Alcohol has pluses and minuses, it's complicated.
Alcohol is a macronutrient, meaning it's a direct source of calories like fats, proteins, and carbs. Similar to carbs, alcohol is not an essential macronutrient. No alcohol is necessary in the diet.
Alcohol is a neurotoxin. It alters nervous system signaling, affecting perception and motor skills.
Alcohol is a diuretic. It dehydrates you by interrupting the kidneys ability to maintain the water, electrolyte, and pH levels of the blood.
Alcohol is an antihyperglycemic. It sporadically drops your blood sugar, by preventing the liver from producing glucose to maintain your minimum blood sugar level, which is part of the woozy effect it has.
Here is the short list of benefits from minimal alcohol consumption:
- Can improve blood indicators, statistically improving general good health and longevity.
- Prevents liver induced high blood sugar, especially overnight in combination with protein.
- Reduces insulin resistance, improving glucose uptake in metabolic syndrome.
- Lowers glycemic index of carbs, preventing blood sugar spikes.
The well known dangers of Alcohol come mostly with over consumption and binge drinking:
- Overconsumption of calories. Similar to fructose, alcohol does not signal when you are overloaded with calories. The neuro effects may also lead to additional over-eating.
- Halts metabolism of body fats.
- Storage of fat in liver, similar to fructose, leading to fatty liver disease.
- Prevention of muscle repair and growth.
- Liver damage leading to scarring and cirrhosis.
- Kidney damage.
- General cell damage.
- Temporary memory loss, and long term memory damage.
- Reduced awareness of consequences of actions.
- Injury, especially operating heavy machinery.
- Depletion of electrolytes.
- Depletion of B vitamins.
Metabolizing alcohol is like an emergency procedure. Other metabolic processes are slowed until the alcohol is metabolized, including: liver maintaining minimum blood glucose, kidney regulation of blood hydration levels, protein muscle repair, and fat metabolism for energy.
The digestive system can produce around 3g (about 1/5 of a shot) of alcohol per day. So metabolizing alcohol is normal and essential. The most well know metabolic pathway is conversion to acetate. On this pathway, about 20% is metabolized by the brain, then the remaining 80% is converted to acetaldehyde (a toxic intermediary), then to acetate (a volatile short chain fatty acid), some is stored as liver fat and the rest is converted to usable energy. There are several other pathways for alcohol metabolism that are not so well known.
Acetaldehyde and dehydration are the main cause of a hang over.
There are five different optimized ways I consume alcohol to maximize certain benefits, while minimizing problems.
- Avoid alcohol: This eliminates all the risks.
- Pad a carb meal: Eat lots of soluble fiber and have a drink of alcohol immediately before eating carbs. This will lower the glycemic index of the carbs, minimizing blood sugar spike. Acetic acid in vinegar has the same effect as alcohol for this. Soluble fiber and fat will also lower the glycemic index of carbs.
- Protein night cap: Have a drink of alcohol with a serving of protein before bed. This decreases night time high blood sugar, reducing psoriasis inflammation. The protein will provide slow release glucose over several hours, while the alcohol lowers liver glucose production.
- Minimal alcohol party: Have all your drinks at one time on an empty stomach. Eat low-fat all day to avoid alcohol induced fat storage. High soluble fiber diet with metabolic exercise is good to reduce calories and glucose damage. Don't bother with any heavy weight training because alcohol stifles muscle growth. This will get you to your target party blood alcohol level, while minimizing the amount of alcohol (calories and side effects) you have to intake metabolize. When sober, or going to sleep, take electrolytes and B vitamins with lots of water to recover what was depleted.
- Peer pressure drinking survival: This is to avoid getting drunk in social drinking situations. Drink on a full stomach. Drink slowly. Eat and drink water in between drinks. Exercise if possible. This will all slow down alcohol absorption into the blood and allow time to metabolize the alcohol out of the blood, at about one drink per hour.