This week’s subject is a touchy one – drinking alcohol while trying to lose fat, or minimize fat gain. I believe it’s possible to drink frequently and still stay very lean, if everything is done correctly. You probably shouldn’t drink too often if you’re doing a bodybuilding show, or want to maximize your rate of fat loss. If you’re just trying to maintain your lean physique, however, or slowly reduce your body fat levels, drink up.
Before we dive into how you can lose fat without giving up alcohol, I’d like to make it clear that I’m talking about moderate to heavy drinking, as in, tequila shots, many whiskey and cokes, beer, and whatever else you like. Not going to tell you to limit it to a glass of red wine at dinner with your girlfriend, or whatever you do. I’m talking about real drinking.
First, let’s briefly look at what happens when you consume alcohol. I could go all scientific with it, but we’re going to keep it simple. When alcohol enters your bloodstream, the body begins to convert it to acetate, which is toxic for the body. Because your body doesn’t want toxic things in it, it will try to burn up all the acetate to use it for energy, which means it stops using carbs and fat.
So, alcohol doesn’t cause any direct fat storage, but the ongoing process off burning up fat and carbs for energy is stopped when there’s alcohol in your blood. It makes sense then, that if you’re out drinking heavily, and come home to smash some pizza and Doritos before bed, there’s a good chance most of that will get stored as fat.
You may have also heard that alcohol lowers testosterone. This is true, but the effects are greatly exaggerated. You’d have to drink heavily every night for quite some time before any real, long-term effects are noticeable. It is also worth noting that beer typically has high levels of phytoestrogens in it, which can raise estrogen levels, something most guys don’t want. Don’t go crazy with the beer.
The trick to drinking and minimize the damage in terms of fat storage then, is to try and avoid eating junk food around the time you’re drinking, and try to stay away from sugary and high-carbohydrate drinks.
To summarize, you want to avoid eating crap foods while drinking heavily, don’t drink high-sugar, fruity mixed drinks (you probably aren’t doing that anyway), and try not to drink beer all the time. Here’s a few practical tips; drink up bros and have some fun. And most importantly, be safe.
- On heavy drinking days, try to eat lots of protein and veggies throughout the day, and especially right before you go out. You don’t want to be starving four drinks in and cave for the ultimate nachos. Seriously, load up on protein.
- You want low-sugar, low calorie drinks. Best options are liquors with zero-calorie mixers, shots, red wine, and if you must drink beer, light ones. Worst options are high-sugar drinks, frozen blended drinks, anything with fruit and an umbrella stuck in the top, and so on. My personal choices are whiskey and diet coke, vodka and soda, bourbon on the rocks, shots, and light beer sometimes.
- Eat a big protein snack before you head to the bar. Chicken and a huge salad or bowl of veggies will keep you full, so you won’t feel the need to eat a whole frozen pizza when you get home.
- To really maximize fat loss, I’d keep any heavy drinking to one or two nights a week. You can get away with drinking more often and maintain your physique, but if you’re trying to get absolutely shredded, I wouldn’t go over two nights a week.