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The alcohol found in beer, wine and distilled spirits is known as ethanol, or ethyl alcohol. It is a molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and has the following molecular structure:

The sugar from grapes is fermented to produce wine. Beer is produced through a malting and brewing process beginning with barley and wheat sugar. Distillation turns beer into whiskey. The distilling process is accomplished by removing water to concentrate the alcohol strength and the flavors.

In the United States a standard drink is defined as 0.6 fluid ounces (14 grams) of alcohol. This means that a

  • 5-ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol by volume): 150 calories
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (40% alcohol by volume): 97 calories
  • 12-ounce can of beer (5% alcohol by volume): 130-140 calories
    light beer 90-120 calories
  • Sangria 6% alcohol: 200 to 300 calories for 16 oz.
  • Classic margarita 200 calories: 13 g. sugar
    Chili’s Strawberry or Mango Patrón Margarita hits 360.
  • Frozen blended drinks like piña coladas typically range from 500 to 900 calories: 105 g. sugar
  • Mai Tai 260 calories and 16 grams of sugar
all contain the same amount of alcohol.
Overproof rum is 75-80% alcohol.

Reduced risk of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) with moderate drinking:
In the 60's and 70's studies documented a lower prevalence of CAD in wine-drinking countries than in beer- or liquor-drinking countries.
The benefits come from nonalcoholic substances These substances appear to fall into three categories.
The first group consists of chemicals that can inhibit blood clotting.
A second group consists of chemicals that can relax the walls of blood vessels, potentially dilating constricted coronary arteries.
Finally, certain chemicals called polyphenols can interfere with the metabolic process by which LDL cholesterol promotes fat deposition within blood vessels.

A 2006 article in Nature by Harvard's Sinclair identified a compound from red wine called resveratrol that mimics the benefits of calorie restriction and exercise. It activates a protein called SIRT1, a member of the sirtuin family of enzymes, which increases the formation of new mitochondria, the power plants of cells, and it revs up existing ones.

Any alcohol:
More recent studies show that any alcohol in moderation has a benefit. The most well-established protective effect of alcohol consumption is the increased concentration of a natural component of human blood called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Source: Moderate Drinking and Reduced Risk of Heart Disease at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (NIAA.nih.gov)

Definitions of moderate drinking vary widely (see the article by Dufour, pp. 5–14). This article defines moderate drinking as the consumption of fewer than three standard drinks per day.
However, each of us responds somewhat differently to the effects of alcohol based on our mood, the drinking setting, how much food is in your stomach, our physical health, weight and our tolerance.

In a June 16, 2009 New York Times article reports thay Kaye Middelton Fillmore, a retired sociologist from UCSF, has criticized the studies about the benefits of alcohol. He says people who drink in moderation tend to be healthier, wealthier and better educated, they don't smoke, exercise and eat right. Dr. Naimi of the CDC agrees and says there are no studies which eliminate these other factors.

In a 2007 Study at Granada University in Spain by Professor Manuel Garzon,
25 students were asked to run on a treadmill under stifling temperatures of 40° C (104° F) until they were close to exhaustion. Their hydration levels, concentrationability and motor skills were later measured by the researchers.
While half were given two half pints of Spanish lager to drink, the rest were provided water. Both groups were then allowed to drink as much water as they wanted.
Professor Garzon said the rehydration effect in the students who were given beer was slightly better than those given water.
The bubbles help to quench thirst and the carbohydrate in beer help replace lost calories.

Based on the studies, the researchers recommended moderate consumption of beer - 500ml (1 pint) a day for men or 250ml for women - as part of an athlete's diet.

"People think of alcohol as being a diuretic, but if you are already hydrated, a small amount of beer could be a way of getting the fluid in. The best way of rehydrating after exercise was with a sports drink containing sugars, water and salt," said Dr James Betts, an expert in post-exercise rehydration at Bath University.

A followup article at www.collegiatetimes.com says:
" Despite Granada's findings, it is hard to recommend a cold beer to someone as a means of proper recovery after a workout, and it's just not a smart choice when the goal is optimal recovery. Alcohol has been shown to inhibit optimal glycogen synthesis after exercise and also to impair hydration when consumed in higher amounts, but the small amount of beer suggested in Granada's study would probably not be enough to elicit these effects. However, if your goal is to come back strong during your next workout, the best choice will always be a sports drink for post-exercise recovery."

  • Deaths - The National Vital Statistics Reports 100,000 alcohol related deaths per year.
    See: Alcohol Related Deaths
    • 18,000 respiratory system deaths are alcohol related
    • In 2006, 16,005 people were killed in the United States in alcohol-related motor vehicle traffic crashes.
    • 11,000 homicides are alcohol related
    • 36 college students die in alcohol-related incidents each year.
  • Excessive drinking leads to well known social problems affecting work and family life.
  • Hypertension - Since the mid-1970s, alcohol has joined obesity and salt intake as an acknowledged factor potentially contributing to the risk for hypertension.
  • Several reports suggest that alcohol consumption, especially at heavier drinking levels, is associated with higher risk of stroke.
  • Alcohol is a diuretic causing dehydration because:
    1. The kidneys take time to filter out large quantities of water to break down the alcohol.
    2. It halts the production of the body's anti-diuretic hormone causing more frequent urination.
    The diuretic effect of beer after excercise offsets its hydration benefit for no gain.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption slows Protein synthesis (Kreb’s Cycle) down by up to 20%.
  • Because of alcohol’s effect on sleep, your body is robbed of a precious chemical called “human growth hormone” or HGH, which is part of the normal muscle-building and repair process
  • Alcohol tirgers the production of a substance in your liver ithat is directly toxic to testosterone, a hormone essential to the development and recovery of your muscles.
  • Alcohol can disrupt the water balance in muscle cells, thus altering their ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is your muscles’ source of energy.
  • Fat
    • - Alcohol contains 7 empty calories per gram (98 calories per standard drink)
    • It disrupts the Kreb’s Cycle/metabolism, which plays an important role in fat burning.
    • Alcohol and fat are both processed in the liver. When the liver is processing alcohol, it can not effectively metabolize fat.

Alcohol under hydrocarbons.
www.drinkiq.com from DIAGEO
How Alcohol Affects Muscle Development and Recovery from "Pumped: Straight Facts for Athletes about Drugs, Supplements, and Training", C. Kuhn, S. Swartzwelder, and W. Wilson, 2000.

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last updated 18 Dec 2008