo. I took a quiz online that said only 4% of women drink more than me and that I better think seriously about seeking professional help for my drinking “problem.” Yet, according to your article, I would be at the top of the U-curve. Is an average of two glasses of wine with food at night really grounds for needing “professional help”?

Shane Duquette

Sadly your ‘ideal’ intake would indeed likely be fewer than 7-14, yeah, since it sounds like you’re a woman.

You’d be on the slight downward slope though, not flirting with alcoholism, so I suspect your average of 1-3 is better than abstinence, just not better than one drink per day.

Although who’s really to say – different people handle different things differently. I love my grains, legumes and dairy, but some people feel best eating more Paleo. Some people adore how coffee makes them feel, others get all jittery and anxious.

If you enjoy drinking the wine and wake up in the morning feeling great my guess would be that you’re okay :)

-Shane

p.s. We’ve got a blog coming soon for women – Bony to Bombshell.

Rita

Thanks, Shane. I really appreciate reading your view about personalizing the diet, and that not being a teetotaler is perfectly normal. A lot of those puritanical articles out there are without sound science and create unnecessary self-doubt. Maybe it’s time to re-read The Drunk Diet!

Shane Duquette

Ahahaha that title scares and intrigues me!

Woot – glad to hear it Rita :)

Mandie

I did a 90 day no alcohol challenge and was very proud of myself for doing that. In about 100 days i have changed my health style completely and dropped from 26% body fat to 18.2% and now this weekend i would like to go out and drink and have some fun. I was worried about setting myself back a couple of days, even though what i drink is vodka and water. I liked the article because it made me feel like i wouldn’t set myself back that much, if at all. Some other comments kinda made me feel like it would. OHHH the decisions to make. :)

Shane Duquette

That’s super impressive Mandie, congratulations! 18.2 percent body fat is crazy low as a woman. (That’s like being 6% body fat as a man.) Do you enjoy it?

As far as what will set you back and what won’t, just remember to focus on the big picture!

A couple drinks one won’t matter at all. A couple drinks every day, in the context of a healthy lifestyle, won’t even matter.

I wouldn’t stress too much, and instead try and lead a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle. You can do that equally well as a drinker or a non-drinker, so I’d just go with your personal preferences and what makes you feel your best.

Sounds like you’re already accomplishing pretty impressive feats! :)

Mandie

Thank you!!! I love it but I actually thought I’d be much leaner. Don’t get me wrong, I am lean and seeing major differences and more definition. I still have that stubborn cellulite on my legs and some love handles :) but thank you for your insite I appreciate it!

Shane Duquette

Hrmm well we’re going off-topic here, but bear with me?

Your cellulite has to do with your fascia. Fascia is a layer of fibrous tissue that surrounds muscle groups and fat. It holds things in place. It’s sort of like a net.

Different people have different densities of fascia. Some fascia is like fishnet stockings – big gaps. Some is like regular stockings – very tiny gaps. This is genetic, and men tend to have much denser fascia than women.

Cellulite is what happens when fat presses up against loose fascia – it sort of bubbles out of the gaps. It’s rare among men, because their fascia is dense, but very very common in women, since theirs often isn’t. Something like 90% of women have cellulite.

Cellulite is more apparent when you have more fat, since more fat is pressing up against the fascia … but you can’t really change the density of your fascia so, considering that you can’t ever get to 0% body fat, you may always have a certain degree of cellulite.

The good news though is that cellulite doesn’t really matter. I know some women don’t like having it, so I totally get why you want to get rid of it, but it’s not at all unhealthy and it’s not even remotely unattractive (at least as far as us men are concerned). It’s kind of just how women’s bodies are, and (straight) men, well, we tend to love women’s bodies for how they are.

It’s also common to be surprised at how lean you aren’t. I feel the same. I’ve got abs under any lighting and my body fat percentage is quite low, but I’m not even remotely close to being as lean as someone on the cover of a magazine. They intentionally peak before photo shoots, venturing very very temporarily into lower body fat percentages than aren’t maintainable (or healthy), they temporarily dehydrate themselves to make themselves appear even leaner than they are, and then the photos are made even crisper with photo editing tools. Since we’re often so accustomed to seeing images like that, and things are always rather relative, it’s pretty damn near impossible to ever look crazy lean in the mirror. Even the people on the covers don’t look anything close to that in the mirror!

Luckily, unless you’re a fitness model or bodybuilding enthusiast, that isn’t necessary or even ideal. 20% as a women is very lean, often very healthy (everyone does best at a different body fat percentage) and within the range of what’s generally considered totally optimally attractive (19-25% or so for most women in the eyes of most men). It’s similar to how 8% looks on a man – at the lean side of maximally attractive and maximally attractive. (With the maximally attractive range for men being something like 8-12%.)

You can continue to get leaner of course, if you like – we all have different goals – just be careful about letting it affect your health, mood and sex drive!

(I would say the same to a man looking to go much under 8%. We usually feel and look our best at 8-12%, depending on our genetics and preferences, so it’s not without its downsides! Naturally lean people often feel best closer to 8, whereas naturally chubbier guys feel best closer to 12, and sometimes even higher. Maintaining a lower body fat percentage than that often makes us feel weaker, crushes our sex drive and results in perpetual and insatiable hunger.)

Anyway, good luck Mandie! You’re obviously amazing at this, so I’m sure you’ll keep kicking ass – just my two cents as a fitness nerd :D

Mandie

Wow it’s never really been explained like that to me. I appreciate you taking the time to do so!!! At this point in time I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. As for the sex drive lol lets not even go there! So I will continue to do as I am until it affects those areas :) thanks again!

BadToTheBone

Alcohol Impairs fat oxidation, but fat oxidation does not mean fat burning. Get your facts straight. In addition, alcohol actually improves insulin sensitivity, which is an advantage for someone who wants to lose fat or build muscle.

John

Oh yeah, go ahead and become alcoholics you dumb fucks. Way to go. I was really impressed by this website up until I found this article. Now I’m very disappointed. People nowadays will find an excuse in anything to get drunk and flood their body with poison, seems you are no different then. Too bad. I certainly won’t pay money for some program made by people who recommend me to use DRUGS, which alcohol CERTAINLY is. Why not invest in STEROIDS instead of beer? Will help you alot more in getting jacked;)

Jacob

Well this article put me at ease. I figured a lot of the anti alcohol was bro science. Hell my little brother trains hard, eats clean and drinks like a fish (tried to get him to stop) and he is a beast. I shant worry about my two beers a week any longer.

Miles

“I) You may wonder why alcohol makes you sleepy, and then oversleep, and then remain tired the next day. This is due to the release of the inhibitor gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which makes it easier to fall asleep, but harder to fall into a deep sleep, where the real benefits of rest occur.”

Is it the GABA that makes it hard to fall into a deep sleep or the alcohol that produced it?

Shane Duquette

I think this is just semantics. Isn’t that like asking “is it the protein that caused the muscle protein synthesis, or the amino acids that our body broke the protein down into that caused the muscle protein synthesis?”

My understanding is that the alcohol causes the release of the GABA and the GABA makes it harder for your body to fall into a deep sleep.

Phil DeLaCroix

Excellent article! Very intelligently writen. I do not notice any impact on my size since i’ve starded drinking 2 drinks a day in the last year or so… quite the opposite. Also started being Vegan at around the same time with ”lower than recommended” protein intake at around 70-100g a day (for a 6’3” 235 pound man) with still no difference in size except for less fat and more muscle. All that money wasted on protein supplement in the years before that… :( Most ”common knowlege” in bodybuilding is BS. Cheers.

Shane Duquette

Thanks, Phil—and congratulations on your progress! 6’3 and 235 is pretty damn beastly :)

When you grow accustomed to weightlifting and consuming a higher protein intake it’s been theorized that the body becomes more efficient at processing protein, and we need to consume less. Moreover, there’s a big difference between what’s required to maintain muscle mass versus what’s required to build muscle mass. For someone who’s new to building muscle, who is looking to gain muscle instead of just maintain, who’s looking for rapid results instead of steady progress, etc… most studies conclude that they’d do better on a higher protein intake.

With that said, you’re right—most people drastically overestimate the amount of protein they need to consume. We have an article on that too :)
http://bonytobeastly.com/carb-or-protein-diet-for-ectomorphs/

Mike

Have you considered
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1296731/pdf/jrsocmed00033-0007.pdf

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379705000127

Considering these articles the title “why you should drink” is misleading.

Also I suggest to define a maximal recommended amount on a daily basis and not like you did as 7-14 drinks a week. This could be interpreted as drinking 14 drinks a day and then no alcohol for the rest of the week. 14 drinks a day would clearly account for binge drinking whose detrimental effects on health, especially brain functioning, are well established.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2607328/
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925492712001825

Shane Duquette

The first study you linked to agreed with the consensus that there’s a slight protective effect of drinking when it comes to heart disease, although they point out that it may be exaggerated (although still true). They’re arguing that we shouldn’t treat alcohol like a supplement or miracle drug, and I agree. The second article (although I haven’t read the whole thing) seems to conclude that there’s likely a protective effect of alcohol, but that’s it’s too soon to know for sure. That seems prudent to me, and lines up with the tone we were trying to have in this article.

There are other more recent studies that suggest that there are heart benefits to abstaining from drinking too:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25011450

You make a good point, and I’m going to keep seeing what comes out in the coming months/years to see if the body of evidence starts to suggest something different.

You’re right—the “Why You Should Drink” title is a little misleading. I wasn’t so much trying to say that you should drink, but rather here are some reasons why you would want to. I think the content of the article clears up the ambiguity though, no? I could definitely add a bit in to make it clearer.

And yes, binge drinking is bad news. We say that very clearly though! Could make it clearer, yeah.

(And this stuff is always something to discuss with your doc, not just go with verbatim based on internet advice.)

Mike

Why moderate drinking appears to be beneficial (from the second study I sourced) “Overall, 90% of risk factors were significantly more common among nondrinkers; only 2 risk factors were more common among moderate drinkers. Furthermore, among factors with multiple risk categories, higher levels of risk (e.g., the highest BMI category) were progressively more strongly associated with nondrinking status. The findings were similar before and after adjusting for age and gender, and after excluding those with poor health or a history of CVD from the analysis. These results suggest that residual confounding or unmeasured effect modification would bias observational studies in favor of moderate drinkers.”

Why it might be dangerous to promote drinking in order to get health benefits which can be achieved through other means. (Moderation is key but might no be as easily realized because of the addictive properties of alcohol, peer pressure and possibly other factors)
“Alcohol, which damages virtually every organ system, claims more than 80,000 lives each year in the United States alone, and is responsible for about one-third of all fatal car crashes, half of all homicides, one-third of all suicides and one-third of all hospital admissions.”
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7323/full/468475a.html

How alcohol ranks among other recreational drugs. As most people seem not being able to socialize sober the drug of choice should be chosen by scientific means.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673610614626

Sorry about my second comment, probably could have inferred this from the note that the “comment is awaiting moderation”.

I like the fact that you are open to discussions as normally there is a lot of cherry-picking going on….

Shane Duquette

Some people don’t handle moderation well, and for many people who are prone to alcoholism, abstinence is best. No argument there. However, in general restriction causes people to fetishize things, making moderation less likely if they succumb to temptation. If you were to restrict sugar, say, then you may find yourself craving it, and then when you DO have it, it’s nearly impossible not to binge on it. This phenomenon has been confirmed by many studies (study). I don’t think we can necessarily generalize and say that the best way to avoid binge drinking is avoid drinking altogether. Especially since many people aren’t inclined to binge drink or become alcoholics anyway. I think this likely depends on the person.

For many, the best way to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol may to be to learn to have it in moderation, not to abstain.

Furthermore, if abstaining from alcohol is correlated with all of these risk factors… it’s hard to figure out what the causal factor is here. Why do the moderate drinkers have so many fewer risk factors? Is it possible that having a healthy relationship with alcohol (neither being scared of it nor drinking too much of it) is helpful in some way? Perhaps learning to drink in moderation fosters better self control or something (as the above study suggests), or perhaps better self control fosters better drinking habits (as logic would suggest. Perhaps both. Regardless, there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem with drinking in moderation.

A lot of those awful things you’re mentioning about alcohol come from excessive consumption. I mean, people who eat too much food run the risk of becoming morbidly obese and dying from it. That doesn’t mean that consuming food is bad for you, but rather that consuming excessive amounts of food is bad for you. The same may be true with alcohol, and you’ll surely get no argument from anyone that consuming too much alcohol is a bad thing.

(I don’t have access to the full version of that drug analysis study you posted.)

Mike

I found this study which supports your claim about the cardioprotective properties of “moderate” alcohol consumption. However their definition of “moderate” differs from yours.

Furthermore the mean age of the study population (Table 1) is 50y. I can’t find any restrictions of your cardioprotective claims in terms of age.

I also found this study which is allegedly a study of good quality. However the authors restricted their analysis to health care professionals. (A non-representative socio-economic group with respect to the whole population.)
“In this study, we focused on a tightly restricted group of participants, that is, nonsmoking male health professional.”
Additionally one of the authors (Eric Rimm) received funding “from industry-related organizations (Distilled Spirits Council and National Beer Wholesalers Association). He is also author of several other studies relating to the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.
Again the study populations mean age is 50y. (Table 1)

Another recent (2010) article from Nature concludes that “Our data suggest that it is clearly premature to promote alcohol consumption as the basis of CV protection until such time as the causal role of alcohol in cardioprotection is fully proven.” (the mean age here is 40y)

Another REVIEW which investigates moderate alcohol consumption and brain health. (table 3 gives a good overview about methodological flaws in studies pertaining alcohol use)

Causal factors cannot be inferred by using epidemiological study design. What is needed is a randomized control trial.

Shane Duquette

Check this study out, which includes some experimental studies. It also talks about possible mechanisms for why alcohol is improving markers of health—super fascinating!

Shane Duquette

The definition of moderate consumption in the study you link to doesn’t really differ from ours. They’re saying that drinking around one-ish (okay—ever so slightly less) drink per day is better for your heart health than drinking less than one per week, however increasing consumption of alcohol up to 2 drinks per day starts to become associated with a greater risk of heart disease. That lines up well with the 1-drink-per-day findings of the other studies I’ve come across. It’s not exactly the same, but very similar.(The main difference being that instead of 1-3 being the ideal zone, it’s 0.75-1.5 or some such.)

Anyway, I’ve changed the article to include more “seems” and “currently” and “perhaps”. And I double checked to make sure that we weren’t recommending that people take up alcohol consumption for supposed health benefits and whatnot, although that study up above indicates that for older guys… going from a non-drinking to a moderate drinker may indeed improve heart health! (But I haven’t yet come across a doctor recommending alcohol as a way of preventing disease.)

Mike

The latest study using mendelian randomization and a very large sample size

Shane Duquette

The findings of that study may be accurate, but the study itself likely has some problems. They divided the groups up based on whether or not people had a rare allele that caused uncomfortable face flushing and poor alcohol processing. The problem is that while they’re trying to remove confounders, the allele may actually be related to cardiovascular disease (CVD), so it’s hard to figure out if the effects are due to a reduced alcohol intake or due to something else. Critiques of the study point out that the allele itself may have an effect on CVD.

There are other similar studies looking into other alleles that are associated with reduced alcohol consumption. This one questioning all the studies that found improved cognitive function in people who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol.

The challenge with these studies is that, while they attempt to remove confounding variables by focusing on genetic variations that naturally restrict alcohol consumption, they may not actually do a very good job of it. In the above study, the researchers noted that it only explained 3% of the variance in alcohol intake… which doesn’t do a very good job of categorizing people into non-drinkers and moderate drinkers in an un-biased fashion. The same may be true in the cardiovascular disease study—I don’t know.

The very weird thing about this study is that there’s a large body of evidence (including clinical trials!) finding a positive correlation between HDL (aka “good cholesterol”) and moderate alcohol consumption… while this study found none. Without the positive HDL being taken into consideration, which is the supposed benefit of drinking in the first place, it would follow that there’d be no benefit. As such, the allele may be a poor way to divide up participants.

Anyway, the main critique of the study is that it’s overreaching in its conclusions. It may be right, it may not be. But it’s way too early to say with any degree of certainty!

(It wouldn’t surprise me though. It’s indeed largely unexplained why moderate alcohol consumption seems to be good for our health. It may turn out that it isn’t!)

Most experts still feel that overall body of evidence—including studies like this one—indicates that light/moderate alcohol consumption is cardioprotective. I think we should wait and see though.

Shane Duquette

Also, thank you for passing along all this research! This has me more intrigued than ever :)

Mike

Why did you delete my comment?

Shane Duquette

Hey Mike, we didn’t delete it, it just wasn’t automatically approved because it contained a bunch of links. Normally comments with a bunch of links are spam, so our system automatically flags them for manual approval. That’s why this comment was cleared immediately, while the other one got held up for a bit. In your case, you’re a like-minded evidence-based dude, so we’ve approved it :)

Oli S

I was actually having a beer while reading this article, and I love it! But since you’re actually advocation alcohol consumption while on a diet that kinda goes without saying haha.
Anyways, it may need be exactly on topic but since de-/hydration was mentioned in the comments, any word on using creatine while keeping your liver busy? I’ve heared it time and time again that alcohol and creatine don’t mix too well.
That is, alcohol neglects any positive effect creatine may have, not that you should actually mix them.
Cheers

Shane Duquette

Ahaha I love it!

I’m not advocating alcohol consumption per se, just saying there’s no need to fear it, feel guilty about it, or feel like it would sabotage your results :)

I wouldn’t think that alcohol would neglect the effects of creatine, but I definitely see what you’re saying—alcohol is dehydrating you and creatine is increasing your need for water. However if you’re talking about having a beer or two the dehydration would be very very minimal. And if you’re taking just 5g of creatine per day—not doing any kind of crazy loading phase I mean—then the effects would be so mild that I can’t imagine it being a problem. I think beer, what with all the fluid in it in relation to the alcohol, isn’t even very dehydrating.

I imagine it would be wise to consume plenty of water though, aiming for several clear urinations per day (alongside however many dark-ish ones) to guarantee that you aren’t dehydrated.

And I should add that I’m mostly just guessing here. This is probably a question for your doc!

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