We are talking about alcohol today and whether or not you should cut out alcohol to get rid of body fat.
I get this question all the time. It’s one of the most common topics that comes up. Anytime a client or a potential client reaches out to me and says, “Hey, uh, you know, I’m looking at my lifestyle and trying to make some changes and I just want to know, does alcohol make me fat?” So today I want to talk about how to manage your relationship between weight loss, fat loss, and alcohol because let’s face it, when people ask me, what do you have to lose? Do you have to cut out alcohol to lose fat? It’s not an easy question to answer necessarily because everybody’s situation is a little bit different. And we’re going to jump into some things today.
Because overall, here are my thoughts on alcohol. You don’t have to ditch alcohol to lose fat, right? From a scientific standpoint, you don’t have to, but if you do cut out excessive alcohol and excessive drinking, it will definitely help you lose fat. So without further ado, let’s jump into it.
Basics of Alcohol’s Relationship to Weight Loss
Let’s first of all cover just the basics, right? Cause there’s actually been a lot of research into alcohol and weight loss over the years and numerous studies have shown that people can consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol and not necessarily gain weight. Okay. And by the way, moderate drinking is defined as one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. So just so we’re clear on the definition of moderate drinking. Okay, so one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. And of course, the reason why it’s split up between men and women is just the average weight of both genders is different, right? Men typically are heavier than women, so the moderate definition becomes a little bit different when we’re comparing the genders.
Part of this is due to alcohol’s unique effect on the body. Your body can’t store alcohol and there are seven calories per gram of alcohol than alcohol brings to the table, right? So cause most people don’t even understand this basic point that alcohol does have calories, it’s more calories per gram than both carbs and protein, but less than fat because fat has nine calories per gram. Okay? So the body’s main priority is to get alcohol out of your system. Uh, there’s also a good, uh, a rather significant percentage of calories from alcohol that get burned up by your metabolism through a process called the thermic effect of food or ‘TEF’.
The thermic effect of alcohol is about 22 and a half percent, which basically puts it right on par with protein and causes proteins. TEF, the thermic effect of food is about 25% to 30% and it’s well ahead of carbohydrates because carbs are about 6% to 8%, and fat is about two to 3%.
So Now What?
Okay? So all of that is just to say that alcohol on its own won’t necessarily make or break your weight loss goals. All right? So if you enjoy a few drinks per week, it’s definitely still possible to have a highly successful fat loss process.
But here’s why alcohol might make you fat: Just because your body doesn’t store alcohol’s calories, it doesn’t mean that you can just drink however much you want and everything’s great and you know, you’re tracking calories and what-not. it’s fine when your body is processing those alcohol calories, they’re basically taking over other calories you could be burning.
So, for example, a lot of people drink and they go out and have like a burger or fries or pizza or whatever while they’re drinking. So the alcohol calories get put to the front of the line and your body makes that a priority because alcohol once again, can’t be used by the body. It’s a toxin. It’s got to get out of the body as fast as possible. So the body prioritizes alcohol, calories over food, calories.
What the Research Says
So a lot of research honestly leads to the, to the point that it’ll make it at least the leads you to believe the problem isn’t necessarily the alcohol itself. It’s what comes along with drinking, right? It’s the candy, the Twizzlers, the wings, pizza rolls, pot pockets, whatever the to eat. You know, at two in the morning when you get home from drinking, that ends up pushing your calories way too high for the day because many people who eat, or, excuse me, many people who drink alcohol have a tendency to eat more food.
There was a review published in physiology and behavior that found that drinking before or during a meal tends to increase your overall food intake. It’s also important to note that even though your body can’t store alcohol, it can and does store the calories that are mixed with the drink. For example, if you put in a margarita mix, which has about 83 grams of sugar, that can most definitely be stored inside the body as either energy or body fat.
So let’s talk about a game plan. What should you do in terms of alcohol? Well, the first step is to get clear on how much you’re drinking currently. So it varies, for some of you, it can be an eye-opening experience to really say “how much am I actually drinking on a weekend or week”, and you might say, “Oh, I normally drink a couple beers”, but then when you look at it, it’s like more like six to eight beers. Okay.
Heavier drinking is associated with weight gain is associated with a larger amount of belly fat. Um, as well as poor health, right? So excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of premature death in the US if you’re drinking exceeds that one or two drinks per day guideline that I talked about before, then yeah, I highly suggest cutting back on alcohol just to help you lose more fat. The second thing is to pay attention to what else you do when you drink. If the occasional beer or glass of wine with friends is just that, right? Just a beer, glass of wine, then the calorie impact probably isn’t that significant. But if your drinks come with you know, late-night pizza or burgers or take out or whatever, you might have an issue on your hands. Okay. So here again it’s not so much the alcohol but cutting out alcohol can help you with better habits and routines. It can lead to less overall caloric intake.
All right, so number three. Um, number three is let’s say, let’s say you’re drinking and your appetite is under control, but you’re still not losing fat. And let’s say your drink, you know, your glass of wine every night is like a, a non-negotiable. It’s a must-have. You really want to have it. So what we should start to do then is start to offset those calories by trimming elsewhere. For example, a glass of wine is about 120 calories. Okay? A typical beer is about 150 calories, and although there are some heavier drinks out there in those categories. Like there’s some wine that’s a little bit more, there’s some beer that’s more, um, if you were to cut out 30 to 40 grams of carbs or you know, 10 to 15 grams of fat somewhere else in your meals, then that can offset those calories.
Okay. So overall, you know, when I talk about alcohol and my clients that I work with one on one or inside of our transformation coaching programs or inside of our digital programs, anytime I talk about alcohol, I say everyone’s unique, right? Because here’s the thing, not everybody drinks the same amount, you know? It’s not like everybody sits down at dinner and has two beers, right? That’s not always the case. We have to take a look at it from an individual perspective. Just like I preach with everything else, right? Diet workouts, cardio, everything has to be tailored to you as an individual. If you’re somebody who drinks excessively every night, obviously we need to start cutting back. If you’re someone who only drinks excessively once a month, then it may not be that big a deal. We have to take a look at your unique situation.
Couple more rules of thumb. If you’re a wine drinker, red wine is going to be your better choice because white wine has more sugar. Typically, if you’re a beer drinker, light beer is going to be your best choice, the heavier IPA [inaudible] and like the Guinness and stuff like that is, you know, going to come with heavier amounts of calories. You gotta be aware of that liquor, uh, and spirits, the best choices, a clear liquor or clear spirit, uh, the top two or tequila and vodka. It’s funny because tequila is often associated with, you know, hardcore partying and you know, somebody trying to get really drunk. But in reality, there’s some very easy-to-make drinks that are low calorie, using tequila as the primary liquor; and I highly suggest you take a look at vodka as well.
So if you’re into those, those are going to be your two best choices. Um, avoid as much as possible. Heavy calorie mixers, margarita mix, regular sodas, you know, the fancy drinks that are just that– they taste amazing but they’re just packed with sugar. Those are things you’re going to want to avoid if you’re trying to lose body fat. Why? Yes, could you technically drink those and track the calories and see some progress? For sure. It’s just gonna make your life so much harder though I would much rather have you make a few sacrifices with what you put in your drink and lower calories that way, over having to cut out alcohol altogether.
Overall, it’s important just to be aware of the habits that you have around drinking. So if you find yourself feeling really crappy the next day, not able to get your workouts in, and your appetite is out of control, you’re not getting enough sleep. Once again, we just have to dissect what alcohol is really doing to you from a lifestyle perspective, from a habits and routines perspective. And is it leading to poor habits, right? Is it leading to things that are just not going to serve you long term for your fitness goals?
People always ask me what I do, and I say, look, you know, I’m not a big drinker. Never have been. Uh, probably never will be. So I don’t struggle with keeping alcohol very moderate. When I do drink, which is probably on average once a month, once every six weeks. I’m a big Moscow mule guy. It’s, it’s not the lowest calorie drink by any means, but since I’m not a big drinker, I don’t really worry about it because I only drink probably two or three once every six to eight weeks on average and that doesn’t really impact my lifestyle, my fitness goals or anything like that.
So that is my 2 cents on alcohol. I hope that this gives you some insight into not only how to approach alcohol from a fat loss standpoint, but just an overall health standpoint as well. Because let’s face it, you know, looking great naked is just part of the equation. It’s awesome. It’s a great thing. Being lean is phenomenal. It’s great for health, it’s great for confidence, it’s great for just overall enjoyment of life, but if we’re not healthy, we’re not taking care of the internal side of things then or missing half the equation, and alcohol can obviously lead to some detrimental health issues. So let’s just keep that in mind as we move forward into 2020 where your alcohol intake is, what habits and routines is it serving or leading to, and how can we make your health a priority as well as your fat loss goals more of a reality.
I had a lot of info jam-packed ready to go for you, and hopefully, the alcohol subject gave you some insight into my thoughts but wanted to give you something to consider because I get this question almost every week.
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As always, I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to read. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it provided some insight and some value for you today would love it if you subscribed to the show, left us a rating and review.