I said it before and I’ll say it again.
If you’re giving up social events and gatherings in an effort to get that ripped beach body, you’re doing it wrong. Fitness should enrich your life, not take away from it. If you don’t find pleasure in your routine, you will throw in the towel sooner rather than later.
Moderate alcohol consumption can fit into any (weight-loss) routine. Having said that, there are better and (really) bad ways of going about it. In the following, we’ll cover a couple of widespread assumptions regarding booze, abs and biceps, and look at strategies to minimize the damage done by a rough night out on the town.
Beer equals beer belly? Does alcohol make you fat?
Does drinking make you gain fat or inhibit fat loss? Will a couple beers derail your dieting efforts?
Unlikely. The human body is very inefficient at converting the calories from alcohol to body fat. Yes, alcohol (ethanol) is high in calories, and drinking with meals has shown to inhibit fatty acid oxidation, but for reasons still unclear, increased consumption of alcoholic beverages isn’t correleated with an actual increase in body weight.
(Food for thought: statistically, alcoholics tend to be leaner than their non-drinking peers)
Alcohol doesn’t appear to be the problem as far as weight gain/loss is concerned, so why is everybody worried about waking up with a beer belly on sunday morning?
The notorious disinhibition effect is your answer. Apart from leading to devastating mating choices, the disinhibition effect is also responsible for the long lines you see in front of the local kebab joint at 4 in the morning. This is where the damage is done.
Drunk or sober, an excess of calories will always lead to weight gain.
Strangely enough, after drinking hard, I’d often wake up leaner the next day. Initially I thought this was just a meaningless personal anecdote, but after doing some research, it seems to be a common trend among boozehounds. Alcohol has a powerful dehydrating effect on the body and might help flush out excess water, leaving you looking leaner and harder the next morning.
Careful with the bottle, though. Many individuals experience the opposite effect.
Damage control: How to drink on a diet
I’m not advocating you start drinking a bottle of wine every night to reap the purported health benefits, but as long as you treat it with the necessary respect, alcohol isn’t the bad guy it’s made out to be.
Pulling regular all-nighters is a different story. By the time you get home in the early morning hours, you’ve missed out on a prime opportunity to recover and regenerate during sleep. (In males, a single night of sleep deprivation has shown to lower testosterone levels considerably)
If you decide to go out for drinks, what options do you have in terms of damage control?
There are a few things you can do, from eating a small dinner, to choosing the right drinks and hydrating throughout the night (water is your friend). You also want to steer clear of foods (no more kebabs) and snacks (chips, nuts, etc.) while drinking.
This will come as no surprise to you but what you drink does make a world of difference in how your body responds, so choose wisely. Ditch the sugary drinks and cocktails and opt for clear spirits (vodka, gin, rum) or dry wines. You also want to avoid mixing liquors. Pick your drink for the night and stick with it.
Vic’s hangover cure
Hangovers suck, right? I wouldn’t know. I haven’t had one in years. The routine detailed below has made me, and others that have used it, hangover-proof. Get your pen and paper ready.
After coming home from a night of drinking immediately:
- Dilute 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in 1.5 liters of water and drink (all of it!)
- Take 300 mg magnesium (like this one)
- Go to sleep
- Wake up feeling like a million bucks
Going out for drinks, hell, even getting wasted every once in a while isn’t going to short circuit your fat loss or muscle building progress. That is merely a notion Tupperware chicken breast eating fitness enthusiasts have proclaimed as fact. You can absolutely build the body of your dreams while enjoying the occasional Russian Mule.
Thank you for reading
Addolorato, G, et al. Body composition changes induced by chronic ethanol abuse: evaluation by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Am J Gastroenterol. 2000 Sep;95(9):2323-7.
Baliunas DO, Taylor BJ, Irving H, Roerecke M, Patra J, Mohapatra S, et al. Alcohol as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2009;32(11):2123–32.
Goh, V. H.-H. and Tong, T. Y.-Y. (2010), Sleep, Sex Steroid Hormones, Sexual Activities, and Aging in Asian Men. Journal of Andrology, 31: 131–137. doi:10.2164/jandrol.109.007856
Vieira BA, Luft VC, Schmidt MI, et al. Timing and Type of Alcohol Consumption and the Metabolic Syndrome – ELSA-Brasil. Abulseoud OA, ed. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(9):