A little bit of something every day can’t hurt…or can it? What happens when you drink alcohol every day can be just as harmful as bingeing. Even just a single standard drink can have serious ramifications on your overall health. The impact starts small, but can quickly snowball into the liver and heart diseases associated with chronic heavy drinking.
Before we talk about how damaging drinking every day is to your insides, let’s talk about how it can affect your outward appearance. Alcohol is known to lead to weight gain. It hits you with a double whammy of causing you to consume an excess of empty calories and makes it significantly harder to burn them off.
First off, alcohol wreaks havoc on your metabolism. Comprised wholly of carbs and sugar, your body immediately switches to using alcohol as an energy source. This means that the remnants of other fuel sources in your body (i.e. your last meal) get stored as fat. The result? Your body’s fat-burning capability takes quite a hit.
Secondly, remember all those sugars and carbs we mentioned that alcohol contains? That’s another not-so-sneaky way that alcohol can cause you to gain weight. Beer, wine, and hard liquor are calorie bombs making it easy to drink away hundreds (if not thousands) of extra calories in a single sitting. And don’t even get us started on the sugary juices and sodas used as mixers.
On top of making you gain weight, alcohol can also make your workout less effective, compounding on those weight issues.
Drinking alcohol after a workout slows muscle development by interfering with muscle repair (specifically, the rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis) that is the key to beefing up. The adverse effects of drinking before a workout can also contribute to this issue, by impairing physical performance during exertion.
Lastly, drinking can interfere with testosterone levels, an essential hormone in muscle development. Binge drinking is particularly detrimental to muscle growth (one study found that male participants who drank about 10 beers over a three hour period experienced a major dip in testosterone levels upwards of 23%) but even the lesser impacts of daily drinking can add up over time to seriously interfere with gains.
As the first part of the body that makes contact with alcohol, your gastrointestinal tract bears the majority of the brunt until it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. It can cause a host of issues in your digestive tract that interferes with everything from your bathroom breaks to your mental health.
How? By messing with your microbiome, the healthy bacteria that reside in our gut and help out with digestion.
The disruption of this delicate ecosystem also interferes with the bacteria’s ability to work as a barrier, protecting your stomach lining from highly corrosive bodily acids. Ulcers and inflammation, the precursors to dangerous liver complications, can form.
Weakened Immune System
Those same GI bacteria also play an important role in your immune system. Moderate, bingeing, and chronic drinking have all been linked to increased susceptibility to illnesses like pneumonia and certain cancers, infection, as well as the likelihood of developing complications from those conditions.
Essentially, alcohol prevents your bacteria from communicating with one another, resulting in an impaired immune response. Your immune system is then much slower and less effective in responding to threats. These adverse health consequences are also partially due to the inflammation that alcohol causes, which itself can lead to a host of undesirable and chronic diseases.
Think you can sleep off the effects of drinking every day? Think again. Drinking is notorious for getting in the way of a good night’s rest. Although you might feel more relaxed when you have a slight buzz going, what goes on in your body is quite a different story.
Alcohol consumption causes your heart rate and breathing to speed up. This makes it more difficult to relax enough to get deep sleep and REM cycles, and can simply make it more challenging to fall asleep in the first place. Even then, alcohol suppresses melatonin production, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. As such, alcohol directly interferes with your body’s circadian rhythm, throwing off your body’s natural cues of when it’s time to rise and rest.
If you struggle to cut back on your daily drinking habit, you might have an alcohol addiction. Learn more about recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and what to do about it.