***Credit to Precision Nutrition for much of the information adapted into this article

Probably THE most under discussed topic in fitness is that of alcohol consumption.  There comes a time in every clients fat loss journey where the question arises…

Is the booze preventing me from losing weight?

This question will be answered differently for everyone, depending on where you fall on the spectrum of booze consumption that is.  Maybe you like a glass of wine with dinner, maybe you enjoy a beer on friday afternoons, or maybe you spend your saturday nights sloshed at the local nightclub.

(this is a no judgement zone, people)

Okay, well for starters, before you count how many drinks you have per week. Let’s establish what the serving size of a drink actually looks like…

amount for beverage

***12oz regular beer – 5oz wine – 3 oz fortified wine – 1.5 oz liquor***

 I’ve shown these portions to numerous people who will glance and historically burst into laughter because in reality very seldom does any of the general population measure out alcohol, let alone drink these portions.

So you’re probably wondering now, what to categorize yourself as.  Well the NIH claims that moderate drinking is defined as…

For women: up to seven drinks per week, with no more than three drinks on any single day
For men: up to 14 drinks per week, with no more than four drinks on any single day

Less than this would be considered light drinking, and more than this would be considered heavy drinking, to put it simply.

Before I go any further, I already know 50% of you reading this are arguing with me in your head or possibly feeling slightly offended that what you consume could be considered heavy drinking.  Please understand, I’m writing this article out of pure desire to bring awareness to this topic, not to make you feel guilty or like sh*t for choosing to drink when some opt out.  That being said it is important you understand (according to the NIH) what repercussions can be had if your drinking is not kept light to moderate…

Brain:

Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.

Heart:

Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:

  • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
  • Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Research also shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease.

Liver:

Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:

  • Steatosis, or fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis

Pancreas:

Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.

Cancer:

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the:

  • Mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Throat
  • Liver
  • Breast

Immune System:

Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

 

With all that being said, there’s still probably a few people out there thinking, “I GET IT, but will it keep me from losing weight?!”

The truthful answer is that depends on a lot of things.  Like…

  • genetics/family history
  • age/gender
  • size/height
  • activity level/food consumption
  • biological enzymes

There is no straightforward answer to this question.  However, I have gotten the privilege to work first hand with many people attempting to lose weight while drinking and those who succeed versus those who fail typically have a very different set of habits…

Those who succeed…

Those who falter…

Choose when they want to drink  Let the environment dictate their drinking
Drink when they are happy/relaxed Drink when they are stressed/angry
Still prioritize health/fitness before booze Throw everything to shit when they drink
Deduct caloric drinks from food intake Add alcohol to food intake (plus munchies during)
Don’t drink to the point of bad hangovers Often are useless/sluggish next day

Do with this information what you please. However, if you’re looking to maintain or lose weight I highly suggest you regulate your intake instead of going balls to the walls every time you decide to have a fun night out or at least take with you these tools to help you decide how to approach your thought process of drinking…

Do I drink because I genuinely want to, or because of my environment?

Is it really you who wants that beer, or do you think you want it because your entire team is drinking it at 3pm on a Friday?  Or maybe you’re at a cocktail party, listen to yourself.  Are you grabbing a drink out of habit/discomfort or because you really want it?

Why do I like drinking?

Do you like to drink because you feel less shy?  Does it make you feel more confident?  Do you like that reason?  Or do you find yourself after a long work week thinking you would like to drink so you can forget your reality and enter a new one?

How is your health right now?

Are you performing at your highest level physically right now?  Are you achieving your fitness goals?  If not, do you think this could be the reason why and if so – what’s stopping you from stopping?

Overall, there is no clear cut answer to if booze is preventing you from losing weight.  Correlation is not always related to causation and the human body is such a complex organism that it is incredibly hard to isolate what is causing what!  However, we can identify that success leaves clues.  If you’re in a good place in your life, achieving your goals, and happy than go enjoy a few drinks when you get the chance.  However, if you’re dreading every Monday, looking to enter an alternate reality, and finding yourself sluggish more often than not, it may be time to rethink the drinking so you can increase your quality of life.