Archive for December, 2012

Alcohol, Detrimental or Advantageous?

Alcohol, Detrimental or Advantageous? When you think about alcohol, what immediately comes to mind?

For me, many things come to mind: partying, dancing, relaxation, having fun and laughter. When I trained as a life coach, my mentor turned to me and asked me one day asking “why do you drink?” I immediately got defensive and asked, “What do you mean, why do I drink? Because I want to!” I was missing the point of course.

What he was probing at was the reasons for me to drink alcohol. Was it relaxation? Confidence? Perhaps to be a little more flirtatious? If you can identify what it is, then congratulations! Now you have a starting point for setting a personal development goal. By aiming to achieve your “alcohol” goal without the alcohol, you’re going to develop as a person. There’s no denying that.

I am not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do, I am only here to express my experiences and inform you all on what alcohol does to your body. I am constantly deciding to stop alcohol completely, then having “just a few” drinks, then ending up feeling terrible… which is exactly why, coincidentally, I am writing this at the moment.

I know that by identifying why I drink, I can achieve the goal in a different way and diminish the distorted belief that only alcohol can help me do that. Sure, it’s probably much easier to have a few glasses of wine and strut my stuff as if I’m Beyonce, but the challenge excites me to do that sober. I think that anyone who has followed my journey so far can see I like a challenge!!

Anderson P. and Baumberg B. examine the motivations behind drinking alcohol in “Alcohol in Europe: a public health perspective”. Surprisingly enough, it is this same article that mentions the “positive” effects of alcohol, although the underlying tone is a negative one. A study in the UK demonstrated that drinking no “booze” results in a lower mortality risk, which to me and you, is a lower risk of death.

For older people aged over 65, this increases to less than half a drink a day (5g of alcohol) and even more surprisingly increases again to less than 10g a day (less than one drink) for people over 65 (White et al., 2002). The positive effects are namely a reduction in coronary heart disease, according to these statistics.

It is important to remember these studies only take account of alcohol consumption and do not consider diet, physical activity or underlying conditions. I am not a big lover of statistics! They seem to remove so many other factors. I also find it interesting how the positive effects are shown in older age groups, whereas there is a common misconception that we should all drink a glass of wine a day… or is it two? How many times have you convinced yourself by saying: “It’s good for me, THEY did some study some place that said it!” 

It is also important to point out here that many studies were conducted on those who contracted coronary heart disease- it was this group of people who were shown to live longer by consuming low levels of alcohol, not the general population. I’m not an expert, but I wonder if the effect on the heart is anything to do with the fact it thins your blood, which obviously prevents heart attacks?

Besides the positive physical effects, there are listed many psychological benefits. These are very vague, and outline “better mental health”. I take it that the fact that alcohol is a depressant is being removed from this study then. Again, the point I was making in the beginning is that if you feel alcohol helps you to destress or be more outgoing, maybe it’s better (and healthier) to strive to achieve that in a different way? Oh, and I can also safely assume that alcoholism is being excluded as well, and the psychological and physical turmoil that results.

It is fair to surmise that the negative effects of alcohol do outweigh the allegedly positive ones. Again, when researching this, I did notice that the “negative” effects were mainly associated with binge drinking only, so I have made it clear what the negative effects are and when they come about. The definition of binge drinking provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is defined as 5 drinks on one occasion for men, and 4 drinks for women. Do you “binge” more often than you thought?

  • Just one drink, which is not binge drinking, effects our basic functions, such as walking, talking, and control of our limbs
  • Research by the Department of Health shows that a man drinking 5 pints in a week consumes the same number of calories as someone who eats 221 doughnuts in a year. If you value your waistline, and you “binge drink” according to the above definition, this is something to think about.
  • “Heavy” drinking irritates your stomach and can result in nausea and diarrhoea
  • Alcohol has a dehydrating effect, whatever the quantity. Not only will you have a headache, but your skin will also dehydrate leading to wrinkles and premature aging.
  • Extreme levels of drinking, which is more than 30 “units” per week (10ml or 8g of pure alcohol per unit, i.e. one third of a pint of beer) can occasionally cause psychosis
  • After just two units of alcohol, memory loss can occur, lack of concentration and one becomes mentally slower
  • Consumption of alcohol, although it is not clear how much, is linked to anxiety and depression. I for one can say I always feel really down after a night out drinking alcohol!
  • Binge drinking can lead to impotence, make you infertile and reduce libido
  • Drinking enough alcohol to get intoxicated or drunk can lead to suffocation by choking on your own vomit. The amount it requires to get drunk obviously varies from person to person
  • Binge drinking causes abnormal and irregular heart rhythms which can lead to heart disease, strokes or your heart becoming enlarged
  • More than two drinks a day increases your risk of cancer of the bowel and throat
  • Binge drinking can make you aggressive or violent
  • Alcohol consumption depletes your electrolytes (potassium and sodium). This is important for athletes- as electrolytes are salts that are naturally a part of body fluids and help increase the absorption of fluid into the bloodstream.
  • Binge drinking can affect your brain and body for up to THREE days!
  • Alcohol effects sleep patterns, which again, are all important for athletes, as this results in fatigue, impaired ability to recover and increased risk of injury.
  • Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, which causes increased heat loss and your muscles will get cold, which means they will be slower and weaker during contractions
  • Alcohol and muscle building do not go hand in hand. This is the deciding point for me. What’s the point in slugging it out in the gym and pushing myself physically if alcohol is detrimental to it all? Alcohol reduces growth hormone by a whopping 70%, which affects muscular development. Also, because alcohol is a toxin, your body will work to remove this first and not work on your recovery, hence you will not recover properly before your next gym session. Alcohol also decreases the concentration of testosterone in the body, hence affecting muscle growth.

These outline just some of the negative and positive effects of drinking alcohol. Ultimately, we are all in control of what we put into our bodies. As a competitive athlete, I can safely summise that alcohol isn’t a necessary part of my lifestyle. I shall be seeing the new year in sober! Have a great new year everyone!

Six Pack of beer, good for you or bad for you?

An article discussing alcohol and its effects on people and exercise.

Give Your Body a Boost!

    Give Your Body a Boost this winter.

According to my car today, it’s minus 1.5 degrees which means that winter is well and truly setting in! Now, more than ever, it’s important to give your body a boost and to look after it and your health so that you survive the winter without getting run down or catching any infections like cold or flu.

Here are some tips to ensure you give your body a boost that it will keep you at your best this winter:

  1. 1. Get plenty of sleep

Try and stick with a regular bedtime and time that you wake up. Getting lots of sleep ensures that your body recovers properly (especially when you are training), and it encourages the production of those all important white blood cells, which are essential for fighting disease along with the highly anabolic, fat burning, natural human Growth Hormone which is secreted during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep..

2. Eat immune boosting foods
One of the best ways give your body a boost through the winter is to keep an eye on what you are eating. Your food is your fuel, and you have to think that you will “run” better on the best fuel that you can provide. Your immune system needs key vitamins and nutrients, including zinc, copper, iron and protein. You will find the vitamins and minerals you need in colourful foods, nuts and seeds. Buy these fresh, tinned/frozen/preserved versions have normally a fraction of the benefits of fresh produce.

Berries, broccoli and citrus fruits should all be a key part of your diet this winter. Pineapple is known for it’s anti inflammatory properties and could also help you to recover more quickly from your workouts.

3. Work Out
Exercise strengthens your immune cells which helps fight off infection. It doesn’t matter so much what exercise you do, just get do something. Exercise also causes a release of endorphins which have a euphoric effect, making you feel better within yourself, physically and mentally.

~Elle Mac~

Winter training

Incline bench pressing

Set Your Goals with No Excuses

This week, the topic I've chosen is on how to set your goals with no excuses. We all do it- and I believe that occasionally an excuse is a subconscious reaction as oppose to an intentional conscious decision.

So how do we learn to identify when we are making excuses when we "don't really mean it"? I've written out some common excuses below, with my own very brief breakdown on each.

1. I'm too tired.
Are you really too tired? If you sit for more than 10 minutes, are you falling asleep? Are you struggling to do basic everyday activities such as walking, carrying things or bending down? Sometimes our minds play tricks on us and tell us we are too tired, as an excuse to relax and do very little activity. If you do answer yes to any of the above, then REST! YOU'RE TIRED! It can be beneficial to take time off when you need it too.

2. My friend is on holiday and I always train with him/her.
I think a common and easy trap to fall into is to depend on someone else. This is acceptable when you're starting out, because sometimes you need a leaning post. After approximately 4-6 weeks, in my opinion it's imperative for you to become SELF motivated. External factors shouldn't matter, least of all whether you have a companion. If you feel self conscious about training alone, just remember that people notice two people more than they notice just one.

3. I want to lose a bit of weight first before I go to the gym.
Oh yes, I'm all too familiar with this little beauty of an excuse. Here is my little breakdown:- 
(A) weight doesn't matter. I gained 10lb in my first 3-4 weeks of training. 
(B) aren't you supposed to go to the gym to work at getting leaner, fitter and healthier? Why put that off? 
(C) Less people judge you than you might think- they will respect you for making an effort to change your body. 
(D) Exercise speeds up your metabolism, makes you feel stronger, and makes you feel healthy and full of energy... Why wait?

4. I've got an illness or medical condition.
I am NOT discrediting anyone or their ailments- not for one second. Some people genuinely cannot train or eat regularly, I totally 100% respect that. But don't use your ailments as an excuse. I have Crohns Disease- some days, I can genuinely only eat once a day, and some days I can't train. But I don't let it stand in the way of the days I CAN do something. 
Also, I think it's a fair assessment to say that sometimes your symptoms aren't a result of your illness or disease. Consider all your other lifestyle choices and how they might possibly affect the way you feel and your health before you assume it's a result of your illness.

5. I'll start Monday, that way it'll be starting afresh on a new week.
I encourage all of my clients to start straight away- as soon as we make contact. Most people who have the "I'll start Monday" syndrome fail. They also use it as an excuse to binge eat all week, then it repeats in a vicious cycle. There is NO SUCH THING as "being good"- you MUST adopt the attitude that you are making a lifestyle change. Having an "on/off a diet" mentality leads to failure. 

Start now! Your body has no idea what day it is. Your body will start working sooner, the sooner you work it! Good nutrition, a structured training program and the right attitude are all we need to reach our destination - maybe a bit more patience too. Remember, you may have 30 years of being skinny or fat under your belt, becoming a physique model won't happen overnight!

In closing, I would like to highlight that there are people in the world who genuinely don't want to train too. I see people point the finger all the time and say "they're making excuses", when in fact they're exercising their right to personal choice! 

For those of you who want to lose fat, keep fit and stay healthy it is essential you learn how to set your goals with no excuses; we know that excuses can be our biggest obstacle and are a way of setting ourselves up to fail. I hope that you now have some tips in how to overcome these negative thoughts and reasons to accept defeat. :-)

~ Elle Mac ~
Set your goals

Set Your Goals with No Excuses

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