It's pretty common knowledge that if you're trying to lose weight you shouldn't be drinking alcohol... but do you know exactly what it's doing to your body? We'll break it down here:
- Alcohol hits you with about 7 calories per gram, so each drink is roughly 100-150 calories, and that's not including any mixers - that's straight alcohol.
- After the consumption of alcohol the production of human growth hormone (HGH) in the body is slowed by up to 70% (study conducted by Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine). HGH is responsible for regulating body composition, muscle growth, and the metabolism of sugar and fat.
- Alcohol can impair protein synthesis, which is the process that helps build new muscle.
- For a few days after drinking alcohol your body is focusing more of it's attention on removing those toxins you've put into it, as a side-effect from that if you do exercise during this time your muscle soreness will be much more noticeable.
- The human body prefers to burn alcohol as a fuel before anything else. So that means it will try to burn off the calories from the alcohol before it opts for your carbohydrate or fat storage. As a result your metabolism slows down, 2 drinks will slow it down by 73% (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), which can lead to weight gain.
- It can lead to overeating (drunk McDonalds trip anyone?)
- When you are consuming alcohol you body is producing a substance which is toxic to the release of testosterone. Testosterone is needed in both women and men for muscle growth.
So the question to ask yourself throughout this challenge, and continuing afterwards, is the drink really worth it? Things like this are fine in moderation, but binge drinking is a habit that you should train yourself to avoid.
Oestrogen (alt: Estrogen)
When it comes to getting in to shape and living a fit and healthy lifestyle, it's not all black and white. We encounter some road blocks, or weight loss blocks, that stop us from having the bodies that we want and desire. Our Oestrogen levels play a large part in losing weight, being strong, energy levels, mood, skin and much more, here is a quick guide to where your oestrogen will visibly react with your body!
Oestrogen dominance is something found not only in women, but men too. Making sure that your hormonal levels are balanced is incredibly important. If you are high in oestrogen that doesn’t mean you need to over load your body on testosterone to get results. Oestrogen is produced several ways, genetic, chemically and nutritionally. To understand how to help balance your hormone and oestrogen levels, you need asses where the dominance is coming from.
For most females the common place oestrogen is stored on the hips and thighs, but also for some the back of the arms along the triceps, you will find that these are isolated areas that will feel colder... they are pretty much just isolated cells of fat produced by oestrogen synthesis. If you suffer, or commonly get cellulite, headaches and migraines, cramps, poor circulation, over worrying, fear and sadness, and most commonly prompted, fat growth, you could be an advocate for an oestrogen imbalance... not to forget, man boobs for men.
External factors that can contribute to the imbalance can come from environmental exposure, toxins, pesticides, fertilizers, paints as well as plastics.
A lot of you who do meal prepping may not be aware, but the plastics that are heated up can produce xenoestrogen that contributes to oestrogen dominance. To live a healthy balanced lifestyle is not that hard, but to be ultimately healthy at an extremist level and cut out anything that can harm your body is impossible, but what you can do is try a few simple changes.
Adding androgen effective foods like broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, sprouts, rosemary, turmeric, grape fruit, green tea & grapeseed are a few nutritional ways of boosting your hormonal profile. There are many ingredients that you can get from naturopaths that can help, but getting the right combinations and doses can be tricky to trigger the right pathways.
Some other symptoms people suffer from are those similar to fear, negativity and depression. When our bodies encounter a stressful situation it releases noradrenaline, which acts as a fight or flight mechanism. Having an oestrogen imbalance throws the signals off and can alter the way the body handles situations. In my own experience I've seen people come to tears over some of the silliest things, things that have no general affect on a happy or sad outcome. It can truly put a negative spin on anything. That’s why some females on the contraceptive pill can see huge changes in their mood.
For females who also have a lot of cellulite, this can be an effect of oestrogen dominance too, your body has a collagen mesh tissue that is created by periods, these periods are controlled by the amount of oestrogen we have in our bodies, as you get older you enter in to menopause and create more testosterone and little oestrogen, which means less collagen in your skin and more wrinkles.
After all of this there is still another challenge that most women and men will face, the oestrogen/fat "circle of death" (not really death, but it's a pretty annoying circle). Oestrogen is created in fat cells, but then those fat cells start to produce more oestrogen, they then move on to the fat cell 'next door' and tell him to produce more oestrogen too. Oestrogen is great for causing growth in the body, unfortunately it's not muscle growth, it's fat growth. So in conclusion we need to eliminate or restrict the toxins that cause us to produce oestrogen from an external point, increase our androgen levels from food, exercise and eat a health calorie effective diet to stop the fat cells over-producing oestrogen.
There are a few steps you can take to help your body naturally balance it's hormones:
- Supplement with adaptogen herbs (these are herbs that contain the nutrients your body requires to achieve normal hormone production, such as Maca Root).
- Improve gut health and leaky gut (we will cover this later)
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Reducing caffeine intake
- Ensuring correct levels of Vitamin B and D in the body
- Reducing environmental toxins
- Sufficient sleep
- Reducing stress
"Do I eat before or after going to the gym?"
Well that depends on what you are doing!
Doing different types of exercise relies on different types of energy, and what you put in your mouth can determine how good of a workout you can get!
When doing weights, your body relies on an energy source called ATP. ATP is the fuel that makes you do big movements, with lots of power and force. Ideally before doing any weights you want to make sure you have plenty of energy in your system, not only to power you through the workout, but for recovery too.
Carbohydrates and sugars are what provide energy to the body and the brain, and if we don’t have enough, we won't be able to perform.
How long before training should I eat?
If you are eating a balanced diet, you will consume many Low GI and High GI foods. Timing is everything and if your energy is peaking at the right time, it will produce optimal results. Your Low GI should be consumed 1.5-2 hours before a session, this gives your body time for the energy to peak and sustain at your point of training. High GI between 45-30 mins prior to training will cause an insulin spike and produce an extra boost to your session. After you have done your training you have a 20 min window called your anabolic phase. This is when the body is pumping blood and switching from burning energy to hunting for energy, usually protein and carbohydrates are recommend in this window, any thing after can store as fat, and not be efficiently consumed.
Cardio relies on a less efficient energy source, and you can solely perform on glycogen and oxygen. Your goal with cardio is to increase fat loss, not so much to perform to lift weights, but you still need to fuel your system. When we want to burn our fat cells, we need insulin levels to be lower, so it has the chance to burn the fat from exercise. Having food before cardio is not absolutely necessary, but before HIIT training it is recommended.
How long before training should I eat?
Prior to HIIT training making sure you have a meal 1.5-2 hours beforehand that is Low GI will insure there is energy in your system, but not too much to block your catabolic burning of fat.
Fasted cardio is another option, mainly done in the morning before breakfast, your body has a higher chance of burning fat stores, due to the lower blood sugar levels in the morning. Done at a low to medium intensity for no more than 45 min will insure that your body doesn’t go in to catabolysis, where your body burns your muscle mass for energy. In the morning your body is at its highest state of stress, which means cortisol levels are high naturally, but putting your body under high stress from exercise can cause the release of extra cortisol if done for too long, and producing extra belly fat caused by the stress hormones, drinking a Branch Chain Amino Acid supplement well help keep your muscle intact, and not used as energy!
1.5 Hours before – Low GI
45 mins before – High GI
20 mins after - High GI & Protein
1.5 hours before – Low GI
20 Mins after - High GI
20 Mins after – High GI
Download the worksheet here