You’ve had a big week at work whilst also pursuing your goal of getting rid of that beautiful beer belly by training hard at the gym and eating well. Saturday comes around and the sun is out, the BBQ is on and you can practically hear the the coronas in the fridge saying “pick me, pick me!” Sound familiar?
It’s a situation the majority of us men who are looking to lose weight come across and its one that can lead to regret or the feeling of “missing out”. The issue is there a lack of education as to the effect alcohol has on weight loss and building muscle so here’s our take drinking alcohol and still getting in great shape- because life’s about living right?
Let’s start with the fundamentals. Alcohol will not negate the law of thermodynamics which means that providing your energy balance leaves you in a caloric deficit you will still lose weight even if you have had alcohol! By tracking your food intake for the day or just simply reducing your usual portion sizes you can effectively still lose weight while drinking alcohol. This ideal approach can be more difficult than it seems as alcohol is shown to stimulate appetite once an intoxicated individual starts eating “yea go on, il have the last snag!”
Now let’s say you have successfully done it, you have had some Saturday night drinks and still ended up in a calorie deficit for the day. It’s Sunday morning and you are craving something a bit “naughty” but remember, you still want that beer belly gone… this is where alcohol can set you back. While this probably isn’t breaking news to you, it’s important to note that alcohol consumption reduces inhibition which means you are more likely to overeat following a night of drinking. As alcohol is treated like a poison by the body it will get preferentially used as your go to energy source so the carbs and fats you eat while you still have alcohol in your system will get more easily stored. To add to that, people tend not to overcompensate for an increase of a caloric intake through alcohol like they would from an increased caloric intake from food. HOWEVER, this obviously comes down to the individual and their will power,
Now we know we can drink alcohol and still lose weight, but what about losing FAT and building muscle? Well this is where it starts to not look so good for alcohol. A study done on men who had taken part in a “heavy” night of drinking (8-9 drinks) showed an average of a 45% decrease in testosterone levels and whilst this might not mean you cant build muscle it does mean that consistent heavy alcohol usage can significantly slow down the rate of muscle growth over the long term. On top of that heavy alcohol use has been shown to greatly decrease performance in the gym and just generally weaken will power. Could it get any worse? Well unfortunately yes, alcohol has also been shown to the least satiating energy source.
You are probably thinking “WHERE IS THE GOOD NEWS?!” Well, in reality consistent heavy alcohol usage really isn’t going to help you on your journey getting the body you have always wanted (or used to have). However after looking at the research its fair to say a couple drinks on a Saturday afternoon isn’t going to set you back a mile and shouldn’t be viewed as a “sin” nor should succumbing to a “couple cold ones” leave you feeling like a failure. What you do day in and day out is what is going to really dictate your progress with your health and fitness goals, think consistency > perfection.
We know its probably unrealistic for everyone to abide by these the aforementioned “5 tips” every time they drink however doing it just 50% of the time will have a great impact and could potentially stop you feeling like all the hard work from the week is undone in one day. As a worst case, should you not abide by these tips at all and just jump in and drink all the beers and eat all the food then at least you know WHY you aren’t getting the results you are after instead of just blaming “the drinks”.
Alcoholic Drinks and there Caloric value
Good luck with your new found knowledge and welcome a balanced approach to health and fitness.