Dry January or not, here is the skinny on alcohol
For both for both fun and our sanity’s sake, adulting through the Holiday season is often accompanied by abundantly flowing champagne and wine, beer on ice and spirits galore.
Come the New Year after the stress and dust has settled and resolutions are in full force many go on the extreme opposite end giving up alcohol entirely. Now don’t get me wrong, your liver may be thanking you for this. But for the remainder of the year, until the next Holiday season, how can you strike a balance?
As nutrition coaches, we get this question all the time, “Can I drink (insert your favorite adult beverage here) and still reach my goals?”
In the words of almost Shakespeare, “To drink or not to drink?” That is a great question.
If you didn’t know, I am an IPA girl. That delicious crisp and refreshing beer, just hits the spot. So, I am right there with you! I have done my science-backed research to give you the straight facts about alcohol consumption and its affects on the body and of course your goals! Here we go.
How does your body process alcohol?
Your body views alcohol as a foreign invader that must be destroyed quickly. ATTACK! ATTACK! This paired with the fact that alcohol is absorbed directly into your bloodstream, means that your body will not utilize fats, protein or carbohydrates until all the alcohol is out of your system.
What does that mean for your goals?
While your body is working to get rid of the alcohol you have consumed, the food your body has not digested yet will not be utilized. Instead, those calories will more than likely be stored as body fat.
Does this mean I can’t drink ever?
Not exactly. Will you see better results if you drink less or not at all? Probably. But that not reality for most of us. Remember, arming you with information to make and educated decision that makes sense for your individual lifestyle Let’s talk goal specific impacts of alcohol.
If your goal is to build muscle, it is important to note that alcohol affects testosterone synthesis. When your body is not synthesizing testosterone (the hormone used to build muscle) you will not be able to build muscle as efficiently. This is even more important if you are a female trying to build muscle. My ladies out there might be wondering why I singled you out in this scenario, but that is because it is hard enough for us to build muscle if all conditions are perfect (i.e. solid nutrition, workouts, etc.) because we do not have as much testosterone to begin with. So inhibiting your ability to build muscle even further with alcohol just makes the work you are putting into building muscle counterproductive.
If your goal is to get shredded and burn body fat, we will need to revisit what we have all ready talked about. The body will use alcohol first and you’ll likely store remaining calories as fat (By the way, this is not accounting for the late night food decisions we make while drinking). Add in a decrease in testosterone synthesis meaning you will be building less muscle. The more muscle you have on your body the more body fat you burn just being alive. So if you have less muscle then ultimately your body is less efficient at burning body fat. This translates to… the more alcohol you regularly consume the harder it is to build muscle and burn body fat
If that hasn’t helped you to make up your mind yet, then there is still more.
What could happen if you cut out said adult beverages for just one month?
You will eat less and save roughly 384 calories per day! This adds up. According to a Dutch study, people who drank only half a shot of alcohol ate 20% more than those who abstained. Just half a drink, a 6-ounce beer or a 2.5 ounce glass of wine, can make you hungrier. If you cut out alcohol, in just 30 days, you could save 11,520 calories. That’s three pounds right there! No workouts required. Sign me up for that!
You will sleep better. A glass of wine might seem like it makes you fall asleep faster, but it disrupts your natural sleep cycle. Concluding evidence from a combination of 27 studies, found that alcohol before bed increases alpha wave patterns in the brain. These do not allow you to get the restorative sleep needed to wake up feeling refreshed, but if you take out alcohol, watch your morning energy skyrocket!
You will have better energy. Studies have shown that for every 30 minute deficit of sleep on average people will consume an additional 83 calories per day. So not only will eliminating alcohol give you more energy from better sleep, but you will be more likely to make healthier food choices also giving you more energy! If you average an additional hour of quality sleep, another bonus is saving an additional 5,000 calories in 30 days!
So I will ask you again… to drink or not to drink? The choice is yours.