Firstly alcohol ( which is also called ethanol) is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugar and starches. It contains 7 calories per gram ( the second most calorie dense macronutrient after fat). And is a macronutrient in and of itself. When you drink this macronutrient especially in excess your body essentially treats it like poison. And prioritises digestion of it over your carbs, fats and protein.
One unit is equivalent to 10ml or 8 grams of pure alcohol. For instance a standard glass of wine is equivalent to 2 units or 20ml/16 grams of pure alcohol.
Alcohol And An Increased Appetite
Alcohol also significantly increases your appetite there is a study below that compares two groups.
Group one didn’t consume any before lunch.
Group two did.
The group that consumed alcohol/ ethanol before lunch had a heightened appetite and consumed significantly more food during lunch than the no alcohol group.
The group that consumed alcohol also ate much more high fat and salty foods. And hunger was rated higher during the course of the day for this group.
This study confirms a universal truth. We like to eat fatty, salty foods after drinking alcohol.
There’s no doubt that this macronutrient is a big part of western culture. And there’s no doubt that abusing it can be bad for you. Especially in high amounts. It can be easy to go out once in a while and binge drink. And justify that it was okay because it’s a one off.
There’s no doubt that this isn’t a good habit to get into. Simply because binge drinking is not healthy for you. But that said not everyone binge drinks. Just like you should develop a healthy relationship with food, and things like television. It makes sense to do the same for this macronutrient.
This post is going to show you practical guidelines so that you can still enjoy your favourite alcoholic beverages and stay fit and healthy in the process.
Defining Levels Of Consumption
In the United Kingdom the recommended guidelines for alcohol are to consume no more than 14 units per week.
To give you some context.
Units Of Alcohol Per Drink
Beer contains 2 units per pint. ( this is for the average beer, some beer is stronger).
A standard glass of wine also has 2 units.
One shot of vodka contains 1 unit.
The standard 14 units of alcohol per week is flawed. This is because human beings come in all shapes and sizes. For example do you think a 130 pound 18 year old female drinking 14 units would be the same as a 30 year old male weighing 230 pounds drinking 14 units?
The answer is clear. They both have different tolerances to alcohol. Generally speaking the bigger you are the more alcohol you can drink.
But this isn’t a reason to drink more alcohol.
It’s common sense that drinking too much is bad for you. Anecdotally, everyone who has ever overdid it with alcohol has experienced an excruciating hangover.
Essentially what a hangover is. Is withdrawal. It’s your body getting rid of the alcohol and eventually the hangover diminishes.
This is why some people are alcohol dependent. If it gets really bad. The withdrawal of alcohol can be fatal for people who severely abuse it.
Just to list some of the detrimental effects of alcohol abuse. Look below:
Neuropsychiatric diseases (including alcohol use disorders)
Liver and pancreas disease
And unintentional and intentional injury
Some Practical Guidelines So That You Can Stay Fit And Healthy And Still Enjoy Your Favourite Drinks
There are a few schools of thought on how to consume alcohol in moderation. The best approach in my opinion is to limit alcohol to 15% of your daily calorie intake and only consume it once or twice per week.
For instance say that you’re a 200 pound male needing to eat 3000 calories everyday just to maintain your weight. And say you enjoy having a couple drinks on a Saturday night. You could consume 400 calories of alcohol. Give or take +- 100 calories.
A beer is roughly 200 calories. So you could easily consume two beers and stay in the limit. Because two beers = 400 calories.
A small glass of wine is roughly 100 calories so you could consume 4 of those.
But say for example you are a 140 pound female and you need to consume 2000 calories to maintain your weight. So you would be able to consume 300 calories from alcohol. You could consume that amount of alcohol with the drinks below:
3 glasses of wine.
Or a beer and a glass of wine.
You don’t need to be completely perfect with that 15% but try your best to consume that much. Give or take +-100 calories.
Remember though. Calories are king and you still want to stay within your calorie target.
Can You Lose Weight And Still Drink Alcohol
You certainly can lose weight and still drink alcohol. well, you see this is due to the immutable law of energy balance. This states calories in vs calories out. For instance say you needed to eat 2000 calories to maintain your weight. This is called your total daily energy expenditure (tdee) And if you reduce your daily calorie intake from 2000 calories per day to 1500 calories per day.
This will result in you losing roughly a pound of fat per week. You see as long as you reach that 1500 calorie intake everyday you will lose weight.
Even if you consume 15% of those calories from alcohol.
In this case you would be able to consume 225 calories worth of alcohol 1-2 days per week.
Choose Spirits With Low Calorie Mixers To Keep The Calories Down
If you consume a single vodka Diet Coke which is 100 calories instead of a beer that contains 200 calories you can have two drinks for the same amount as one.
If you’d rather have more drinks, spirits and low calorie mixers are your best bet.
Here are some recommendations below.
Vodka and Diet Coke
Southern comfort and 7 up free
Rum and Diet Coke
Vodka lime and soda
Vodka blackurrent and soda
The key is to still have the drinks you love but fit them into that 15% of your calorie allotment.
If you like higher calorie alcoholic drinks like beer. It does, as you know contain extra calories and they come from carbohydrates. Specifically from the hops, yeast, and grains.
In red and white wine the extra carbs come from the natural sugar present in wine that remains unfermented.
Different Percentages Per Beverage
Generally speaking spirits like vodka, whiskey and rum have the highest alcohol percentage of 40% but can quite often be higher. The reason the alcohol/ ethanol percentage is so high is because spirits generally speaking contain just ethanol and water.
Beer/ lager generally speaking have a 4-5% alcohol percentage and is made up of ethanol, grains, hops, yeast and up to 95% water.
Wine is generally speaking 11-13% alcohol/ ethanol. And is typically made from grapes.
The higher the alcohol percentage is like in spirits and wines the higher chance that you won’t get any extra unwanted carbohydrates. But if you enjoy beer just fit it into your 15% calorie allotment.
Can You Build Muscle And Still Drink Alcohol – How To Drink Alcohol And Not Ruin Your Progress
When you’re building muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus. Which means eating more calories than your body uses. A 10-15% calorie surplus does the job just fine. When your in a calorie surplus and especially deep in a calorie surplus your calories can rise quite high just to keep gaining 0.5- 1 pound per week. Some people need to consume over 6000 calories per day just to gain weight.
If you are consuming a gargantuan amount of calories then your alcohol allotment will be larger compared to a 140 pound female losing fat. Individuality plays a massive role in losing fat and building muscle because no person is the same.
And if you consume 6000 calories you will be able to consume more alcohol than others. But it doesn’t mean you should. Having a couple of beers is probably the best bet apart from the odd occasion.
But the thing about building muscle is that you need to work hard. Especially if your at the intermediate to advanced level.
You need to have your nutrition and recovery on point just to keep on adding weight and reps.
If you binge on alcohol one night and next day you have 5 sets of heavy squats at 80-85% of your 1 rep max. You’re just not going to be able to add reps and you might actually be weaker.
A question to ask yourself is : Does this line up with my goals and get me to where I want to go?
If the answer leads to no then don’t do it.
Is Getting Drunk Going To Harm My Gains And Fat Loss?
If you follow the guidance in this post and maybe get drunk a couple times per year you will still be able to reap amazing benefits from your workouts, get stronger and lose fat.
When drinking becomes a normal habit and binge drinking starts to occur that’s when you need to start asking yourself questions.
There is a reason why many religions abstain from alcohol. Alcohol can ruin peoples lives. But only if they let it.
If every time you drink and you can’t enjoy it in moderation then you should probably just completely abstain from it.
Hydration The Key To Feeling Good Under The Influence – How To Drink Alcohol Without Ruining Your Progress
I’m sure you’ve felt the aftermath after a night out where you’re extremely dehydrated, achy all over and just all round feel like garbage. This is because alcohol dehydrates you. It’s good to consume 1 glass of water for every alcohol beverage that you consume.
This will not only prevent a hangover, it will also help you to keep your wits about you and prevent you from over drinking.
The Bottom Line On How To Drink Alcohol Without Ruining Your Progress
- Firstly drinking in moderation is fine and you can still build muscle and lose fat.
- Secondly the fact is, moderation can mean many things to different people. The version of moderation that I speak about in this article is to consume no more than 15% of your calories from alcohol and do this no more than twice per week.
- The key to not feeling awful when drinking alcohol is to just drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink that you have. This will prevent overconsumption and a hangover the next day.
- If you’ve got a heavy leg day, the morning after a night out, it probably isn’t a good idea to overconsume. And if you’re hungover, then you’ve probably over done it.
This is all advice but I think it will really help you to enjoy your favourite drinks and still get to your physique and strength goals.
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