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Can I drink alcohol while trying to lose bodyfat?

I get asked all the time about this topic.

“I like a beer / drink / glass of wine a few times per week. Can I continue that with your program”?

To maximize progress, it’s recommended that you don’t drink while "dieting" / trying to lose weight (bodyfat). If you do decide to drink, do not exceed 1 – 2 drinks per week. Alcohol consumption will significantly delay progress, as the other items explain below.

Let’s dig into exactly what happens with your body, starting from the second alcohol crosses your lips.

How does alcohol affect my fat loss plan?

  • Increases Calories: Drinking alcohol contributes to your daily calorie intake. Plus, you’re more likely to indulge in high-calorie, high-fat foods, which further drives you into a calorie surplus.

  • 1 typical beer (12 ounces), 1 typical shot (1 ounce), and 1 typical glass of wine (5 ounces) each contain well over 100 calories. Note that this doesn’t include mixers used. But calories in/calories out has so many caveats. Keep reading.

  • Lowers Our Inhibitions. All of a sudden our well planned day with a grilled chicken salad or pork and sweet potato turns into pizza or tacos or a pint of ice cream. It’s in this moment that we can also think, "Fu@k it. I blew my day anyway so now I’m really gonna do this right!" and you proceed to pour another drink and make a charcuterie board then head to the pool. I mean, not speaking from experience or anything.

  • Appetite Stimulant: If you drink alcohol, you are more likely to be overweight. This results not only from the emply calories contained in alcoholic drinks, but because alcohol itself causes us to overeat by making us feel hungrier than we actually are. However, it is not as simple as this. Alcohol not only causes us to feel hungrier, but it also anaesthetises the triggers that tell us when we have had enough to eat, so we are more likely (and more able) to overeat.

  • Stops Fat Loss: Alcohol is a neurotoxin. As the body cannot store the calories from alcohol, when you consume alcohol your body dedicates time and energy to expelling it, and PAUSES FAT LOSS while it does so (by decreasing fat utilization, and increasing fat storage). Your body shuts down processing all other macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and focuses only on metabolizing the alcohol. So any other calories you consume while drinking (either the sugars in the drinks you are consuming OR any actual food you eat) is far more likely to be stored as fat. This means if you go to dinner and have 2 glasses of wine, the food you consume at the table gets stored (usually as fat) for future fuel. Clearly not the best recipe for fat loss.

More information here

How does alcohol affect muscle building and recovery?

  • Decreases Muscle Building: Alcohol directly limits protein synthesis, otherwise known as the building of new proteins for muscle tissue.

  • Impairs Sleep Quality and Recovery: For all intents and purposes, alcohol is a poison to your body. That’s why you get that head floating feeling after the first few sips. Then the body starts to counter that. In the simplest terms, your body releases an upper to counter the downer that is the poison. This is why every drink after the first one is always chasing the initial feeling you got…yet, you never get it again… until the next first drink. Alcohol impairs sleep quality by increasing time spent in “light” sleep (from which we’re more likely to wake up) and decreasing time spent in “deep” sleep. Deep sleep promotes recovery much more profoundly than light sleep and missing out on it is costly.

  • Decreased Growth Hormone Production: Alcohol minimizes production of growth hormone, which is released during sleep and plays a crucial role in muscle building and recovery. So, the more you drink, the more growth hormone is suppressed. More information here

Is there a "best" type of alcohol for dieting?

Not exactly. Even though red wine has been shown to provide antioxidant benefits, it still imposes the detrimental effects described above. While we recommend abstinence for best diet results, if you can’t avoid drinking for a special occasion, go for diet soda mixers with hard liquors, and stay away from beers and wines, especially if drinking more than 1-2 drinks.

Point is, alcohol can be fun and is a pretty big part of our society. Meeting with friends for brunch, sharing wine with your spouse, or even a throw back to your college days kind of party… It happens. You can continue to enjoy spirits here and there, but it really should be occasionally (1-2 drinks per week, tops) if you have health goals.

Knowing exactly what is happening inside your body might help you to make different choices. Might not. But knowledge is power.

Know the cost. Seeing proof of what your heart rate does and how shitty your sleep and training (and progress) becomes… make sure that when you choose to drink, you REALLY want to do it,

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