Drinking small amounts of alcohol can sometimes have positive health effects. In fact, many of the oldest people around the world drink red wine on a regular basis! But while smaller or moderate amounts of alcohol may be harmless for most, there are still side effects of drinking as you get older to watch out for.
To learn more about this, we spoke to a few expert dietitians to get their thoughts on the potential negative side effects of drinking alcohol after age 50. After that, check out The 25 Worst Beers in the World for more healthy drinking tips.
A common side effect of drinking too much alcohol after age 50 is possible weight gain.
“As we get older, unfortunately, our metabolism slows down. That means we don’t need as many calories to maintain our weight. Because alcohol contains calories, continuing to drink the amount you once drank when you were younger can actually cause weight gain due to extra calories. If you like a glass of wine or a drink with dinner, make sure you factor those calories into your eating plan,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSA, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our expert medical board.
Drinking heavier amounts of alcohol can not only increase your chances of weight gain, but it can also affect your heart health.
“While moderate drinking (one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men) may actually have a heart health benefit by raising your HDL, or good cholesterol, drinking more heavily can have the opposite effect and increase your health. cause increases in triglycerides,” Goodson says.
One side effect of drinking that many people may not realize is that it can hinder your training goals and recovery process.
“Alcohol can slow the recovery process from exercise-induced muscle damage by inhibiting the functions of hormones that normally support this process, such as testosterone. That means it can slow recovery and keep you strong and ready for the next workout,” Goodson says.
Another way alcohol can affect your health and workout recovery time is through dehydration.
“Diuretic-type drinks, such as alcohol, can promote increased water loss that leads to dehydration and prevent muscle recovery in active adults, especially after exercise,” says Rachel Fine, RDN at To The Pointe Nutrition.
Your gut can be negatively affected by drinking alcohol, especially if it is consumed in large amounts on a regular basis.
“While some studies show that low-to-moderate red wine consumption promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, it’s also clear that excessive alcohol negatively impacts gut health,” says Katelin Maidment, RD at Eternal Wellness. “An article published in Alcohol research reported that “alcohol and its metabolites in large amounts can overwhelm the gastrointestinal (GI) and liver and lead to damage, both in the gastrointestinal tract and other organs.” Alcohol promotes inflammation in the gut, leading to an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and increasing gut permeability, otherwise known as ‘leaky gut’. This allows toxins and foreign invaders to leak into the bloodstream, causing further inflammation and other health problems.”
Drinking alcohol in larger amounts on a regular basis can negatively affect your digestion.
“Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to properly break down food by decreasing the secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas,” Maidment says. “If food is not digested into smaller, absorbable molecules, the body cannot absorb the nutrients from these foods, and as a result can lead to nutrient deficiencies and low energy. Not only does alcohol impair digestion and absorption of nutrients, but it also ensures that important vitamins and minerals are excreted through the urine, contributing to further nutrient deficiencies.”
And finally, excessive drinking can rob you of energy right after drinking and also over time.
According to an article published in Alcohol research and healthAlcohol promotes the production of inflammatory free radicals, which damage the energy-producing organelles in our cells called mitochondria,” says Maidment. “This results in decreased ATP production and ultimately decreased energy levels because ATP is the body’s form of energy. In addition, the body needs extra oxygen and energy to metabolize alcohol, which lowers energy levels and is one of the reasons why you can feel so tired after drinking.”