Coming off a weekend, it’s probably not surprising that I felt the need to talk about alcohol. There’s often some controversy about whether alcohol can be consumed while trying to get lean, The short answer is YES, but as with all things quantity and quality matter.
I haven’t been much of a “drinker” for the past few years (pregnancy and breastfeeding )and I’ve only had the occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner most of the time. But drinking is an issue I talk to my clients about A LOT. For many people, alcohol consumption can be a real limiting in getting control of their nutrition plan.
Although one glass of wine or a beer once in a while aren’t a big deal, when alcohol consumption becomes habitual (like a binge every weekend or during frequent work lunches/dinners) it can be a major hinderance to your physique progress. And regular binge drinking (defined in research as more than 5 drinks for a male and 4 drinks for a female) damages your liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, intestine, and your brain. So alcohol consumption is best kept at more reasonable levels for the sake of your health.
As far as getting lean is concerned, even moderate alcohol consumption can hold you back. Not only do alcoholic drinks have their own caloric issues (7 calories per gram), but your body has to metabolize the alcohol before burning off all the other food you’ve eaten. So your body is processing the alcohol and won’t get around to that burger and fries you had while fairly tipsy.
The occasional alcoholic drink can be healthy and relaxing. And research does seem to indicate that moderate alcohol consumption is actually healthier than not drinking at all (although these are epidemiological studies where a lot of other lifestyle factors may have an influence).
The real danger of alcohol, when it comes to physique goals, is that it lowers your inhibitions. This might seem like a good idea if you’re working up the courage to hit the dance floor, but it’s not nearly as useful when it comes to food. You know how appealing food seems to be when you’ve been drinking? Those greasy fries you normally wouldn’t touch suddenly become enormously enticing.
And think about how you feel the day after a night of heavy drinking. You’re tired, don’t feel like doing much, and probably aren’t very motivated to be careful with your food intake. So you’ll probably skip your workout and opt for some easy, comforting food to get you through the day. Which means that after a night of extra alcohol calories (and perhaps extra food), you follow up with a lazy day and more extra calories.
Do that most weekends and you’ll keep getting held back from making real progress with your physique, even if you’re totally on track with your workouts and nutrition throughout the week.
So be aware of alcohol’s impact on your behaviour. Try to manage your alcohol intake so that you enjoy yourself, but don’t totally screw up everything else. I got through my own post-drinking day yesterday and I feel pretty ok today. Plenty of fluids, balanced meals, and a gentle bike ride in the sunshine helped me recover. I’m ready to tackle a productive week.
Alcohol can be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Just be aware of its effects and drink it wisely.