Alcohol consumption is often misunderstood as being "guilt free" when trying to lose weight, this couldn't be further away from the truth and in this article I am going to explain if and why drinking alcohol will make you fat.
So often when working with clients it is their weekly alcohol consumption which magically due to it being a liquid becomes exempt from the healthy, balanced, and controlled nutrition strategies I set out for each individual that is the barrier between them and their ideal body. Once we address this and these clients understand and become accountable for their alcohol consumption we begin to see something amazing happen, they start to get leaner! And thats great for me, because leaner clients are usually happier clients. So does this mean that the smallest drop of alcohol is going to make you fat like some sort of fat storing demon? Not quite, let me break this down a little.
Getting fat is calories in vs calories out
It is as simple as that, if you eat more calories than you are burning off you will begin to gain weight. It doesn't matter if you go over your calorie requirements in chicken, fruit, nuts, or alcohol it will still lead to you gaining weight. Once you know this it is about making sure that you are accounting for everything you are consuming when trying to lose weight including liquids like fruit smoothies and alcohol!
Alcohol contains calories just like all foods with one gram of alcohol containing 7 calories with absolutely no nutritional value compared with 4 calories for a gram of protein or carbohydrate and 9 calories for a gram of fat. And lets face it unless you are very very serious about your alcohol consumption you are not drinking pure alcohol, more likely you will be opting for beer, wine, or spirits mixed with unhealthy and fattening soda's. So in essence drinking alcohol means you are consuming Alcohol+Carbohydrates and just like a balanced meal can be broken down in to Protein+Carbohydrates+Fat it must be accounted for when you are trying to lose weight. You wouldn't just eat another full meal on top of what you are already eating when on a fat loss diet and expect to lose weight would you? I diden't think so but somehow drinking alcohol slips through the net here with many. Lets call this the alcohol effect, and it is where drinking alcohol will make you fat. Below is a hypothetical story to illustrate the alcohol effect in action!
Jane is following a clean, nutritious, and balanced diet at the perfect caloric deficit to lose one pound of body fat per week based on her current level of activity. She is doing great sticking to the diet gram for gram and can't wait for her weigh in to see evidence of her progress. Jane drinks a couple of glasses of red wine a few nights a week and a bit more on the weekends to help her unwind and doesn't count these towards her calories for the day/week and when it comes to weigh in day Jane is devastated to learn that she has gained a pound. She is at a loss to why and is considering giving up after a similar result ten days later. After sitting down with Jane and going through everything she consumed during the week I have my answer and suggest she cuts the alcohol out or at least accounts for it in her calorie intake. As if by magic Jane starts losing body fat, feels fantastic, and sings my praises as a genius...Not really.
This is a powerful example of how someone can turn the perfect fat loss diet in to the perfect weight gain diet through drinking alone. Lesson: Drinking alcohol counts as a meal with calories just like any other.
Alcohol won't help with weight loss
Alcohol decreases testosterone production which is bad for fat loss! (You too ladies!) The presence of testosterone means a higher metabolism and therefore more fat burning at rest, on top of this testosterone means more lean muscle and again a higher metabolism. Drinking alcohol temporarily blunts testosterone production which indirectly makes it more difficult for you to burn body fat, not something you want if you are working hard in the gym and the kitchen to get the body of your dreams!
Alcohol in or out?
When I explain to clients about how alcohol will make them fat if they don't account for it in their caloric intake they ask me if they should just completely remove it from their diets alltogether. It is like someone asking if they should cut out chocolate and treats, if you are 100% determined and focused on losing body fat and optimal health then cutting out these foods will benefit you. But life is more than just about our bodies, it is for enjoying and there is no doubt that these things can be enjoyable and help form a balance in life rather than constantly obsessing with your physical goals. This is why I encourage a mentality of moderation and accountability. Having a couple of glasses of good wine with friends is fun just make sure to account for these calories if you are looking to lose body fat as it counts just like everything else! I believe that by using a mindset like this you can truly find a balance between the naughty but fun things in life and a healthy, lean, and powerful body which you are happy with.
Make sure you are finding your balance too.