Are you willing to give up drinking for a month in exchange for faster muscle buildup?
Because drinking is so deeply ingrained in most cultures, the obvious truths about doing it in excess seem almost unworthy of serious discussion. We don’t always follow what’s good for our health, especially when it comes to our drinking habits, but let’s remind ourselves of the—again, obvious—things these destructive routines lead to: dry skin, weight gain, a lack of focus, severe headaches, sleep disruption, and fatty liver to name a few. We can most certainly use a week or two without those.
In 2013, the staff of science magazine New Scientist decided to take on an experiment in which they avoided drinking alcoholic beverages for five weeks. The experiment had been carried out to settle the somewhat debatable ideas brought about by a popular health challenge and public health campaign called Dry January.
As its name suggests, the point of the annual challenge is month-long sobriety. Although the positive effects of a booze-free month is apparent, the staff of New Scientist decided to experiment as they wanted to take a more scientific approach—one that can bring quantifiable results. Along with many other researchers, they found surprising outcomes.
Your skin will improve dramatically
In addition to being toxic to your skin, alcohol is an aggressive diuretic, which means that it causes your body to lose more fluid than it takes in. This puts you at risk for dehydration, which, if it does happen, will damage your skin. So what happens if you give up alcohol for a month? Generally your skin will be a lot clearer, firmer, and better hydrated.
It will do wonders for your liver
We’re all familiar with the infamous damage alcohol brings onto the liver. New Scientist found that upon abstaining from alcohol for five weeks, their liver fat was reduced by about 15 percent. They also found their blood glucose levels to be reduced by about 16 percent, and their cholesterol levels by five percent. By avoiding alcohol for a month, your liver isn’t given the extra task of breaking down alcohol so it will have a chance to heal itself from all the drinking you’ve done before.
You will lose weight
Alcohol is made up of mostly empty calories, so staying away from it will naturally save you the extra pounds you normally gain from drinking. The 14 staff members who took part in the experiment lost three pounds even without changing their diets. Weight loss is an inevitable result of the experiment seeing as alcohol is one of the biggest drivers of excess food intake—so even if you don’t make deliberate changes in your diet, it’s a given that you’ll want to eat less once you’re off your normal drinking routine.
You’ll sleep better (and wake up feeling better too)
It may seem easier to sleep after a night of drinking, but alcohol actually stops the brain from going into its natural, cycle. While you may instantly fall asleep after drinking, the quality of sleep you get is not exactly good; there’s also a large chance that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night. Without alcohol, you’re bound to sleep deeper.
It will improve your athletic performance
Again, because alcohol is a powerful diuretic, it puts you at risk for dehydration. Alcohol also reduces the synthesis of protein, which is essential in muscle building. Obviously you can’t run miles or achieve your fitness goals in that state. Within weeks of giving up alcohol, you’ll find that you’ll actually have more energy and that you can gain and rebuild muscle better.