Alcohol: An Engineer’s Guide

Hi All!

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It’s time for post number 2 since the official launch of Get Constructive and as I am sure you have noticed by my title, we are jumping straight into some very important content. Today we are talking about alcohol.

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tony

SpaceBefore you slam the laptop or put away your phones, let me again provide some reassurance about the content of this blog both previous, present and future- it’s going to be real… and by real I mean realistic in terms of our lives in construction so I promise I am not going to tell you to stop drinking. I am not even going to say alcohol is bad as I can fully appreciate, us construction folk love nothing more than a relaxing drink after a (very) long day on site, in the office, or on the road.

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Be it an ice cold schooner of XXXX Gold in the Albert Hotel in Monto; a slightly overfilled glass (or three) of your favourite Wyndham Estate Shiraz on the couch; or a lukewarm craft ale in the Grand Union Tavern in London – a drink truly does takes the edge off. It helps us relax and in moderation can be a great medium for team building; turning a home cooked meal into a bit of an occasion; or boosting morale on long stints away from home.
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 But enough musing about boozing. Depending on what we drink, how much we drink, and how we play out the rest of our routine around our alcohol consumption- drinking has an undeniable effect on our goals in body composition, as well as our overall health and longevity. How significant or detrimental the effect lies in the combination of the above listed factors.
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SpaceTo break these down one-by-one, I am going to start with what we drink. This area is largely common knowledge these days so I’ll be brief. However, I’d like to take things a step further than the commonly accepted heuristics of ‘red wine contains antioxidants’, ‘beer is full of carbs’, and ‘clear alcohols are the lowest in calories’.Spacecraft-beer

It goes without saying that a cold stubby or pint of beer is still the weapon of choice for many of us in construction. Whether we choose the ‘low carb’ beer varieties or not, as you know, they are still generally high in carbohydrates and overall calorie content in proportion to alcohol percentage. However, it is not as simple as writing beer off as this is only true when compared to spirits in isolation or with sugar-free mixers.

SpaceTo practically sum up the Beer vs. Spirits debate; this perception does not take into account the usual approach of a standard drink in the form of clear spirits to be served on ice, in a short glass and therefore be considerably less in liquid volume to the same standard drink in the form of beer. I know from personal experience that this means your clear alcohols when typically served are going to go down a bit faster, a bit easier on the stomach (as you are less satiated) and hit you with the same or more in terms of alcohol content. Throw in a sugar-laden mixer for each serve and the overall calorie content could actually be significantly more for a night on the Vodkas.

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The point here is- it is not as simple as choosing clear spirits over a pint if you are looking to make some positive changes to the diet or routine. It is important to consider the context of the consumption and the net effect the consumption has on your overall daily macronutrient intake. This will be explored further.

SpaceBefore jumping into how much we are drinking; a quick note for the wine-o’s.

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When it comes to the majestic red wine, it is the clear winner in terms of health benefits at the lowest cost of carbohydrates and additives. Dry white wines are also solid in terms of the low carb content but research has time and time again supported the high antioxidant concentration in red wine, including  Reservatrol with it’s ability to combat cancer cells, reduce some signs of ageing as well as a string of other benefits.

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This is fantastic news for red wine drinkers but in the context of our goals in weight loss, competitive sport or general health and wellbeing we can’t go putting away a bottle every night. A simple rule of thumb is two glasses per night before we see any significant detriment in terms of body composition.

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Now as I start to wrap up, the overriding consideration for anyone’s choice of beverage is how much we drink. This is important for a number of reasons but primarily in terms of  the calories we inject into our overall intake via alcohol. This can be looked at simply in terms of the caloric content of booze, or in terms of the macronutrient content for those that want to dig a bit deeper. My recommendation for this is to skip back to my posts; Diet: Level 1 and Diet: Level 2 and simply include any alcohol consumed into your dietary calculations. I know it sucks, but these calories count too.

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The volume of alcohol we consume on a nightly or weekly basis ties in nicely to my final, and perhaps most important point on booze for today. This is – how we practice the rest of our routine around our alcohol consumption.

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Let’s face it, we rarely have a big night out and front up for our morning cardio and routine breakfast, followed by a day of perfect eating and exercise. For those of you that do – I applaud you. I know following my last big night out a couple of months ago, the next day I was reaching for a beef burger and Oreo thick shake, compliments of Byron Burger in Greenwich. This ladies and gents, if done regularly is the unscrupulous killer of our health and fitness goals.

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Stints at the pub are filled with late night chicken parmies; leftover spag-bol toasted sandwiches; or traditional english fry ups to try to ease the pain of a hangover or fill the carb craving void we feel while drinking booze.

 

It is again somewhat common knowledge that when we drink alcohol, the alcohol takes immediate priority for processing in the body and the metabolising of food takes the back seat. Combine this with a proportion of the alcohol itself being converted to fatty acids via the liver and you have a two-way attack, enabling dietary fats to be stored with ease.

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Rather than telling more horror stories about alcohol and fat storage, I am instead going to give you some rapid fire tips on drinking in respect to our goal of being the best version of ourselves possible, while still enjoying a pig’s ear down at the nuclear sub on a Friday evening.

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  • The best possible approach to drinking is to keep it to a minimum. At a couple of drinks per week, there is a negligible effect on our body composition and our health.
  • If you drink more than 4 drinks on a nightly basis, you are significantly disadvantaging yourself in terms of any goals in fat loss, the building of muscle, or general health. Make alcohol consumption your starting point for improvement and cut it back, slowly if need be at first, but with real purpose.
  • Keep drinking away from scheduled exercise, both before and after. If you have set out a 5k run for Saturday morning, don’t go to the pub on Friday night. Or go, have one, then go home. After training, the body needs time to hydrate and recover. Battering it with a drinking session directly after exercise is not advisable.
  • If drinking is inevitable, especially in large amounts, then pay close attention to what we are eating both before and after a night out.  Limit dietary fat and carbohydrate intake for the day leading up to a drinking session. Protein can be eaten at normal levels or even slightly more to maintain satiation.
  • SKIP THE POST-DRINKING FEED. I don’t use capitals often, and I don’t need to explain why… Just don’t do it. We know how detrimental eating while drunk can be to our goals and it is important to battle the onset of alcohol-induced hunger that draws us to the maccas drive-through in a taxi like a safety advisor to a bloke without his hardhat.
  • Finally, once the dust has settled and we have arisen from the night before, keep your eyes on the prize, maintain motivation and stick to the routine you have set for yourself. Eat the healthy breakfast you have been having or go for the morning walk you had planned with a mate. Count your macros and don’t let something as trivial as a night on the booze derail you from the journey towards improving your life.

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This post has been a bit of fun and I know it doesn’t apply to everyone in our industry but on a serious note- time and time again I have seen alcohol as the catalyst for people’s failure to reach their goals. Peer pressure is real in construction and saying no to a pint can lead to some pretty harsh criticism. I’ve endured it for years and still do today but I’m here to tell you that nothing gives you the strength to say no like setting a goal for yourself and despite peer pressure; 12 hour days at work; a 100km drive to the nearest gym; or living in hotel rooms with no kitchen… you achieve them anyway.

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That’s all for me today- Thank you so much for the support following the official launch of GC last week. I have had a steady stream of supportive posts and people liking the Facebook page so thanks again, spread the word and Get Constructive!

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