By Maurice Floyd, CPT
Wine, some of us enjoy a glass or two occasionally, with a meal or on its own. We have heard before of the heart benefits that are associated with drinking red wine. Now as of late there are recent articles claiming that one glass can equate to an hour at the gym. In an era looking for simple and quick solutions, can we really drink to our health? So do we put down the jump rope and pick a bottle?
A brief overview of wine shows us that it is created traditionally through the fermentation of various grapes and yeast strains. In early medicine wine was widely used for the treatment of infected wounds, aiding digestive issues, managing pain, and other ailments. With the heart in mind, red wine can improve the balance of LDL, or bad cholesterol, to HDL, the good cholesterol. The anticoagulant properties of alcohol in wine limit blood clotting. Theoretically, wine in moderation cleans up the blood by removing LDL from blocking arteries. This makes wine one of the oldest manmade remedies. While all of these benefits sound amazing, how does wine impact our fitness?
First of all, wine has its calories sourced mainly from sugar and alcohol, so the stronger or the particularly sweeter varieties will have more calories than the average wine. When initially ingested, alcohol raises blood sugar levels slightly, but the body channels all of its energy in trying to expel it and therefore all other processes suffer, including glucose production, and the effectiveness of insulin, and the overall effect is a drop in blood sugar levels. With this in mind, the more you drink, the farther your blood sugar levels will plummet. Also, alcohol requires three different enzymes to break it down and be digested. These enzymes are alcohol dehydrogenase, catalase, and cytochrome; they work in tandem to keep the buildup of poison in our bodies. But as a result one of the byproducts, acetaldehyde, remains poisonous to our bodies, which requires our liver to then process alcohol before it can be stored as fat.
This does not bode well for us, because your body primarily feeds on what is in our system. The acetate from alcohol breakdown is given metabolic priority, which in turn pushes fat oxidation out of the equation. Fat oxidation breaks down lipids, or stored fat molecules into smaller parts, to be used as energy. If we stall the oxidation by consuming alcohol, we leave those fat molecules in their larger state, steadily stacking up. Now the sugar from the wine, when in your system, gets hydrolyzed, or broken down in a chemical reaction with water, into the carbohydrates fructose and glucose. The glucose starts out as a carbohydrate, but it gets quickly stored as fat. Fructose, however, gets metabolized through the liver and then converts to a fat. A standard 5 fluid ounce glass of red wine is approximately 106 calories, composed of 2.51 grams of carbohydrates, and white wine is 100 calories and 1.18 grams of carbohydrates.
With the sugar in wine being broken down into carbohydrates and fat, and the present carbohydrates in alcohol also being stored, we need to think before we drink. People who lead highly sedentary lives would need to add moderate levels of exercise of twenty minutes or more to accommodate the surplus of calories in one glass. Alcohol is also an appetite stimulant which is better when consumed with food rich in fiber and protein. This slows down the emptying time of the stomach and potentially decreases the amount of food consumed. However, this does not mean we should eat less to drink more wine. Also worth mentioning is the fact that people tend to reach for more grease and starch-laden foods when inebriated, increasing caloric intake even more than the wine alone!
What this boils down to is that a balanced lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating habits far outweigh the benefits of downing a couple of glasses of wine a day. Those who drink wine should look for better meal choices and pursue healthy activities to offset the extra calories. This also means that there is no reason for nondrinkers to start sampling wine for the health benefit; there are other choices available to manage a healthy lifestyle. Lastly, when drinking, be smart and responsible at all times.
Wine and Working Out