Project Description

The dreaded reality of how alcohol effects your results when training to lose weight, build muscle, or burn body fat and tone. This topic is one that is often neglected as it is quite unpopular, but the reality is alcohol significantly impacts body composition and can prevent you from achieving your desired results…if you overindulged. We are not saying you should NEVER drink, rather we want to educate you on the effects of alcohol has on your body and how it can hinder the results you desire.

Personally, I don’t believe in saying you can never drink again or that you have to cut it out completely because if you enjoy it, then it is not realistic. Additionally, I strongly believe that the all or nothing deprivation mindset usually sets people up for failure. Once you have one drink, you may decide, “Oh well, I’ve already screwed up so I may as well have more.” This combined with the ‘drunken munchies’ = game over.

Common questions we hear frequently when we talk about alcohol are …what about Wine? Hard liquor with soda or tonic water? What if I just have ONE?

Well, unless you have some stellar self-control, it is highly unlikely you will just have one…of anything. Am I right? Consider this, you’re out with friends on a Friday night having dinner. You order a glass of wine while waiting for dinner, then another {because you can’t have the amazing steak you just ordered without a glass of wine}, now you feel pretty good and may even ponder a third drink…. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

So, today we are going to address all of these and educate you on the effects of alcohol and weight loss and help you navigate your way through enjoying your favorite beverage while not totally destroying your results.

Alcohol = empty calories

Unlike macronutrients that offer nutritional value such as fat (9 cals per gram), protein (4 cals per gram) and carbohydrates (4 cals per gram). Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram leaving all nutritional value behind. Further, some cocktails contain more than just empty calories that are sure to hinder the waist line such as added sugar, carbohydrates and some even contain fat (not good fat).

While some alcohols like wine or hard liquor appear to have a ‘lower calorie’ content than even some nonalcoholic beverages, the calories are processed differently. The body digest alcohol differently as it views it as a toxic element in the body and therefore requires more attention and focus on removing the toxins, which leads to point number 2…

Alcohol brings fat loss to a standstill

As mentioned above, different macros have different calorie structure and effects on the body. Carbohydrates, the evil step sister of macros, is found in all alcohol beverages and releases insulin, which can accelerate fat storage. Additionally, because the by-product of alcohol metabolism is toxic, alcohol calories take priority over other sources (like your love handles). So when you drink, fat burning stops until you burn those calories off.

While alcohol itself does not contain fat, it does have an energy value (calories) which is combined with the carbohydrates such as fruit in wine, hops/wheat/barley in beer, or sugar from drink mixers.

When we consume excess calories, that is when the real problem occurs. Drinking can easily push us over our calorie limit for the day. This causes some, or all of the dietary fat we ate on this day to be stored as body-fat, depending on how much over your maintenance calories you drank.

An example of how many calories can be easily consumed can be seen with a small glass of wine: a 5-ounce glass of wine will typically contain 110 calories, 91 of which come from the alcohol itself (13 grams), with the remaining five grams coming from carbohydrates.

Beer contains more carbohydrates (although many of the “Lite” beers have a carb content similar to a glass of wine) and less alcohol than wine, but is seen as being more fattening, due to its higher energy content.

Alcohol loosens inhibitions

Relax a little…. unwind…let loose… have a little fun…we’ve all heard those terms before because everyone likes to enjoy themselves every now and then. Why not, right?

Alcohol consumed in moderation is key. As you consume alcohol you begin to relax a little bit cognitively and could potentially enter the zone of drinking more. Perhaps this is the time you’ve experienced some poor decision making or a case of the beer goggles. Just kidding, we know that wouldn’t be you…well it happens to all of us. Here’s why. . .

Alcohol looses your inhibitions {aka your reservations} perhaps you begin to open up, talk more, gain confidence, laugh a little louder. Likely you find yourself enjoying your time with family and friends and have a few more drinks. This is the time you stop thinking about the effects alcohol has on your body, your system, and/or your body composition. As a result, you are likely to consume more calories and gain extra body fat.

Set some boundaries for yourself. Share your boundary with your friend or significant other so that you have someone to help hold you accountable. Drink a glass of water in between drinks or even between the sweet sweet sips of vino.

Alcohol increases appetite

After a night of drinking, many people get the the case of the munchies or the desire for the ‘fourth meal.’ We touched on this briefly in the point above, alcohol can increase appetite, making the combination of alcohol and a fattening meal worse. Perhaps you are drinking at a friend’s house and find yourself going back for more food or just munching on some chips and salsa unconsciously after a few drinks. You may even rationalize that it will help ‘soak up’ the booze so you don’t get a hangover. Fail. Get some water and sip on nature’s best drink to avoid becoming dehydrated or adding on unwanted fat from your poor food choices.

Alcohol can damage to key organs in the body

As you may know, alcohol can cause significant damage to our liver and eventually cause liver disease. The main function of the liver is to process toxins and break down fats which is crucial when it comes to maintaining a healthy body composition. The liver processes about 98% of the alcohol consumed, leaving the other 2% to be excreted. As the body views alcohol as a foreign, toxic substance it is most destructive during the detoxification process. Additionally, it can also lead to other issues related to oxidative stress and toxins in gut bacteria.

Oxidative stress is caused when the liver tries to break down the alcohol. A chemical reaction occurs as the liver processes the booze, which can damage the cells and lead to inflammation and scarring as the liver then tries to repair itself. Further, as the alcohol is digested it can damage our intestines which lets toxins into the liver. If you are familiar with leaky gut syndrome, this is similar as it releases the bacteria into the blood stream. This can also cause inflammation and scarring in the body as the body sees the bacteria as foreign invaders and tries to heal itself.

Although all 5 points above are true for both men and women… alcohol affects people differently. As Camille DePutter from Precision Nutrition stated in a recent article “Alcohol’s effects (both its potential risks and benefits) vary widely from person to person, depending on genetics, size, sex, age, history with alcohol, and overall health.”

All of the information provided here is intended to help you make better decisions and understand the impact of drinking alcohol has on your results. Drinking or not, it is about tradeoffs. If you choose to drink, you need to say no to something else and create a balance. If you want to blast fat and have a flat stomach with a 6 pack, then you need to skip the Friday night wine night. It’s simple – if you are focused on your goal and achieving results, you are saying yes to something and no to something else. . . but it doesn’t have to be no forever.

What to do from here…

  1. Watch your intake. If you’re going to drink, go lighter on your foods and eat low carb versus letting the booze talk you into the burger and fries. Eat more protein and stay away from the pizza.
  2. Take note of how alcohol makes you feel, and how it impacts your workouts. For example, are you consistently improving or struggling after you’ve had a few cocktails the day before?
  3. Think long term versus instant gratification and ask yourself is it worth it? If so, what are your limits? If your goal is important, you skip the after work drink and hit the gym instead.
  4. If you choose to drink alcohol, choose a lighter option:
    • Wine – Not too sweet. Red wine such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, or a Cabernet. White wine, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.
    • Bubbles – Stick with a Brut champagne which has no, or very little added sugar.
    • Straight liquor such as scotch, rye, vodka, and gin with sugarless mixers. This means no juice, tonic water; or non-diet soda. Seltzer and diet soda are appropriate.

Here’s a cheat sheet for the Vino lovers like myself 🙂

Cheers!