Alcohol: The Impacts of Drinking on Your Goals
It’s getting nicer out up here in the North East!
Anyone else enjoy a nice cold alcoholic beverage in the sun?! Or take artsy photos of beautiful drinks when they match your bag?!
It can be really nice to sit outside in the sun and enjoy a drink! And more BBQs and summer gatherings sometimes equate to more drinks!
I want to start this by saying that I enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two every now and again. And, also, that in writing this, I’m NOT telling you not to drink. I am, however, hoping to inform your drinking choices a bit more so you can be fully aware of the impacts of alcohol on your goals!
Great, let’s dive in…
Alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol contains calories, which add up when we drink. But, ethanol does NOT fit into one of our macronutrient categories (proteins, fats, and carbs), and alcohol also does not positively support us in any way. Not to mention, a lot of alcoholic drinks contain sugar, which as you know, can also add up calorically speaking!
The reality of alcohol usage is that our bodies will work to process and break down the alcohol first because our bodies see it as a poison. So, when you eat and drink, your body essentially puts other digestion on pause to take care of the alcohol. Not great if we’re regularly drinking and eating a lot at the same time. For this reason, higher alcohol intakes can also change the way and how much of certain nutrients we absorb.
As stated, alcohol contains calories, which add up. Where it's possible, sticking to light beers, wines, hard seltzers, hard kombucha, or alcohols with clear mixers are your best bet, calorically speaking. For example, if you have 3 bud lights, that's 330 calories. Whereas if you have 3 Goose Island IPAs, that's 624 calories. Maybe neither of those drinks are your thing, but the example is clear!
Next, yes, calories in our beverages add up when we drink, but even more so, our food choices are typically different/impacted by drinking. So, if you're someone who will have a few drinks and then order a plate of nachos, or eat a bunch of munchies sitting on the couch, it's those surrounding food choices that have the power to impact us more so than the actual alcohol on its own.
For these reasons, if you drink alcohol frequently, it almost certainly will be harder to reach your weight loss or body composition goals.
(Unless you’re actively trying to gain weight, then maybe it will help.)
Otherwise, including alcohol can lead to weight gain if you’re drinking leads to a caloric excess in relation to daily needs.
…Are there people out there who drink alcohol regularly and also have their desired body composition? Certainly.
…And are we also likely making it harder for ourselves to get to our desired body composition when we drink regularly? Probably.
The answer to this problem is not, “Then I just won’t eat as much food to save room for my alcoholic calories.” There is also danger in “saving calories” for alcohol. If you do this on a regular basis it can actually negatively impact body composition, may lead to muscle loss, or malnutrition because alcohol does not contain usable calories like foods containing proteins, fats, and carbs do.
Despite these negatives, I do not recommend avoiding alcohol all together (unless, of course, that’s the right choice for you!), but simply be mindful of, or planning, your consumption.
So, what can we do??
Consider setting a certain number of drinks per week (typically no more than 4-7 for men, and 3-5 for women), or a number of days per week that you are going to drink alcohol.
In general, be mindful about how many calories you are drinking, or make lower calorie drink choices.
As best as possible, watch your food choices around drinking. And as always, prioritize WATER (and maybe some electrolytes too!), protein, fruits and veggies!
Make sure you actually want a drink and you’re not just drinking out of habit or peer pressure.
Observe your own drinking habits and how you feel during/after drinking. This can help us better understand our desires and possible changes around it. And, if you’re anything like me, having a hangover may either cause you to indulge in less-healthy, and more comforting foods, or not eat at all! Understanding the overall impacts are huge!
Delay your drink/next drink. Wait 10 minutes. If you still want it, then okay, go for it. If not, move on without it.
Look for patterns. For example, if you’re drinking because you’re stressed/angry/had a good day/had a bad day, can you find another way to interact with that feeling or emotion besides drinking?
Reflect. Does your current rate of drinking support your goals? If you’re looking to lose weight, change your body composition, or excel in various fitness pursuits, the answer to this question might be no.
That last point MIGHT be the most important. In relation to that idea, you might think about alcohol as a form of “tradeoffs.”
If you’re committed to drinking 5 days per week, it will be that much harder to get abs.
If you say yes to drinking tonight, you’re willing to sacrifice sleep quality.
If you say yes to drinking tonight, you’re willing to sacrifice the quality (or existence of!) the workout you had planned for tomorrow.
Drinking DOES have other impacts that are worth us realizing.
Overall, here are my thoughts on this: Aim to be mindful of what drinks you're having and see if it's possible to aim for the lower calorie options. Equally, be mindful of food choices made around drinks. And always include a water or two while you’re drinking to support your body!
One last point here. When having conversations with clients I work with about drinking less or not at all, one of the common pieces of conversation always comes back to what other people will think. Will they automatically think I’m pregnant? Will they judge me? Will they try to guilt me into joining? That kind of thing.
Here are my thoughts on this: It’s YOUR body, YOUR goals, YOUR choice to drink or how much. Screw what other people think, and if people you hang out with don’t respect your choices or your goals, maybe reconsider being friends with them. I mean that in the nicest way ; )
Okay, enjoy the warmer weather and your occasional drink, if you choose to have any! And, if you would like to talk more about developing a plan for your alcohol intake that still keeps your goal in mind, I’d love to talk with you more about that. Send me an email at email@example.com or click here to book a free call to chat more!
If you found this post useful, share your thoughts in the comments, share it with a friend, and subscribe for more helpful nutrition tips!
As always, thank you for reading!