Alcohol and marijuana intake are typically frowned upon in the fitness community because of the adverse effects — but exactly what effects do these substances have on your body? We’re not suggesting that everyone needs to cut consumption completely, but it’s beneficial for you to thoroughly understand how these substances affect your body to make informed decisions.
The Effects of Drugs In the Body
Alcohol and Fitness
You’re likely aware that alcohol is a toxin to the body. But did you know that excessive alcohol use causes more damage to the organs than any other substance? You can still experience the adverse effects of alcohol if you don’t excessively drink it. For example, we need an adequate amount of sleep to perform optimally during workouts. Althought it may out you to bed faster, the quality of your sleep decreases after drinking because alcohol disrupts REM sleep!
The body doesn’t have a storage place for alcohol. So while alcohol is being metabolized in your body, anything that is not protein will be stored until the calories from the alcohol are metabolized. If you’re planning a night of drinking, the safest way to make sure alcohol doesn’t dramatically derail your body composition is to monitor your overall caloric need. You should drink alcohol in whatever amount you can responsibly have while eating lean proteins (save the starches and fats for another time). Your body will store other foods as fat until it processes the alcohol. We know a night of drinking might make you think eating carbs “to absorb” the alcohol seem like a great idea — just keep in mind that pairing alcohol with higher amounts of fats and carbohydrates can directly impact your body composition.
How Does Alcohol Get Eliminated From the Body?
Dr. Alice says, “Alcohol gets eliminated in two ways — through phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification. Phase 1 detoxification is when you take something and make it water-soluble. Phase 2 is when you attach a group to that toxin, so that it can be excreted in your urine or feces. Alcohol goes through that process — the problem is that it depletes glutathione (something very important in the body). Glutathione is one of the enzymes that is up regulated when you try to eliminate a toxin from the body. I can see if someone is drinking heavily by checking the liver enzymes. It will be either ALT — something you can find in a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP). The other one that is usually not run on a regular CMP is something called GGT. It’s correlated with glutathione levels in the liver.”
Don’t Turn to Tylenol if You’re Hungover
Many people who feel hungover turn to Tylenol to help the headache go away — but Dr. Alice says never to use Tylenol for hangover relief! Tylenol requires glutathione to work appropriately, but alcohol consumption lowers glutathione concentration in the body. If you have low glutathione levels, the medication will stay in the liver, attach to the cells, and can cause permanent damage.
Adjustments You Can Make to Minimize Negative Effects From Drinking
If you want to continue alcohol consumption, we recommend making a few adjustments to protect your body. You should take an oral supplementation that provides some liver support. Your liver processes everything you come across in daily life, so it’s essential to protect it from being damaged by alcohol. Dr. Alice recommends finding an oral liposomal glutathione supplement. There are also botanicals that will help protect the liver cells! Dr. Alice suggests trying milk thistle or catechins from green tea (catechins will support the enzymes to detoxify alcohol from the liver and the body).
Is Marijuana Better Than Alcohol?
While there are over 700 literature studies done on the effects marijuana has on the body, few studies show long-term effects. The main concerns are that you may experience paranoia, anxiety, and nausea from marijuana use. It’s currently difficult to know how marijuana affects the brain and lungs long-term.
Of course, smoking (of any kind) can damage the lungs and impact respiratory health, which may decrease your cardiovascular fitness and recovery, but it is not necessarily an effect of the drug itself- meaning the same would not happen if used in another form. Studies do show that marijuana dampens our dopamine output — which affects motivation. With that being said, Dr. Alice says that there aren’t many people who don’t meet their fitness goals because of marijuana, as opposed to their alcohol consuming counterparts who fail to achieve their goals more often.