In a previous article here on BroBible, I talked about the importance of counting your macronutrients if you want to burn fat and build muscle. We’ve already talked about protein, carbs, and fat, and their roles in the body. Now we turn our discussion to the last macronutrient, alcohol…
Yes, alcohol is a macronutrient and yes it does contain calories; 7 calories per gram in fact, second only behind fat in energy density. However, alcohol calories are unique in the fact that they can’t be stored in the body as fat. Now before you start thinking that you are free to go drink all the Jack Daniels you want, let me explain.
As ethanol (alcohol) is processed by the liver, it creates a bi-product known as acetate. Acetate is toxic, so the body prioritizes the metabolizing of this over everything else in its system. That means that the body will not stop burning off alcohol until it is gone, meaning it can’t be stored in the body as fat.
Where the problem occurs however is that while this process is happening, the body cannot metabolize anything else. Therefore any food in your system is stored until the alcohol is burned off.
Now if you consume alcohol and it doesn’t take you out of your caloric deficit, then you have nothing to worry about. Once the alcohol is metabolized, your body will go right back to using fat stores for energy. However, if drinking pushes you over caloric limit for the day, or you decide to go on a Taco Bell binge at 3am after drinking all night, then you may be in trouble.
Like any other macronutrient, there is nothing inherently wrong with alcohol. Studies have even shown that moderate consumption of alcohol can lead to testosterone increases in men, a decreased appetite, and even a longer life! But it all needs to be taken within the context of your diet.
How to Drink and Not Hurt Progress
First, we need to define what “a drink” is. A drink is not however much you can fit in your glass, or however much you feel like pouring at that particular time.
By most standards a drink is one 12oz beer, 4-5oz glass of wine, or one 1-1.5oz shot. So if you order a double whiskey and coke that counts for two drinks. Just because it comes in one glass doesn’t mean it’s one drink.
Now that we have that established, here’s how to drink and not hurt progress…
- Make room for alcohol. Most of us know when we’re going to be drinking, so it’s pretty easy to plan for it in our diets. One way to do this would be to strictly consume nothing but lean meats and veggies during the day before drinking.
The other, more enjoyable way, would be to simply eat how you normally would, count your calories, and allow room for 4-5 drinks. As long as you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning you can’t store fat.
- Drink Moderately. I know, ridiculous idea right? The facts are however, that moderate drinkers receive the best benefits from drinking while receiving almost none of the drawbacks.
In addition to the benefits I explained above, moderate alcohol consumption allows you to limit your caloric intake, avoid hangovers, and still enjoy social occasions. It’s when you start drinking excessively that you lose the benefits.
I cannot stress enough, drinking in moderation is the KEY to making progress while still enjoying alcohol.
- Stick to Lower Calorie Drinks. Always be aware of extra calories when drinking. Beer doesn’t just contain alcohol calories but carbs as well. Same usually goes for wine. If you’re having mixed drinks, stick with zero calorie mixers like sparkling water, ginger ale or diet sodas.
- Avoid Late Night Eating. This one can be tough. Even I’ve been known to throw back a few thousand calories of Taco Bell after a night of drinking. The best thing to do here is to eat before you go out. A meal consisting of lean meats, veggies, and starchy carbs will help keep you full.
If you’re someone who prefers to eat after drinking, have a plan for what you are going to eat. Either account for it in your calories, or stick to high protein or filling snacks like protein bars, beef jerky, or popcorn.
You can drink and still make progress. It just needs to be done in a smart way. Having a plan of attack will make a huge difference. Use this information to hit your goals while still enjoying nights out with your bros.