Can You Still Drink and Lose Weight and get Fit?
By Brett Yokley
I deal with this subject on a daily basis with a lot of my Personal Training Clients in my gym.
They want to lose weight…but they still want to be able to have a few drinks a week.
I always tell them that moderate drinking isn’t all that bad.
But, the key here is moderate!
To think that most people will be perfect in every aspect when it comes to their eating and even drinking is just not being realistic.
In fact that’s why my 60/40 calorie diet rule that I incorporate with all my individualized meal plans works so well. It teaches you about the Calories/Metabolism connection and why it works so well for anyone over 40 that is dealing with a slower metabolism and lower energy levels.
Obviously, if you don’t drink alcohol you will have a easier time losing weight than most people who do indulge.
1.) Alcohol gives you extra empty calories on the days that you choose to drink. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for carbs and protein, and 9 calories per gram for fats.
Quick tip: On nights that are going to involve some drinking, it helps to make sure that dinner is based only around protein and vegetables. You’re going to take in a lot of empty calories with the alcohol, so eating a good portion of appetite-satisfying protein along with nutrient-rich vegetables can help to control your appetite and give your body the nutrients it needs.
Plus, most importantly, there’s just no room for loads of carbohydrate-rich foods if you’re also going to be consuming alcohol. Carbs + alcohol is a perfect recipe for growing a beer belly!
2.) If you want to save your body from adding layers of ugly fat, by all means stay away from syrupy, fruity drinks that are loaded with sugar… this is a double whammy for your gut as you’re not only getting all of the empty alcohol calories, but also loads of empty sugar calories. Big fruity drinks such as a margarita can sometimes have as much as 500-600 or more calories per serving!
Instead, your best bet is to stick with a clear alcohol mixed with club soda and a squeeze of lime or lemon. Vodka with club soda and extra lemon/lime squeeze is my drink of choice at the bars/nightclubs.
Stay away from tonic water mixers! Some people don’t realize this, but tonic water is loaded with almost as much sugar as regular soda pop… on the other hand, club soda has no calories at all. It’s clearly the lowest calorie way to drink.
3.) If you’re going to drink beer, you’re better off choosing just 1 or 2 dark beers rather than 5 or 6 light beers. Sure, dark beers have more calories than light beers, but dark beers also have more B vitamins and antioxidants than light beers, so you actually get more nutrition from the dark beer. As long as you keep it to just 1 or 2 dark beers, you may still stay within 150-400 calories.
4.) Try to get in a high intensity full body workout before your night out of drinking. At least you’ve revved up your metabolism and have your body processing calories a little faster.
Also, trying to get in some sort of exercise the morning after your night out can also help to get your body back to a good state of health. This may not be your best workouts in terms of energy, but it can help to just get your body moving and break a sweat.
5.) Avoid the late-night munchies after a night of drinking! This is where most people do the biggest damage to their waistlines.
Instead, make sure to have some lean protein and vegetables quickly available at home (perhaps some pre-cooked chicken breasts, grass-fed steaks, or even tuna fish and some veggie sticks) so that you can satisfy your late night post-party appetite with lean protein instead of carbohydrates.
The worst thing for your body is loading up on pizza, ice cream, and other carb-rich junk after a night out of drinking.
6.) If you drink multiple drinks socially, try to keep drinking alcohol to only 1-2 days/week maximum if you want to stay lean. On the other hand, if you never drink more than 1-2 drinks per day, I think having 1-2 drinks daily with a meal can still be part of a healthy lifestyle. As long as those calories are accounted for and you still stay within your daily caloric maintenance.
7.) Wine is one of the healthier drink choices… if you must have a drink, you might as well choose wine so you at least get a good dose of antioxidants as well. Red wine is known for it’s antioxidant content, however even white wines contain antioxidants as well.
And finally, like I mentioned before, drinking alcohol just adds one more thing to your list that you have to work against in losing the fat you want to lose and getting fit.
Abstaining may always be the best choice, BUT we also need to be realistic and know that social drinking is not something that most people are willing to give up entirely.
For that reason, this list of tips to help manage social drinking in a healthier way can really help you to stay leaner and healthier and still balance a little bit of social drinking into your life.
Why alcohol calories are more important than you think…
Successful weight loss is all about oxidizing (or burning), more calories than you eat. When they go on a diet, many people choose low-calorie alcoholic drinks, mainly because they contain fewer alcohol calories than their regular counterparts.
However, drinking too much has a far more damaging effect than you can predict simply by looking at the number of alcohol calories in a drink. Not only does it reduce the number of fat calories you burn, alcohol can increase your appetite and lower your hormone levels for up to 24 hours after you finish drinking.
According to conventional wisdom, the infamous “beer belly” is caused by excess alcohol calories being stored as fat. Yet, less than five percent of the alcohol calories you drink are turned into fat. Rather, the main effect of alcohol is to reduce the amount of fat your body burns for energy.
Some evidence for this comes from research carried in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Rather than getting stored as fat, the main fate of alcohol is conversion into a substance called acetate. In fact, blood levels of acetate after drinking the vodka were 2.5 times higher than normal. And it appears this sharp rise in acetate puts the brakes on fat loss.
A car engine typically uses only one source of fuel. Your body, on the other hand, draws from a number of different energy sources, such as carbohydrate, fat, and protein. To a certain extent, the source of fuel your body uses is dictated by its availability.
In other words, your body tends to use whatever you feed it. Consequently, when acetate levels rise, your body simply burns more acetate, and less fat. In essence, acetate pushes fat to the back of the queue.
So, to summarize and review, here’s what happens to fat metabolism after the odd drink or two.
∙A small portion of the alcohol is converted into fat.
∙Your liver then converts most of the alcohol into acetate.
∙The acetate is then released into your bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.
The way your body responds to alcohol is very similar to the way it deals with excess carbohydrate. Although carbohydrate can be converted directly into fat, one of the main effects of overfeeding with carbohydrate is that it simply replaces fat as a source of energy. That’s why any type of diet, whether it’s high-fat, high-protein, or high-carbohydrate, can lead to a gain in weight.
The combination of alcohol and a high-calorie meal is especially fattening, mainly because alcohol acts as a potent appetizer. A Canadian study shows that an aperitif (an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to increase the appetite) increased calorie intake to a greater extent than a carbohydrate-based drink.
Researchers from Denmark’s Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University report similar results . When a group of men was given a meal and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, they ate more when the meal was served with beer or wine rather than a soft drink.
Not only does too much alcohol put the brakes on fat loss, it’s also one of the most effective ways to slash your testosterone levels. Just a single bout of heavy drinking raises levels of the muscle-wasting hormone Cortisol and increases the breakdown of testosterone for up to 24 hours . The damaging effects of alcohol on testosterone are made even worse when you exercise before drinking.
The effect of alcohol on testosterone could be one reason that people who drink a lot carry less muscle. In fact, a 1993 study shows that alcoholic men have bigger waists and smaller muscles than teetotalers.
This doesn’t mean you need to avoid alcohol completely.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity, compared the effect of two different diets over a three-month period . Both diets contained 1500 calories daily, one with 150 calories from white wine and one with 150 calories from grape juice.
Weight loss in the grape juice group and white wine group was 8.3 pounds and 10.4 pounds, respectively.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Although an alcohol-rich meal does increase your metabolic rate, it also suppresses the number of fat calories your body burns for energy — far more so than meals rich in protein, carbohydrate, or fat, so while the a drink now and again isn’t going to hurt, remember the key word “moderation”.
Certified Personal Trainer
Certified Senior Fitness Trainer.
Certified Nutrition Specialist.
Owner/BetterBodies Fitness Personal Training Gym.