A Tribute To Booze
Oh alcohol. How we love you.
From our high-school days (or middle school if you’re a real bad-ass) of stealing you from our parents’ liquor cabinets to our grown up days of adding you to orange juice so that we don’t feel as bad about ourselves when we start drinking at 9 am, we have always found a way to utilize you to amplify our ability to have a good time.
But why, alcohol, do you have to be such a buzz-kill when it comes to making us fat?
Why must you be filled with empty calories?
Why do you make us crave child-sized pizza slices (not child-size as in small, but child-size as in the size of a freakin’ child) at 3:00am?
Why do you try to undo all of the hard work that we put in at the gym all week?
If only there were a way to still enjoy your liquory goodness without completely sabotaging our quest to burn fat, build muscle and get sweet, rockin’ bods….
Oh wait, there is!
Alcohol And Getting Fat
In order to know how to avoid the fat-gaining tendencies of alcohol consumption, we must first identify why alcohol consumption can be counter-productive for our fat-loss goals.
1. Alcohol Temporarily Prevents Your Body From Burning Fat
Alcohol is an ethanol, which is toxic to your body. For this reason, when you consume alcohol, your body will give priority to metabolizing it as quickly as possible because your body wants it out of your system as quickly as possible.
This means that your body will shut down its own fat burning efforts since it wants to digest and use the calories from the alcohol ASAP.
This means that the food in your stomach, and any foods that you consume during a drinking-session, will most likely be stored as body-fat, especially dietary fats that you consume right before and while you drink.
As if this did not suck enough, alcoholic drinks usually contain quick-digesting carbohydrates, which raise insulin levels drastically. High insulin levels also contribute to fat-storing within the body.
It’s a double whammy of fat-packing power.
2. Alcohol Negatively Affects Your Eating Habits
This will come as no surprise to you, but there is a direct correlation between alcohol consumption and the food choices that we make.
It typically goes like this: The more booze you drink, the more crap you eat.
Numerous studies have been conducted by smart people ( The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition and The American Dietetic Association) that have found a direct connection between alcohol consumption and weight-gain caused by poor food choices and/or over-eating.
The study found that the more drinks someone consumed per week, the more body-fat they tended to have. These high body-fat percentages were linked to poor food choices and/or over-eating.
This is no surprise to me.
I can’t recall a time when I was drinking with friends and suddenly suggested we order up a couple of salad platters.
Instead, I get hangry and demand copious amounts of chicken fingers accompanied by a cornucopia of dipping sauces (honey mustard, you complete me).
Most doctors credit this urge to consume unhealthy foods to the fact that alcohol raises your blood sugar. Subsequently, as your blood sugar falls, your body craves a quick-fix of calories, which is why you desire calorie-dense foods that are high in carbohydrates and fats.
In addition to craving unhealthy food, alcohol loosens our inhibitions, which makes it harder for us to know when we’ve consumed enough food or drinks, meaning we then over-consume even more unhealthy foods and more booze, amplifying the fat-storing effect of alcohol.
As you can see, alcohol can be a potential nightmare when it comes to putting on unwanted fat.
Luckily for you, I have come up with a few ways to minimize the non-awesome effects of alcohol so that you can enjoy a booze-filled bonanza every now and then without getting fat and/or hating yourself the next day.
3 Ways To Booze And Not Get Fat
1. Work Out
I am not trying to be condescending when I say this.
Obviously you know that working out helps build muscle and burn fat.
But working out really intensely primes your body to absorb nutrients, and when you are in that post-workout state, you can have a couple drinks without having to worry about a ton of fat storage.
When you workout hard (weightlifting, high-intensity-interval-training, sprinting, spin class, bootcamp, fighting a bear) you deplete your body’s glycogen levels, which is what your muscles use for energy. When your glycogen levels are low, your body is eager to replenish them.
That means that if you have alcohol following a tough workout (ideally within 1-2 hours), the carbohydrates found in those drinks will be utilized to help replenish glycogen levels. And if they are being used to replenish glycogen, there is little to no chance that they will be stored as body-fat!
What That Means For You
If you know you are going out for drinks, try to get a good workout in before you start boozing. Again, the closer you can time your workout to your drinking session (ideally 1-2 hours), the better.
Make sure that the workout you do is intense enough to deplete your body’s glycogen stores so that your body will be in the perfect state to utilize the carbs you consume when you start drinking.
2. Plan Ahead
Going to a big party tonight?
Heading to happy hour after work?
Going to a Donald Trump rally and need to get drunk enough to punch some protesters?
If you know you will be going to social event based around drinking, it will be important to plan your nutrition ahead of time.
As I mentioned, consuming alcohol tells your body to stop using calories you have consumed earlier that day since your body will want to metabolize the alcohol as quickly as possible to get it out of your system.
This means that anything you eat before you start drinking (within 1-2 hours) and anything you eat during drinking will most likely get stored as fat since it will not be used as energy.
This means you do not want to eat fatty or carby foods before or during drinking.
Going out at night?
Get your carbs and fats in in the morning (omelets, toast, oatmeal, bacon, sausage, etc) and then stick with lean protein and vegetables for the rest of the day.
Going to a social event that will be serving foods?
Eat a protein-rich snack before you head out so you won’t get slammed by cravings later on. If you are still hungry, seek out lean proteins and snack on those while you drink.
Protein is your best bet while drinking since it will not drastically elevate your blood sugar. This means it will lead to minimal (or none at all) fat gain if you consume it while drinking.
3. Know Your Options
Social drinking is a part of life.
To tell you to completely avoid it would be unrealistic, which is why I am giving you these tips to help minimize the potential fat-gaining effects of a night out on the town.
In addition to working out intensely and being smart about the foods you eat before and during a drinking session, one of the best ways to avoid adding on body-fat from drinking is to make better beverage options while you booze.
Choose This, Not That
Choose Red Wine, Not White Wine: It has less carbohydrates and less sugars
Choose Sugar-Free Mixers, Not Sodas And Juices: When choosing mixed-drinks, go with diet-sodas (I call it pop, shoutout Ohio) or carbonated water. Again, you want to stay away from sugary drinks that are filled with carbohydrates
Choose Lighter (not always lite) Beers, Not Heavy Ones: When choosing a beer, stay away from the calorie-dense ones that pack a ton of carbohydrates. Obviously, the ‘lite’ beers are going to be a safe bet, but there are tons of non-lite beers out there that aren’t as calorie dense. Use your phone and research the calorie content of a potential beer, and look for ones that have below 150 calories. You’d be surprised to see that a lot of pilsners and lagers don’t contain a ton of calories
*Also: When you order a beer, drink it slowly and appreciate it. Don’t mindlessly slam beer-after-beer. This is one way to consume a boat-load of calories without even knowing it, which will speed up the development of a nice little beer-gut.
Choose Liquor, Not Liqueur: If you’re going to drink some hard alcohol, stick with your classics like vodka, gin and whiskey, and stay away from sugary liqueurs that are filled with calories. This may break your heart if you’re a frat-bro, but a shot of Fireball literally has more sugar in it than alcohol. Liqueurs typically contain the most calories and sugars per volume than any other alcohol, so avoid these at all costs (unless it’s St. Patrick’s Day, in which case you have my blessing to do 20 Irish Car Bombs)
Choose Water, Periodically: I know this isn’t an alcohol choice, but water should always be on your radar while you are drinking. Mix in a glass of water every 2-3 drinks. This will help you stabilize your blood sugar, will help your body metabolize alcohol, and will contribute to an over-all feeling of satiation, which will prevent over-eating and over-drinking.
And Most Importantly
Making the adjustments that I mentioned will greatly decrease the potential damage that a drinking session can do to your physique.
If you bust your ass in the gym all week, you owe it to yourself not to undo all of your hard work with a wild night on the town.
Actually implement the suggestions that I give you in this article so that you can continue to build muscle and burn fat while also enjoying a normal social life.
One thing I want to point out is that adhering to these suggestions does take a bit of work and discipline. As with anything that is worthwhile, you have to make some adjustments and sacrifices if you honestly want to accomplish a goal.
If your goal is change the way you look and feel, then you have to change some of the habits that got you to where you are in the first place.
If you think that over-indulging when you drink is preventing you from achieving results, then I hope this article is the first step in helping you re-adjust those habits so that you can make the progress that you want.
You already have everything it takes to make a impactful change in your life, but you need to be aware that it is going to require some work and dedication. Once you make peace with that fact, you are ready to go forth and kick-ass.
Also, outside influences greatly impact our behaviors when we are in social settings.
If you really want to be as successful as possible in making beneficial changes to your drinking habits, it is best to surround yourself with people who are going to support and/or participate in those changes as well.
Share this article with your closest-drinking buddies so that they can join and/or support your effort to build muscle and burn fat while still enjoying a normal social life. Let them know that making a change is truly important to you, and if they are your ride-or-die bestie, they will support you.