I probably should have addressed this before the holiday season kicked off but now still seems like as good a time as any. While maybe not the most popular topic, I’m going there anyways because I can’t count the number of times alcohol has come up in health coaching and personal training sessions over the years. So many times. And often the question is, “Can I still lose weight if I keep on drinking?”
It depends. There have been times when I wanted to lose some for whatever reason, if I cut back on beers it came right off. There have been times when I decided I didn’t feel like giving up wine and stiff drinks (like who wants to not have a buzz on a first date?) and looked at other factors to adjust. It depends (this is usually the answer to most questions from clients). OK, but what do we know?
Things science suggests about booze:
- Moderate alcohol consumption might be beneficial to your long-term health, making you live longer.
- The benefits might be cardiovascular or metabolic.
- Red wine is probably better than white … and it’s high in antioxidants - specifically resveratrol, which has been linked to a host of things you can read about here in this awesome post. A must read for winos.
- Moderation has been linked to decreased chances of dementia.
- Anything past moderate consumption and we get negative effects.
When it comes to nutrition I have always taught my clients that restriction and food elimination rules won't help us change our habits. With alcohol, you must ask yourself why you are drinking when you are drinking, and make a choice based on your situation and your goals. I'm not here to tell you what that choice is. I'm here to help you think critically about your choice and pause and look for patterns, deep reasons, and a decision that is satisfying to you.
So, is alcohol stored as fat?
No, it's not, even if that's what you thought you heard. When imbibing, your body's priority is to burn off the alcohol first, which can then prevent you from burning fat it otherwise might have. So if you want to or need to eat while you are drinking, the best thing you can do is consume protein. Carbohydrate and fats (like pizza!), when eaten with alcohol will just be put into the storage category while your body deals with the booze.
If you're looking for just a buzz, like I might have been on those first dates or holiday gatherings (because being social is important), the other option is just to drink a little bit and not eat. This means that my body won't have to go and put the food I ate in a waiting cell while it burns off the juice. It also means I'll probably consume less alcohol if I was indeed in search of just a little drunkenness versus drinking more because I ate and couldn't find the drunkenness.
So are some drinks better than others?
It depends on why you're asking me right? Right. Based on the research (you can see the link above to the red wine report), it seems that red wine is a good choice. Antioxidants though, are also found in scotches, whiskey and cognacs. Vodka and other clear spirits are high in alcohol and low on the carbs - which is what we should look for if we are concerned about body fat and overdoing it.
List your goals out first if you haven't already when it comes to your health and your fitness. Look at them often. Use them when you are deciding what to eat, what to drink, how to exercise, and all that stuff in between. Be smart. If 2 drinks for you turns into 6 then maybe you have your answer. If moderation is good with you, maybe you can drink and still lose fat and hit your goals. It's up to you, after all. But either way - Cheers!