Is Drinking Good or Bad For You?

 | 37 Comments  | Articles, Health, Nutrition


Alcohol is kind of a sensitive subject. Many of us drink. Many of us don’t. Some people feel that alcohol is a lovely gift, a way to socialize and a way to relax and toast to all of the bounty life brings us. Some people love alcohol but aren’t able to tolerate it or drink responsibly. Some people have alcoholism or the gene to develop it. Some people are ambivalent. Some people feel alcohol is straight up nutritional poison and should be avoided at all costs.

But what are the hard facts surrounding alcohol? Let’s take a closer look.

What Actually Happens When You Drink?

 According to, “After a drink is swallowed, the alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the blood (20% through the stomach and 80% through the small intestine), with effects felt within 5 to 10 minutes after drinking. It usually peaks in the blood after 30-90 minutes and is carried through all the organs of the body.”

Alcohol starts out as a toxic substance. Our bodies break most of it down, via the liver, into water and carbon dioxide. “The rest [is] excreted through the lungs (allowing alcohol breath tests), through the kidneys (into urine) and in sweat.” No wonder you can always smell someone who’s been hitting the sauce from a mile away!

You start to feel buzzed or drunk when you drink faster than your liver can metabolize the alcohol. When your liver can’t process it fast enough, the amount of alcohol in your blood begins to build up. Most people’s livers can metabolize about one drink per hour. Of course this all depends on what you’ve chosen to drink, how fast you drink, what you’ve eaten recently, your tolerance level, size, weight, body type, etc.

If You Drink Too Much

 Ok, so now that you know what happens when you drink any alcohol, let’s talk about what happens when you drink too much alcohol (besides a wicked hangover).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) has a list of dire health warnings that would scare almost anyone away form the bar. Again, I want to reiterate that these effects are from over drinking, binge drinking, or chronically drinking too much. That said, according to the NIH drinking heavily can cause the following:

  • Heart damage, including cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), stroke, high blood pressure
  • Liver damage, including steatosis (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
  • Pancreas damage that can prevent proper digestion
  • Increases your risk of developing certain cancers like mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast
  • A weakened immune system which means you’re more likely to get sick. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections, even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
And what about that hangover? Why do you feel so bad after that raging all-night bachelorette party? Hangovers are caused by a few different factors. Too much alcohol irritates and inflames the lining of your stomach, causing nausea and discomfort. Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes dehydration. Dehydration can cause sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and electrolyte imbalances. All that can make you feel wretched.Too much alcohol can also disturb chemicals in your brain causing broken sleep patterns and mood disturbances.
But I Thought Wine Was Good for You!
I know, right?! But don’t despair. It turns out that drinking can be good for you, as long as you drink moderately. The Harvard School of Public Health says that drinking moderately usually means, “…no more than one to two drinks per day for men, and no more than one drink per day for women”. Ok, I can work with that! Now, what can alcohol do for us?

The Harvard School of Public health says that moderate drinking in healthy people can prevent cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke because it raises good cholesterol, increases sensitivity to insulin, and prevents blood clots. Moderate drinking can lower your risk for gall stones and type 2 diabetes. And don’t forget the social and emotional benefits. “A drink before a meal can improve digestion or offer a soothing respite at the end of a stressful day; the occasional drink with friends can be a social tonic. These physical and psychic effects may contribute to health and well-being”.

The Harvard School of Public health also says it doesn’t matter what you drink as long as you drink moderately. But what about from a fitness and nutrition perspective? What kinds of drinks should we indulge in that won’t totally derail our hard work in the kitchen?

What an Athlete Drinks

 Just like I always say, you have to find the thing that works best for YOU. Perhaps you find that if you have a drink or two during the week the waistband of your jeans gets tight. Perhaps alcoholism runs in your family and you don’t want to tempt fate. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you have a beer every night. But for me, I follow the same rules as I do for my meal plans. I try to avoid excess sugar, overly processed cocktail mixes (all alcohol has been processed somewhat), and stay relatively low-carb. And what kinds of drinks are those…?

Stay tuned for my next article, 5 Low Sugar Alcoholic Beverages and Cocktails!

How do you drink? Do you avoid it altogether? Is drinking just not a big deal to you? Do you wrestle with drinking? As aways, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

In good health,


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37 comments on “Is Drinking Good or Bad For You?”

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    Private  | 

    my dads an alcholic and where i grew up in Scotland near Glasgow we all binged it wasnae a night ulness you were total off your face, it nearly ruined my life as i act completely different with a drink in me, now i dont touch it, i do miss it though esp when i am out with friends but i will not forget it almost ruined my life so i will never get drunk again xo

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    Private  |  UK

    I hate alcohol. The way it tastes and smells and my body hates it too which I’m glad about cos that way I have one less thing to try to resist.

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    Private  |  Mumbai, India

    This shows once again that you can find any study to support your take or belief in terms of nutrition. 😉 now alcohol and coffee are ok or even healthy to an extend and carbs are unhealthy. For me personally I believe the opposite and I am certain, I can find plenty of studies to support this. So to each their own. 😉

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      Private  | 

      Alcohol is carbs. And the article only says that like every carb(from a fitness point of view), it should be consumed in moderation( if you follow low carb diet and you stiil want an occasional drink). And the research on the positive health aspects of drinking coffe and wine in moderation has been widely known for a while now, so … 😉
      I’ve been following zgym for more than half a year know(every single day), I also try to stick to low carb diet. I doesn’t always work out perfectly, but I see really great progress. At the end, I think everyone should do what works best for him/her and brings tangible results. I’m looking forward to the next article;)

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        Private  |  Mumbai, India

        I just wanted to point out that you can find equal amount of Research promoting wine, coffee, low carb, high carb, no coffee, no wine, tea, no tea etc… as healthy. So as you say, everyone should just find what works for them and not get influenced by these so called studies. I have followed Z since 7 years or so, majority of the time on a low carb diet which is not working for me (at the moment).

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          Private  | 

          And I just don’t agree that “everything is true for a given value of truth” there’s stuff that’s objectively good/bad for you, and scientific research is meant to be objective, there are exceptions, but it’s all about how reliable our source of info is .. for example recent report of WHO confirmed that coffe does’t give you cancer, and can even help with some types of cancers… and it is supported by 25 years of research proving basically the same thing.

          • private avatar image

            Private  |  Mumbai, India

            There are definitely things that are objectively good/bad for you. But at the given state of research, coffee, wine, meat or carbs do not fall into that category but rather broccoli, spinach, sugar or hydrogenated fats. Most of the research for the first category falls into correlations (“more coffeine less cancer”) which needs to be supported by causal facts (“coffeine binds to xyz proteine and therefore blocks cancer proliferation”) to validate it and exclude statistical, randomization, etc. errors and influences.

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              Private  | 

              That’s right, I see your point. Btw, really impressed you’ve sticked with Zu for seven years now, I would like to get there too someday:)

  4. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    If i didn’t know that alcohol would make me gain weight i would have had 1 or 2 drinks every day!
    i try not to drink during the week, maybe 1 or 2 glasses a week, but the problem is on the weekends.. I go out a lot and I drink heavy drinks and I never count them, i drink as much as i want. I never know if this sabotages my weekly training but I do it anyway..:/

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    Private  | 

    If I didn’t drink, I would have no social life. 😛 I have found that drinking (vodka sodas) don’t affect my bodyweight – the only problem is I have to resist eating after a night out, and I have to delay my workout the next day by a few hours. During the week, I might have a drink too. Contrary to studies, I find I sleep better when I have 1 drink; it’s probably because I have a high stress level and need help relaxing.

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    Private  |  Sydney, AUS

    I love red wine. It has antioxidants. Nothing wrong with a glass or two. Enjoy!!!

  7. private avatar image

    Private  |  Minnesota, USA

    When I was a young teenager I decided to never drink in order to avoid losing my ability to make good decisions and to avoid ending up in a situation where I may be taken advantage of, or to be unable to properly defend myself. I have stuck with the decision (now in my 40’s).

    I do use alcohol in cooking (mostly in desserts).

    As far as socializing goes, I don’t much anymore because most people my age have such vastly different lifestyles than my family does. So alcohol and socializing is irrelevant for me anyway.

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    Private  |  Des moines, Iowa, USA

    I love my fruity cocktails, but I recently learned, while tracking points in my weight watchers program, that most all the drinks I enjoy are very high in carbs and sugars. Wine seems to be a lot less but its bitter to me. Yet, i am so committed to losing my extra weight that I am willing to give up my fruity cocktail drinks cold turkey! Once I reach my weight/health goals, perhaps I can later add in some Red Wine to my diet; we’ll see.
    Great article, thank you Zuzka

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