When it comes to getting fit, healthy and in shape, alcohol is one of the first things you’re told to eliminate from your diet.
So that’s what I want to look at today…Does alcohol really keep you from seeing those results you’re chasing in the gym? Is there really such a thing as a “beer belly?”
Firstly, the common belief that alcohol automatically turns into fat is mistaken…It’s the added calories which are the real issue here. Alcohol has calories. LOTS of them in fact. At 7 calories per gram, alcohol has more calories by volume than both protein and carbohydrates which each contain 4 calories per gram, and just slightly less than fats which contain 9 calories per gram. Unlike protein, carbohydrates and fats however, the calories in alcohol have absolutely no food value. They are completely void of any nutrients the body can use, so you are simply adding calories to your diet with the the only performance enhancing benefit being an “improvement” of your moves on the dance floor if you’re lucky! 😉
So, some of you reading this may be thinking GREAT! I can still drink while trying to lose body fat as long as I allow for the extra calories by cutting them out elsewhere. In theory, this is correct. However, when trying to improve your physique, the crux is making the switch from high calorie low nutrient foods to low calorie high nutrient foods which are health boosting, rich in fibre, good fats, good carbs and lean muscle building protein. So you’re doing yourself no favours by drinking your calories instead of eating them.
A second problem with alcohol is that while under the influence, you generally have less self control and motivation to stick to your nutrition plan. Couple this with the fact that alcohol stimulates your appetite and BANG! A couple of vodkas deep and you find yourself in Mc Donalds chowing down on a Big Mac and fries before you even have time to remember you’re on a quest to find your abs.
Roll on the next day…You’re dehydrated, have a banging headache and are craving salty, greasy food to help you deal with life and BANG! There goes some more calories. So by now that one little night out and a couple of drinks has sent you well over your calorific intake for the week.
Many people try and compensate for the night before by hauling their sorry hungover ass to the gym the next day. ***Ahem, you know who you are!*** This is essentially pointless. Alcohol lowers testosterone which is an anabolic hormone contributing to muscle mass and fat burning. Both males and females have testosterone, with the average male possessing 10 times more than the average female, which is why a guy can “bulk up” and women can’t as easily. Testosterone is still super important for females however, as the more muscle mass a female holds, the more fat is burned, which in turn results in the lean, tight body that most of us desire.
After a night out testosterone levels can be reduced for up to 48 hours. So this means a big night out on Saturday can and WILL have an impact on your workout come Monday…Not only in terms of performance, but the ability of your body to burn fat.
Now I’m not suggesting that you all become T- total and never enjoy a glass of wine or bottle of beer ever again, especially over the next few weeks and the festive period…I’m just suggesting that you think SMART. Drink in moderation, be aware of the calories in the alcohol, the mixers and the additional food intake consumed during and after drinking, and remember that fat burning will be halted while your body processes the alcohol and removes it from your system.
So what are the best options calorie- wise for an occasional tipple?
Stick to wine, champagne and spirits with soda water in order to keep your calorie intake down. Avoid cocktails, calorific mixers such as cola, larger and beer, all of which can quickly add up to a hefty portion of your calorie intake for the day in just a couple of drinks.
Pint of beer: 182 kcal
Small glass of red wine: 85 kcal
Glass of Champagne: 89 kcal
Small glass of white wine: 77 kcal
Shot of vodka/rum/whiskey: 72 kcal