Everybody loves to have a drink or two now and then, some more than others, there is nothing wrong with that (within reason). We understand that not everybody wants to train to be an elite athlete, however it is worth having a look at the potential impact it may be having on your fat loss, health and fitness goals.
Firstly I suppose it is worthy to note that alcohol in small quantities has been linked with certain health benefits, studies have shown that 1-2 standard drinks a day for men, and less than 1 for women does provide partial protection against a specific type of heart disease and heart attack, as well as stroke. This is true particularly of red wine as it does contain various antioxidants, and has ‘anti-cancer effects’
But remember, as much as im sure a lot of people would like to believe it, there aren’t any additional benefits from drinking any more than this recommended amount, and it will offset any potential health benefits, with heavy binge drinking or long term drinking greatly increasing your risk of heart attacks (amongst other things)
The effects alcohol has on your fat loss efforts is another thing altogether. Alcohol is very high in calories, in terms of caloric content per gram, it is second only to fat.
Here is the calorie content of energy producing nutrients:
FATS 9 calories per gram
ALCOHOL 7 calories per gram
CARBS 4 calories per gram
PROTEIN 4 calories per gram
Even though alcohol is high in calories, it is not a good source of energy because the body can only metabolise alcohol at a fixed rate. So, when there is a sharp increase in energy demand (for example when exercising) alcohol metabolism is unable to meet it, making alcohol useless as a high energy source. I’m sure the thought of using alcohol as an energy source to fuel workouts never entered anyone’s mind anyway right?
Alcohol can be a source of energy however, when we are sedentary and not placing high energy demands upon ourselves. The calories provided by alcohol are also used preferentially, meaning that calories from food and body fat will not be used until all the alcohol is used up, this is why it is such a setback when we are trying to lose weight. Furthermore, alcohol itself is not a good nutrient because it does not supply any vitamins or minerals, in fact, in the long term, a high alcohol intake can impair the body’s absorption of nutrients from food and bring about vitamin deficiencies.
If you are on a fat loss plan then alcohol definitely needs to be kept at a minimum, alcohol adds calories, suppresses fat oxidation (your body’s ability to burn fat), messes with your hormones (and therefore your ability to burn fat) and also stimulates your appetite, leading to unplanned overeating and generally not so healthy food choices.
When you’re eating to lose weight, it also means you need to be eating in a calorie or energy deficit, meaning you’re consuming less energy than what is needed to fuel your body. Because your intake of food/calories is on the low end, its really important that the food you DO put into your body is going to ADD to your health in some way..
Basically when eating for fat loss, you want to pack in as many nutrients, vitamins and minerals as you can whilst sticking to your lowered ‘calorie budget’.
If you’re drinking a few hundred calories in alcohol, just keep in mind that nutritionally its basically wasted ‘empty calories’…precious calories which you COULD use in a much better way by consuming calories packed full of nutrients.
So just say you’re eating 1700 calories per day on a weight loss plan, do you really want to be spending 500 of those calories (nearly 1/3rd) on alcohol?
You’d get much better results with some extra health promoting foods, adding nutrients, fiber, healthy fats and lean muscle building proteins.
So remember – use up your calories wisely!
Lastly, if you’re going to have a few drinks and get up to train in the morning (not uncommon to see in our Saturday sessions! :-p), you’re not going to perform at your best…it will leave you dehydrated, reduce your blood sugar levels and therefore energy, impair your co-ordination, balance, strength, endurance and increase your risk of injury.
No matter who you are, too much alcohol will catch up with you…
To say it’s not possible to lose body fat whilst having a few drinks wouldn’t be entirely accurate, sure its possible to do it, BUT, just make sure you realise and understand what you’re getting yourself into, you factor in all the above variables to minimise the ‘damage’, and you understand that it won’t help your results and will most likely hinder them. Most people I see would make much better progress if they just dropped their alcohol intake alone.
So next time the opportunity presents itself to have a few drinks, weigh up what takes priority for you at that particular point in your life and now you have the knowledge you need to make the right choice!