Without a shadow of doubt there is no topic I get asked about more than booze and fat loss.
Everyone has been told for a very long time that you can’t drink and still continue to make progress with your fat loss goals.
The answer is that you can drink alcohol and still lose fat, but there are some important things you need to understand before diving face first into margaritas four nights a week.
The most important factor when it comes to your fat loss will be your total calorie intake, also known as energy balance.
If you’re consistently burning more calories that you’re eating and drinking you will lose body fat, even if some of those calories come from alcohol, or any other kind of food.
Don’t read this as food quality doesn’t matter, as that’s not what I’m saying.
From a purely fat loss perspective total calories are the main driver of your fat loss though, and food quality drives overall health, appetite management and much more.
Another important factor is that your results will be determined by what you do most of the time, not isolated incidents.
Think of this like the 85/15 principle you’ve likely heard people talk about.
85% percent of the time your food comes from high quality, satiating whole foods like lean protein, vegetables, fruit, denser carbs and healthy fats.
The other 15% can come from more indulgent foods assuming that you’re eating in a calorie deficit you will still lose fat, even with some alcohol tossed in if you’d like.
Adherence and The Real World
The reality is you all have a life outside of nutrition and fat loss, and in many cases these lives involve social events with alcohol with loved ones.
In fact I’m actually going out tonight on a date tonight, and we’re grabbing drinks at a local bar down the street.
This common all or nothing mindset that doesn’t allow you to be flexible with your food choices only sets you up for failure.
In this black and white thinking when you do decide to break the seal have have a beer the thought process goes to “ What the hell I already had one beer and “messed up” so I might as well have 9…
This is dangerous logic not just from a nutrition perspective but in many facets of life!
These kind of decisions are usually accompanied by the 3am munchies that are always dense in calories and very easy to overeat!
Can you drink alcohol and still make fat loss progress ?
Yes, but we need to cover a few important points to help you understand how to do this.
5 Important Things To Understand About Alcohol & Fat Loss:
1. Consuming too many calories from any source of food or drink whether it’s dense in carbs, fats or sugar will cause you to gain body fat.
If you consume less calories than you burn you will lose body fat, and this is known as a calorie deficit and is required for fat loss to happen.
2. Alcohol is sometimes referred to as the “fourth macronutrient” because it has 7 calories per gram. Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram.
Alcohol contains more calories than carbs or protein, but less that dietary fat.
3. Alcohol while it does contain calories can’t be stored in the body because it’s converted in the liver to a toxic by product named acetate.
4. Because acetate is a toxin that needs to be metabolized and removed from the body as soon as possible your body stops metabolizing the other macronutrients to rid the body of acetate.
5. This means that during this time you will not be able to burn any kind of body fat, dietary fat or carbohydrate because the main priority is to get rid of acetate in your body
Alcohol and Food Choices
Alcohol has shown to lower people’s dietary restraint and makes them far more likely to choose high calorie foods that they’ll eat much more of than they otherwise would.
This creates a problem because the body is still busy trying to metabolize the alcohol in the body and now that you’re throwing tons of excess calorie at it there is one place for all those excess calories to go.
Now the amount of fat you can reasonable gain won’t be much, however it can jam the breaks on the progress you’ve been making for the week.
You’re a grown up and the decision is yours, I’m just here to help you make better choices if you choose to do so.
Next We’re taking a look at how you can use moderation and calorie awareness to drinking alcohol and lose body fat.
How To Fit Alcohol Into Your Fat Loss Plan
Knowing this we can conclude that alcohol will only contribute to gaining body fat when consumed in excess of your normal calorie needs for the day.
Knowing that energy balance is what matters most for your fat loss and that alcohol has 7 calories per gram we can factor some alcohol into your plan.
This allows you to go out for a few drinks and still stick to your nutrition plan, and not blow it like many people do.
The very first thing is to drink in moderation, and while hard to define I usually encourage people to keep it to two to three drinks when they go out.
With three drinks you can still go out and have a good time while easily factoring those calories into your daily plan, much more and you might end up pretty damn hungry.
The main key here is to reduce your calories for the day by the amount of calories you anticipate drinking when you go out.
Think of your calorie like a bank account which you make withdrawals from and by making smaller withdrawals throughout the day choosing high satiety low calorie foods you’ll have more left in the “calorie bank” when you go out to drink.
We’ll be pulling these “banked calories” from carbohydrates and fats because protein is necessary for satiety and helping to preserve lean muscle mass.
Example: You go out and have three beers that equals 600 calories
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
Protein: 4 calories per gram
Fat: 9 calories per gram
Now assume we split that evenly and remove 300 calories worth of fats and 300 calories of carbs.
We need to know how many less of each carbs and fats to eat for the day. To do that we divide the 300 of alcohol by the calories per gram of the macronutrients we’re reducing.
300/ 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate = 75 grams of carbs
You reduce your daily intake of carbohydrates by 75 grams to compensate for alcohol.
300/ 9 calories per gram of fat = 33.33 grams of fat
You reduce your daily intake of fats by 33 grams to compensate for alcohol.
An easy way to do this is just focus on vegetables, fruit and leaner proteins for the day leading up to your night out.
It could look like this:
Breakfast: 1 egg + 4 egg whites scrambled with spinach, mushrooms, onions and bell peppers with ½ cup of berries.
Snack: 2 hard boiled eggs
Lunch: 1 tin of tuna with ¼ cup greek yogurt (instead of mayo) with kale or spinach, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and 2 baby bell peppers and ½-1 tbsp dressing.
Dinner: 4-8 oz chicken breast with the same salad ingredients as listed above.