Can You Drink Alcohol And Still Lose Weight?
This Part I of a Three Part Series on How to Effectively Drink While Dieting. Part II and Part III can be found at the end of each section.
(Disclaimer: Keep this blog in context and don’t drift from the point. The goal of this blog is to teach you how to minimize the impact that drinking alcohol can have on your fitness goals. It’s 100% possible to have cocktails and get PHENOMENAL results. What I write about here is not promoting alcohol nor is it giving you a green light to get shit faced. It answers the most important question people have, “How can I incorporate (reasonable amounts) of alcohol into my diet without ruining my progress. A simple answer is NOT DRINKING but for many that want to enjoy a cocktail or two, this blog’s for you.)
“I’m going to a [insert party] this weekend. I’m going to have some drinks, what should I do?”
Good question. Let me explain.
Over the course of my training career, I’ve come to a crossroads when discussing alcohol with my clients. There are two options:
1. You should never drink alcohol. It’s a poison, and if you do, you’ll sabotage your results and be a failure.
2. Drink it, be smart about it, and here are ways to manage it without ruining your progress.
I’ve fought with the idea that option #1 is the best option. Seriously, if you can’t avoid alcohol, then how dedicated are you? Right? You shouldn’t touch this stuff with a 10-foot pole nor should you set foot in a gym if you think alcohol can be incorporated into any healthy lifestyle.
After coming to grips with reality and evolving as a trainer, I came to realize how amateur of a response that is. It’s lazy, wrong, and unrealistic.
I’ve found over the years the best diet is one that a client can stick to over the long-term. My goal as a trainer is to provide the tools and resources necessary for my clients to be successful. I do this by providing a logical, realistic and flexible game plan that ALLOWS for slip ups and mistakes.
Related: Body Transformation Diet
And since doing that, I’ve had more successful clients than I can even count. It’s not because I’m awesome, it’s because my clients aren’t failing. Strict, unreasonable, and not realistic diets only set you up for failure. The second you take a shot, you fail. The second you drink beer at a wedding, you fail. The second you have a glass of wine during wine tasting, you fail.
So instead of approaching all alcohol from a black and white, yes or no approach, I teach my clients how to MANAGE.
They are in total control. They understand reasonable expectations, they plan, and they hold themselves accountable with the understanding of how drinking, dieting, and fitness work for, and against, each other. They are not obsessive over it. They don’t freak out over having a drink. In fact, they make it work for their lifestyle.
They are successful because they ARE NOT forcing a round peg into a square hole.
Basic Nutrition Question:
Do you think if “Rhonda or Mike” had a glass of wine at night, that is the reason they are 20 pounds overweight and can’t seem to lose anything?
The 123 calories is causing them to stall?
The answer to this question is, IT’S NOT the reason they are over weight or struggling to lose weight. Having a glass of wine, even a beer (thats not my favorite option) will have no effect or very minimal to no effect on their physique/figure.
You must understand this FIRST….
- Eating more calories than your maintenance calories makes you fat.
- Alcohol does not make you fat, but it does contain calories that must count towards your daily calorie total. Drinking A LOT and going past your maintenance calories will cause you to get fat. That can be said about ANY FOOD healthy or unhealthy.
- Alcohol calories are empty calories and will only provide you with energy. They won’t help in recovery or muscle building.
Now, I’d be the first to tell you, you don’t need to drink a glass of wine every night. If you can avoid it, then avoid it.
However, if you’re like me, you might like having a nice glass of whiskey when you’re out to dinner. Or you might like a dry gin martini with your steak when you’re on vacation. There is nothing wrong with that, and I want you to realize that there is nothing wrong with that.
You aren’t a failure; you aren’t going to sabotage your progress and most of all you won’t get fat.
So instead of being THAT trainer who gives you no flexibility and ultimately sets you up for failure, I’ll teach you how to incorporate a drink or two into your diet so you stay on track and hit your physique/figure goals.
How Is Alcohol Different From The Other Macronutrients?
Before I get started, understand that Alcohol is “technically” a fourth macronutrient. For more info on macros click here. I called it a red-headed stepchild of the macronutrient family because it’s somewhat outcasted. In relation to your diet, it’s not essential for your survival. On the other hand, protein, carbs, and fats are crucial for many different things (won’t go in detail here).
Alcohol is metabolized completely different than the other three macronutrients. Think of it as an unwanted house guest that you’re trying to get rid of. As soon as your body detects alcohol it’s goal is to get rid of it, and it’s partly because it doesn’t have anywhere to store it.
According to Brown University, here’s how Alcohol works,
“Once swallowed the drink enters the stomach and small intestines, where small blood vessels carry it to the bloodstream. Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach, and the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine.
Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, where enzymes break down the alcohol. Understanding the rate of metabolism is critical to understanding the effects of alcohol. In general, the liver can process one ounce of liquor (one standard drink) in one hour. If you consume more than this, your system becomes saturated, and the additional alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. This is why having a lot of shots or playing drinking games can result in high blood alcohol concentrations that last for several hours.”
If you didn’t metabolize it quickly (or drank way too much), it would build up causing damage to your cells and tissues. Your body want’s to get rid of alcohol so badly that it delays dealing with the other macronutrients just so that it can focus all of it’s energy on removing it.
The take away from this is that alcohol takes precedent over the other macronutrients that you consumed throughout the day (if they haven’t been metabolized) and drinking too much sets the body in flight mode neglecting some very important functions.
You need to fully understand this so the next time you’re thinking about having a “few more rounds” you’ll know the impact it can have on you.
So if you do plan on having a drink, how in the heck are you suppose to count it against your macronutrient count? Find out:
How To Calculate Alcohol Into Your Macro Count?
1 Gram of Protein = 4 Calories
1 Gram of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories
1 Gram of Fat = 9 Calories
1 Gram of Alcohol = 7 Calories
If you count macros, which in my opinion is rather important if you’re looking for optimal physique results, then this should give you an idea of where alcohol falls into the puzzle.
As I mentioned earlier, Alcohol does count towards your daily/weekly calorie total. So it must be accounted for. But how do you do it?
Related: How To Count Macros
If you take a look at this label. It’s 1 oz of Grey Goose Vodka (depending on location a shot size can range from 1.0 oz to 1.5 oz). Clearly you see that there are 0 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of protein yet it still has 69 calories.
If you take the calorie number (69) and divide it by 7 (7 calories in 1 gram of alcohol) it will give you roughly 9.8 grams of alcohol. That is where your calories come from.
Does that make sense?
When you count macros you have three categories (Protein, Carbohydrates, Fat). There is no “Alcohol” category so it must fall somewhere.
You have TWO options.
1. Take the Calorie total and divide it by 9. The number you come up with will be inputted under your daily fat intake.
2. Take the Calorie total and divide it by 4. The number you come up with will be inputted under your daily carbohydrate intake.
The beauty of having two options is you get to decide what macronutrient you want to put it under.
Here’s an example using the 1 oz of Grey Goose Vodka from above.
69 calories / 9 = 7.6 or 8 (round up). That would count towards 8 grams of fat.
69 calories / 4 = 17.25 or 18 (round up). That would count towards 18 grams of carbohydrates.
Here’s an example for One Can (12oz) of Budweiser Beer:
146 calories / 9 = 16.5 or 17 (round up). That would count towards 17 grams of fat.
146/ 4 = 36.5 or 37 (round up). That would count towards 37 grams of carbohydrates.
On top of that, you can see that it also has 11 grams of carbs. You would then add 11 g + 37 g to give you a grand total of 49 carbs for 1 beer!
The whole point of this blog though is to teach you to effectively drink while dieting. In order to do this you need to follow a few rules.
This can be found in Part II here. (COMING SOON)