We’ve all be there, wondering if alcohol and weight loss coincide, when suddenly you’re jerked back to reality to a work dinner at Red Robin because Karen from HR is turning 50 today, is retiring, or just had a baby, or all 3.
Since the premise of this party is awkward to begin with and you’ve somehow found yourself seated next to the guy from marketing and his pornstache, you could say that things are not going well.
Short of leaving before your bottomless fries arrive, what are your options here?
If you’re like me, or most Americans, the answer is a stiff gin and tonic. Actually, give me a double. Make that a triple. Actually, just bring the bottle over. T-minus 37 minutes until I need to take my pants off and play “Bang, Marry, Kill” with colleagues. What do you mean it’s only Tuesday?
Alcohol is a part of our culture. Football on Sunday calls for beers, New Year’s is incomplete without champagne. On Saint Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo we honor our world heritage by drinking too much and puking in our purses.
Now, if you wanted to live a life of puritanical restriction and stay lean, healthy, and feel good the majority of the time, you would give up alcohol completely.
Yea, I know you’ve seen the magazine covers and tabloids that read “Glass of wine = 20-minute Workout” or this one: “Drinkers Live Longer According to Science. And don’t forget the news that made waves across the country last year “Drinking Alcohol makes you Better Looking and more Fun”.
So in the constant tug-of-war between the you that yearns to be healthy, and the you that yearns to get on the bar and show these peasants what the Macarena should look like, who is right? How can you balance these two and still stay Lean for Life?
Here’s what this article is about:
- What alcohol does to your body
- Why you should stop drinking when losing weight
- How to keep drinking while losing weight.
Alcohol and Weight Loss – What alcohol does to your body
Let’s clear something up right now. Alcohol is a poison. A delicious, karaoke enhancing poison.
When you take your first sip for the evening, (or morning, no judgement), you stimulate GABA receptors in the brain. These are responsible for relaxing you, which is why alcohol is so good for reducing social anxiety.
The frontal lobe is super susceptible to alcohol, and also happens to be the part of the brain that controls social anxiety and decision making. So that’s why it’s easier to make conversation with that 10 at the bar, who you would never approach in real life.
But while alcohol is swimming around in your brain making you feel good, relaxed, and helping you decide that yes, you do want to sing “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi, it’s wreaking havoc in the rest of your body.
Since alcohol is a poison, it causes your body to switch from its normal day-to-day activities of filtering out toxins, metabolizing fats, doing digestion stuff, and giving you erections at inopportune times to a full out code red emergency mode.
Your body puts all non-essential functions on the back burner and diverts all energy to cleansing you of the toxic waste you just ingested. This is all well and good when you’re having a very conservative 1-beer-per-hour, but when you hit your body with 2 shots of Jägermeister in 60 seconds before following it up with vodka red bulls, shit hits the fan.
Instead of metabolizing all the calories you eat and drink normally, your body starts storing those calories as fat while it does everything in its power to keep you alive.
Alcohol technically has 7 calories per gram, but you can’t store these calories because like I said before, it’s poison and your body hates it.
But those nachos? That mixer? Those thick dark beers? All the calories are going STRAIGHT to the place you’d least like to see them. Love handles, belly, thighs? Your body is not without a sick sense of humor.
Alcohol and Weight Loss – Why You Should Stop Drinking When Losing Weight
Do I really have to lay this one out?
When you drink:
- You retain more fat from food and drinks than you would have without alcohol.
- You make worse food choices due to lower inhibitions.
- You sleep worse because alcohol makes it harder to get deep REM sleep.
- You have less energy due to the lack of sleep
- You get dehydrated, which decreases energy, and can lead to massive loss of strength in the gym
- Full weekend hangovers – not conducive to an active lifestyle.
And stop with this “drinking in moderation” thing.
It’s not an out, it’s boring, and why are you derailing progress over a paltry one glass of wine per night? That’s stupid. If you’re going to drink, make sure you’re drinking with friends or loved ones in order to make sure you’re getting #LifestyleGains. ‘Cause that’s worth it.
Watching Harry Potter and sipping on a glass of white wine is duuuuuumb. Stop doing that.
Alcohol and Weight Loss – How to Keep Drinking While Losing Weight
If you bothered to read through the last parts about alcohol and weight loss, and didn’t just skip down to this section, good for you.
For those of you just joining us, hi! Welcome! You missed some stuff that I thought was pretty good about alcohol and weight loss. I’ll wait while you go back.
I don’t expect that you’ll change your life based on a 1200-word article that you read online, so here’s how to get away with drinking while in a fat loss or maintenance phase.
First of all – Eliminate the glass of wine with dinner or 2 glasses every night habit. That’s a slow road to a chubby waist, and if you’re drinking every night, NEWS FLASH, you’ll never lose weight.
Now you drink 2x per week max. If you don’t like that, I don’t care.
So let’s say you’re planning on going out with some friends this Friday. Here’s how you would structure your eating in order to negate the ill effects of drinking.
2-3 hours before going out – Have your biggest meal of the day. This meal should feature leafy green vegetables (eaten first if possible), High protein, and high fat. Minimize carbs, and drink at least 16oz of water.
Every hour until you go to bed – Have a 12oz (big glass) of water with lemon.
When you drink – Drink clear alcohols with non-caloric mixers.
- Vodka with Soda Water (+Lime)
- Gin and Diet tonic (regular tonic has a lot of sugar)
- Vodka and diet cranberry
- Jack and diet coke (if you’re a whisky person)
Try to follow each drink up with a glass of water.
Before bed – Big glass of water, Multivitamin, Vitamin C
Since it takes a few hours to filter all the alcohol out of your system, avoid eating during and after drinking. Especially since with lower inhibitions, those stale corndogs in your freezer start to sound pretty good.
If you have to eat, make a taco. It’s good drunk food, because it’s a taco… and tacos are the best, but you can also make it healthy and filling.
Alcohol and Weight Loss – The After Midnight Taco Express
Whole Wheat Tortilla
4oz shredded chicken
Small amount of cheese
lil bit of avocado
I know that most of you when looking back on this article through the lens of a 2am vodka soda haze will remember I said tacos, and go to jack in the box to eat 8 drive through tacos. And that makes me sad, but I’m just your fitness Dad, so I can’t do anything about that.
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