Anyone else need a drink right now?
Stress has been mounting with work and the home stretch before the wedding and I could really use something to take the edge off …
An old fashioned, perhaps? Or just straight bourbon. Maybe a vodka club with a lime. Hmmmm, what do you think?
On the other hand, I’m really trying to stay dialed in until at least Saturday night. I want to be lean and feel my best for Sunday so maybe alcohol isn’t the best option.
But can’t you drink alcohol and still lose fat??
Ahhh, the million dollar question.
This is a topic that has been quite controversial lately as there seems to be a big push in the fitness industry to speak out against alcohol.
I feel like there are two distinct camps …
Camp 1 – Alcohol is a poison and slowly kills you. It’s destroying your health and your body and if you want to be fit and lean, you should cut it out completely.
Camp 2 – As long as you’re still eating in a calorie deficit and eating enough protein, you can drink alcohol and still reach your goals.
The funny thing about alcohol is that even coaches can’t agree on it. The other day there was a heated debate in a coaches chat that I’m in and there was not much that the coaches agreed on.
Can you drink alcohol and lose fat? Many coaches said no. Many coaches said yes.
Can you drink alcohol and still be healthy? Many coaches said no. Many coaches said yes.
No wonder it’s so easy to be confused.
Even professionals and experts can’t get on the same page.
Well … let me be the voice of reason lol. Because the truth is … it depends.
The facts about how alcohol affects your body
Let’s first go over the indisputable facts.
1. Alcohol is a poison and is treated as such in the body. When alcohol is present, your body senses a threat and stops everything to get rid of the toxin. Meaning … carb metabolism is paused, fat metabolism is paused, and your body pulls resources to clear the toxin and keep you alive.
2. Alcohol disrupts sleep. Even if you have the ability to fall asleep after drinking, you cannot get into a deep sleep after drinking.
3. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions. This has been studied quite extensively and there are some really hilarious studies about decision making when drinking. Let’s just say … other people will find you more attractive when they’re drunk, even if they didn’t think so before drinking.
4. Alcohol depletes GABA and increases inflammation. That’s often why you feel sad or down the next day and also why the scale might be up (although sometimes the scale is down because of dehydration and then it ends up going up a couple days later).
5. You can lose weight and drink alcohol.
Wait … what?! How is that last one an indisputable fact?
Because I’ve done it many times over. And I’ve coached thousands of individuals over the years and many of them have done it too.
Which means it CAN be done.
It IS possible to drink alcohol and lose fat.
Does that mean it’s optimal? Or easy?
No. But it is absolutely a fact that you CAN drink alcohol and still lose fat or drop some extra pounds.
If you consider all of the effects of alcohol, it’s pretty easy to see how much more difficult it is to stay consistent if you drink frequently.
You’re impacting your metabolism, decision making, sleep quality, mood, and I didn’t even mention the calories that alcohol comes with.
Every gram of alcohol is 7 calories. So the more you drink, the more you are filling up your daily calorie total with empty calories that makes it more difficult to eat in a calorie deficit or to stay consistent with your plan.
Not to mention, most people don’t accurately account for alcohol so they’ll log a 120 calorie glass of wine, when in reality, it was more like 250 calories.
If you look at most of the research on alcohol, the danger zone appears to be over 7 drinks per week.
To me, that sounds pretty high but most people consume more than that. It’s not hard to end up with 7 drinks over 1 weekend.
If your goal is fat loss, 7 drinks per week is doable but also difficult. We had a client who drank 1 glass of wine per night (7 glasses per week) and was able to consistently drop body fat. However, she was incredibly consistent with everything.
She walked a lot, lifted, ate really quality food, drank a ton of water, and hit her protein daily.
Most people will struggle to stay consistent if they’re also including 7 drinks per week.
Whether YOU can drink alcohol and lose fat depends on several factors.
Let’s also not forget about individual variance.
Meaning … you might have to be more strict than someone else.
I know super lean people who drink a lot. Call it the luck of the draw but that might not be your reality.
It’s certainly not mine.
I’ve cut back considerably on how much I drink. And guess what … I actually really enjoy drinking. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I think it’s fun and I’m not worried about the health impacts because of the fact that I don’t drink all that much anymore.
I think the harsh reality that most people don’t want to face is this …
You may need to cut back considerably on the amount you’re drinking OR …
You may need to cut back considerably on your expectations about making progress.
It’s one or the other.
Are your expectations in line with your actions?
That’s like spending every dollar you make and then complaining that you’re not rich.
Something’s gotta give.
I’m definitely not in the camp of “alcohol is the devil and should be avoided at all costs!”
I’m in the camp of realistic expectations.
If you choose to drink, that’s totally fine. Just understand that you’re dialing up the difficulty level on your fat loss results.
Trial and error is the best way to find out what you can get away with. If you’re frustrated that you’re not making progress, try cutting back for a month and see what happens.
Strategies you can use to drink alcohol and still lose fat
Some simple strategies can be:
- Alternating drinking weekends (one weekend on, one weekend off)
- Set hard limits on how much you want to drink (2 drink max or whatever it is)
- Delay your first drink (when you’re with a group who drinks a lot, it can be helpful to wait a bit before having your first)
- Set a rule that every drink must be followed by a full glass of water
- Order a club soda with lime and a splash of cranberry juice (sometimes if I’m out I like the feeling of drinking without actually drinking)
Most importantly, own your choices.
If you have a night that you let loose, enjoy it! You didn’t do anything wrong.
Also, don’t complain when the scale is up or you feel like crap the next day. You made the choice, you had some fun, now own the decision and move on.
Again, this is about expectation management.
If you expect to keep drinking a lot AND you expect to see the weight flying off your body …
You need a reality check.
You can either adjust your behaviors or adjust your expectations.
There’s no right or wrong.
Don’t let anyone fear or guilt you into making a decision. You have to decide what’s right for YOU.
Hope this helps.