I feel like the parents who just came home early from vacation to find their teenager hosting a super fun party at their house. I'm SO SORRY to break up the party, but if I've gotta be the uncool buzz kill in order for you to better understand how to reach your health goals, so be it.
I get it. I love a good drink too. I REALLY do. But before you start sending hate mail, hear me out. I do want to make it perfectly clear up front that YES, it is absolutely possible to drink occasionally and be a fit, healthy, happy person. I'm not trying to scare you or send a single tear down your cheek in mourning of your nightly glass (or 2) of wine.
What I am trying to do is bring a little tough love and information to the table here, and let you know that if you have serious fitness, body composition (read: fat loss), or overall health + wellness goals that you're intent on actually reaching, this is something you're going to need to hear. And please note that I would NEVER want to tell you that you have to live a boring, unfun life in exchange for your fitness goals. Forcing yourself into a shitty, unsustainable life for the sake of a few lbs is never a good strategy. I am merely bringing some hard facts to light that you can choose to do what whatever you please with.
Because the truth is, for an incredibly large population of people, cutting back on the booze for a stretch of time is the single most effective thing they could do to catapult them towards their goals. I'm always a little surprised when I find out just how much most people drink on a regular basis, and while I always say YOU DO YOU BOO, I also want be sure that you know exactly what it is you're actually doing when you crack a beer at the end of your work day or down more than 2 drinks more than 2 or 3 times a week, especially when you're training hard and/or looking for some results.
So take a seat, brace yourself, and read about how that happy hour might be working against you. (And be sure to make it all the way to the bottom because I'm sharing some exciting news with you!)
HEY METABOLISM, YOU'RE DRUNK
Here's the deal: that glass of wine is royally fucking with your body's metabolism and it's ability to burn fat. Your body can't store booze, so it prioritizes metabolizing it at the cost of everything else. It messes with your blood sugar regulation and its ability to create and maintain healthy levels of glucose in your blood stream, which isn't really helping the situation either.
Basically your body becomes completely obsessed with being able to metabolize (and ultimately get rid of) the booze as fast as it can; this takes top priority and your normal fat burning gets completely stopped during this process. Which makes it pretty easy to see that if you are having cocktails or IPAs a few nights a week, you are literally putting a freeze on your fat loss efforts.
Not only are you keeping your progress firmly where it is, but you are likely actually moving the needle in the opposite direction altogether. The calories per gram in alcohol is 7, which is (if you read my post about macros, you'll know is) close to same amount of calories per gram as fat. Except that fat comes with real, vital nutrition for your body, and alcohol comes with nothing except for high quality texts to your ex. (No thank you).
This is where the term "empty calories" comes from. You're taking in a pretty substantial amount of cals and absolutely zero nutrition to accompany it. In fact, many of those mixers and juices that you're mixing with your booze is only adding (LOTS of) sugar to the equation, so you can really begin to see how fast these things add up-- and ultimately cost you your ability to lose body fat.
(And I haven't even touched on the fact that drinking also makes you hungry and lowers your inhibitions all at once, setting you up for less than awesome food choices on top of all of this metabolic disfunction, cuz you already knew that).
In short, each drink is basically a Snickers bar going down the hatch. Is there a time and place for Snickers and drinks? Um, duh. But:
There's no two ways about it, friends. If you're trying to lose body fat, going dry -- or damn near! -- for a stretch is your golden ticket. Period.
OH MUSCLE, WHERE ART THOU?
(AND WHY AM I SO SORE?)
Booze is a diuretic which means that it not only gives you a headache and makes you pee 84 times an hour (TYSM), but it subsequently dehydrates your body. And you know what really doesn't like to be dehydrated on a regular basis? Those guns. Your muscles need to be well hydrated in order for protein synthesis to go down. Otherwise, just like those fat loss efforts, this process gets completely put on hold.
The other thing that drink is doing, whether you realize it or not, is interfering with your sleep. By now we ALL now how absolutely earth-shatteringly PARAMOUNT sleep is to your recovery, right? Right?! Not only does it make your actual sleep less sound in general, but it interferes with the natural muscle repair process that's supposed to happen during that time.
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. The way alcohol fucks with your metabolism, hormones, sleep and protein synthesis, can also make your energy levels crash faster than Friends spinoff show, making it way harder for you to perform your best and give all you've got in your training sessions.
If you're putting in the time and the effort in the gym, but not seeing or feeling the results that you feel like you should be, this could be the culprit. And if you're training especially hard, and are making a bee line for a fitness or strength goal, booze not only isn't helping you-- it's actually holding you back.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT HOW YOU'RE USING IT
Aside from all the physical components to regular drinking that are contributing to either stalling or reversing your fitness and health goals, we need to look a bigger issue in the eye here:
What role is alcohol playing in your life? Is it filling an emotional void? Is it a coping mechanism? Is it your go-to way to deal with stress? Is it the only way you can feel comfortable in social situations? Is it an outlet for something bigger than you're not properly addressing?
Because chances are good that if you have a hard time limiting this behavior, it's not just because you "really enjoy it". It could be covering up, feeding into, or compounding a much bigger issue.
If you take the time to ask the hard questions here and look at what might be really going into WHY you feel like you need to reach for a drink as often as you do, you'll be one BIG step closer to being able to find yourself an alternative that will actually support your goals. And likely make you a whole lot happier, to boot.
***If you need help asking or answering these questions, I've got some good news for you! THE NUTRITION LAB kicks off on Monday, 9/11, and we are facing these questions and lots more. It's a 5 week, in depth, step by step program to get you to stop guessing and fighting with food, to finding you totally happy place, freedom and balance. Learn more here:
Registration closes on Saturday 9/9, so don't miss out!
So party people, the bottom line is this: Is there a way to enjoy alcohol as part of a happy, balanced, healthy life? Hells to the fuck yes. And I've been known to throw some tequila + sodas back like it's going out of style, myself. But I do it with intention, with the knowledge of how it's affecting my body, and with enough rarity that I don't let it squash my wellness goals.
And hey, if you're content trading in your fitness goals in exchange for happy hour, the more power to you, and far be it from me to say that's not ok! Seriously. Because again, I'm not trying to get you to trade in the enjoyability of your life in exchange for those last 5-10 lbs (did you read this post I shared on my IG?). But I hope you'll be honest with yourself how and WHY you're using it, and remember that if you're on a mission, alcohol is not helping you hit your goals, plain and simple. And the more you drink (both in frequency and in volume), the more you actually risk undoing all your hard work.
Do with this information as you will, friends. Cheers.