Boozin and Crusin? Or Boozin and Losin?
Todays Blog post is all about alcohol consumption and how it relates to your fitness and health goals. Does it have a place? Or do you need to put it aside until you reach where you want to be?
It has been a day! You crushed that meeting, you finally hit 175 on your deadlift, and you ate like, a lot of vegetables. Cheers to that! You deserve a drink!
But Alas! You are on a self proclaimed diet and therefore will silently sip your pamplemousse lacroix in victory of a job well done, because that is the only way you will be able to reach your fitness, health, and strength goals.
For some, alcohol can be the great unknown when it comes to their routine. Does it have a place in fitness? We all know it can be good for the soul but what about the body?
I know for me during my “all or nothing” days, I avoided it like the black plague, ordering my topo chico with extra lime instead for fear of going overboard, and waking up with a beer gut.
But did I have more of a 6 pack then than I do now, considering myself a casual drinker? No.
Did I actually understand how alcohol consumption affects the body, muscles, and performance? Hell no.
I assumed it was bad and put it in the “no” column. But did I need to?
Alcohol and its effects on metabolism.
Alcohol is both similar and different than other foods and beverages that we may put into our mouths.
Similarly, alcohol has a conversion rate of calories to gram, just like any other food or drink. For alcohol the conversion is 7kcal/g.
Protein and carbs are 4kcal/g
and fat is 9kcal/g.
But unlike our other macronutrients, the calories in alcohol are completely void of nutrients.
Calories, yes, a plenty.
But nutrients, no.
And due to this, the body will metabolize alcohol totally differently.
Alcohol = ethanol
As human beings and not machines, we are unable to use ethanol for fuel. So the body doesn’t know how, and cannot use, the calories from alcohol to produce energy. In fact, your body is going to view the alcohol as a toxin, trying to get rid of it as quickly and efficiently as possible. In order to do this, it will put all other metabolization of other nutrients aside until it takes care of the alcohol.
So after you’ve downed your third gin and tonic you ordered with your hot wings and fries, those drinks get priority, and the proteins, fats, and carbs that need to get metabolized in those wings and fries will sit there, possibly unburned and unused, turning to glycogen and eventually fat, until your body is done processing the booze.
The long story short of what I am trying to say is: Alcohol itself is not a fat storer, but rather, a fat suppressor.
Alcohol and Muscle loss
Is it a real thing? Yes, unfortunately it is. Alcohol has been shown to reduce muscle protein synthesis and impair muscle growth. Thinking about what we just learned about the metabolism of nutrients, and what we have learned in previous posts about what muscles need to recover and grow, we can see that if the muscles don’t get the nutrients they need (in this instance from the alcohol blocking them), they won’t be able to recover and grow.
It can also have an effect on your hormones regulation, which can affect how much body fat you hold on to as well as muscle growth.
This sounds scary
It does! But I have good news for you. The studies that proved these results came from when subjects were drinking outside the realm of what might be considered “moderate” meaning 1-2 drinks within a night. When subjects only drank 1-2 drinks, even nightly, changes to their body composition and strength were lacking or negligible. So unless you’re drinking like it’s freshman year all over again, or you are about to step onto the stage for a bikini competition, your fitness, strength, and health goals are probably just fine.
The real issues
So what we have spoken about up to this point will have an effect on weight gain, weight loss, or muscle gain to a point, but truly only if you take the drinking overboard.
The true issues that come from drinking and not reaching our goals come from far more tangible, relatable, and controllable factors. That’s the good news and the bad news. Talking about things like..
-Size of drinks and ingredients included.
Have you ever measured out what 5oz of wine looks like? Or really broken down the ingredients in your cocktail? If not, let me save you time by saying it is a bummer. Just like measuring our food, we tend to have a gross misinterpretation of what “one serving” of alcohol is, or underestimate how much all that stuff on top of our tequila changes up what we are consuming.
You’ve had your drinks, and now your friends are suggesting going to Taco Bell. And while that might have been easy to turn down 3 hours ago, now? Nothing could sound better. It’s easy to go from zero to 100 real quick and to let the responsible drink turn to irresponsible burrito or 2 choices.
-we have yet to tackle the issue of just how important sleep is to losing weight, repairing muscles, getting the best strength training session in possible, but to make a long story short...it is really important! So yes, staying up late to drink disrupts sleep, but drinking can also prevent you from getting into your deep REM cycles that leave you truly well rested and highly functioning.
Ever work out hungover? Did you have a good time? Yeah….
Don’t let this stop you from living your life. I mean look, even Beyonce drinks beer. Just make better choices! If drinking isn’t getting in the way of your training, and you continue to find yourself hitting strength goals, weight loss goals, etc. then let’s grab a drink! But take a realistic look at your lifestyle choices and see if maybe this IS getting in the way.
Here are some of my favorite cocktail alternatives:
Two *healthier* diy cocktails
Any diet soda or tonic.