How can reducing your intake impact energy levels?
Getting into your morning and feeling like you have loads of energy to take on the day is a great feeling. We have all had it. But I doubt we have ever had it after a night drinking alcohol.
The slow and lazy afternoons after a few alcoholic drinks at lunch are the obvious one for this section. Alcohol slows down the central nervous system affecting the muscles in the body which causes the sluggish feeling. It’s not just a feeling of course as our ability to use our muscles to their potential is markedly reduced. Besides this, even if we have fuelled our body with useful carbohydrates and fats ready to be burned off and put to use, our bodies prioritise the processing of alcohol. This means we can’t turn all the good stuff into useful energy (in fact our bodies are more likely to store fat). Substitute your lunchtime beers from alcoholic to alcohol free ones and who knows what the afternoon might hold!
Opting for an alcohol free alternative can also gift you a whole bonus day of vibrant energy the following day. By freeing your body from the exhausting process of digesting and processing alcohol you free up energy for other things (like running, yoga or doing nothing and just being your chirpiest self!).
The energy system that the body uses to maintain its functioning is called the circadian clock. This internal timer establishes rhythms throughout the body over the course of a day/night cycle which affect all levels of the body including our cells, tissues and organs. The small area of the brain that controls these rhythms is pretty important impacting everything from metabolism, sleep, cognitive functions and mood - which are all related to our energy.
Alcohol interferes with this essential system in one main way and that is the impact on our sleep. In simple terms if we don't sleep well then we don't have good energy when we wake up. The science tells us that even on those mornings when you think you got away with it and feel ok despite drinking alcohol, your body’s energy will not allow you to perform as well as you might think at the time. And that is before you get into the cellular effects of the poor sleep.
One of the reasons alcohol has a detrimental effect in this way is its ability to suppress melatonin which is a key hormone in regulating sleep cycles. Alcohol consumed up to an hour before bed can reduce the levels of melatonin by up to twenty percent. This impact on the master biological clock diminishes the body’s ability to respond to light cues that keep it in sync. If we are messing with this system of light cues and the syncing of hormones we are messing with thousands of years of biology. Importantly, studies show that the altering effects on the biological clock through drinking alcohol can last longer than just a few hours or a day after drinking. So when we think we are signing up for a slow day and that's it, it might actually mean low energy levels for a little bit longer.
Finally, the dehydrating effects of alcohol are detrimental to your daily energy. Not only does the ‘foggy head’ come from the diuretic effects of drinking alcoholic drinks but it also affects the cells in the muscles. These cells have a source of energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Our ATP stores are what keep us moving whether that's walking to the bus stop, hiking up a mountain or lifting weights. As the balance of water in the cells is altered by the alcohol it disrupts the production of ATP and has a negative impact on the energy in the muscle.
Covering off and looking after our short term and longer term energy systems is essential. Our lives become a constant flow of energy where we do things that use up fuel and then rest and recover and replenish our energy systems through sleep, eating and drinking.
If we can master a greater degree of consistency in how this energy system is managed we will reap the rewards. More days with better energy means days with more potential. How exciting!