Before we dive into this, I want to put out a big disclaimer: Alcohol is not bad. A LOT of Alcohol is bad. Like EVERYTHING I talked about that may inhibit your fat loss, moderation is key. I’m not a fan of the all-or-nothing approach that favors completely cutting something from your life cold turkey.
Let’s be real, does that ever work long-term? Sure, you may completely cut booze from your life for a month or two and that’s great. However, if drinking is a part of your life, you’re going to miss it and want it even more. Mentally, we want things we know we can’t have. That’s just how we work. Being honest with y’all I used to drink heavily. In college I binged a ton and just got used to the impact it had on my body. I worked my ass off, then drank my ass off, just about every weekend. It gives me perspective now to what my body is capable of aesthetically and performance wise since I've moved on from that lifestyle. Don't get me wrong, I still get bubbly sometimes. But am I drinking like I did in college?
The more we restrict, the more we want. Instead, adapt a more flexible approach.
(We’ll get into some alcohol consumption recommendations later on. For now back to our top 3)
Alcohol is a huge part of our culture, especially in rustlin’ and bustlin’ cities like New York, LA and Miami. It’s hard to completely cut, unless you’re seriously dedicated.
So while reading these 3 reasons, keep in mind: moderation.
Alright let’s dive in.
Heavy Drinking Usually Leads to Heavy Consumption
During the week we typically don’t drink that much, but during the weekend it can get a bit wild.
On average, young adults consume over 60% of their alcohol on weekends. A study showed that non-student emerging adults (18-25) consumed almost 3 times the amount of alcohol on the weekend vs. the weekday. And what usually happens after a night out drinking? Pizza. Lots of pizza. This is going to usually tip your caloric intake heavily on the side of caloric surplus disrupting any kind of fat or weight loss journey.
We use the weekend to relax and get a break from the week which was probably a bit stressful. A few drinks turns into a handful, which turns into a bunch. Because alcohol stimulates your hunger by messing with your blood sugar, you want lots of carbs. So this high consumption leads to a ton of carb intake. And because alcohol itself has a high energy density (7kcal per gram) your body is consuming a ton of empty calories, AND it has to burn through and metabolize those empty calories.
So not only are you burning the booze off, but now you’re trying to burn off those high calorie low nutrient foods. It’s a combination for disaster. It’s pretty common that people see weight gain after a weekend of heavy drinking and overeating.
But again we’re not about cold turkey. Moderation is the key. So in this case, instead of having 5-8 drinks, let’s do 3-5. Keep count of your drinks and actively stop yourself. Avoid the mixed drinks because they’re just loaded with sugar and will only stack up the calorie count even more. Don’t let other people pressure you either, it’s your body. You have goals, you’re trying to improve yourself. If they value you as a friend and overall person, they’ll respect that. And at the end of the night, instead of eating a whole pizza pie, have a slice or two.
Another strategy you can do is putting some calories in the bank, so to speak, throughout the week. So if you KNOW you’re going to go hard this weekend (birthday, holiday, event etc) track your calories for a week after you develop your macros and basically take off 100 calories each day and put em in your calorie bank. If Saturday is your day where you can’t prevent the splurge, now you have 600 extra calories to work with.
So at the end of the day, we want to either limit our consumption the day of, or at least prepare your calorie bank if you know you’re gonna splurge. These strategies will help you keep yourself on track with your fat loss journey while still being able to enjoy your weekends.
After a night of heavy drinking, try and go to the gym and be as strong, as explosive and as powerful as you normally are. I highly doubt you’ll be able to. You’ll probably feel sluggish, tire out faster and you’ll probably have some hangover symptoms as well. Carrying all that extra baggage is going to decrease your performance in the gym. That means you’re not going to work as hard, which means you’re not going to burn as many calories, which means you’re hurting your fat burn potential.
We want to crush every session in the gym when we show up. If we drink copious amounts of alcohol, the body is busy trying to metabolize it the next day, so you’re energy systems are all out of whack. One drink takes about an hour to breakdown. If you're drinking well into the early morning, you're going to take a ton time to sober up and burn that alcohol out of your system. Plus, you just aren’t as efficient after a night of drinking. The research does show however that while power output in rodents post alcohol consumption decreases, there is no clear evidence that it decreases in humans. But, c’mon, let’s be real: drinking and lifting don’t mix well however you flip it.
Alcohol also dehydrates you like no other. It makes you use the bathroom often throughout the night and without proper rehydration, you’re bound to wake up incredibly dehydrated. Dehydration decreases performance by decreasing the lubrication of your joints, increasing fatigue and failing to regulate your body temperature during exercise. There’s so many other reasons dehydration ruins your gym session, but in general you don’t just move as well.
All these effects combined decrease your performance and thus decrease potential fat burn. Moderate your alcohol intake to limit this decrease in performance! The more alcohol you drink, the worse your performance gets and the less fat burn potential you have.
Kills Your Recovery
Alcohol inhibits muscle protein synthesis (MPS) when consumed after a workout. Even if you have protein with that meal, the research still shows that MPS is decreased. So if you can’t rebuild your muscle back after a great session in the gym, you’re not getting the most out of your sessions. If you can’t recover properly, you’ll eventually burn out and your body will start retaining fat as opposed to burning it. If you’ve checked out any of my other articles, you know the importance of recovery and how if you’re not recovering appropriately, there’s no way you’re going to burn more fat.
Remember more muscle = more fat burn due to the fact that muscle contributes more to your resting metabolic rate or the amount of calories your body burns doing nothing. Plus, if you’re burned out from not recovering, you can’t even GO to the gym. You’ll feel like trash and will barely want to get out of bed, especially if this lack of recovery is from alcohol. On top of that, your hormones will eventually get out of whack from being in an overworked, fight or flight, drive all the time.
Now before you go dropping alcohol altogether, be very clear: moderation is everything. If you’re moderately consuming alcohol or not getting plastered every week/weekend, you’re fine. Now if you are in that category of getting very drunk throughout the week or weekend and are serious about losing fat, it may be time to make a few changes. However, take some slow changes and progress into a more moderate intake of alcohol for better fat loss!