How to lose fat #2: Drink alcohol and lose fat?

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Can you drink alcohol and lose fat? Can you do body building while still having a drink every weekend? Can you put on muscle and still drink? These questions and more is what everyone ponders in a world where 99% of people drink some alcoholic beverage. The short answer is both yes you can lose fat while drinking alcohol, do body building and gain muscle, and no that you can’t.

First the bad news. Alcohol, when ingested, is converted into substance by the liver called acetate. When you ingest alcohol, the alcohol is what is now being used for energy until it is out of your system. This means your carbohydrates and fats will not be used for all your energy requirements. Not only that but alcohol can be a pain with you craving more carbohydrate type foods. If you ever have a good night out drinking and then a few hours later you feel like you want a pizza or something starchy, then alcohol is a good answer as to why that is (33).

Lastly, alcohol is a diuretic. This means that it will dehydrate you.

Want some good news? Alcohol actually can be beneficial in ways. The alcohol red wine can have cardiovascular benefits (1,2). “Long-term alcohol intake can decrease the total amount of food consumed when food is freely available and the alcoholic individual is often held accountable for their irregular eating behavior.” (33). Alcohol can actually improve insulin sensitivity which means that it could help with diabetics and non-diabetics alike by better glycemic control (34).

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Alcohol can actually increase testosterone levels which means that, although you might not be burning off fat, you will be building muscle if you ingest alcohol after your workout, in fact “significantly for 140-300 min post exercise” (35).

Finally alcohol has a pretty significant thermic effect, meaning it takes a bit of energy to digest. So alcohol, while it is commonly accepted that it is roughly 7 calories, it is actually 5.7 calories.

The question now is how do you still have a good time out in that special occasion having a drink, gain all the benefits of alcohol whilst negating the negative effects? First is choosing your alcohol, second is when to take it, third is how much to take and fourth is what to eat on the day you decide to drink.

Choosing your alcohol

Wine would be the best choice, after that would be beers, and finally all the other liquor. The reason being is that wine, we already know does offer cardiovascular benefits, but it also has the least amount of calories. Beer comes 2nd with the least amount of calories and finally the other types of liquor confer the most calories. You just have to bear in mind that you can still have the other liquors available but you just have to keep a much closer eye on your intake of them.

When to drink up and live it up

We already know that alcohol can improve the glycemic control but in turn can increase your appetite. We also know that alcohol can actually improve testosterone levels in modest amounts. So the solution to help control appetite would be to drink your alcohol with your food.

Drinking with your meal not only helps keep the appetite down, but it can also improve your food being ingested, and with the added effect of alcohol taking quite a bit of energy to digest, the food along with it means that your metabolism will be raised at least for a little while. We know that ingestion of alcohol after a workout will increase testosterone too so it makes sense to try and have a workout at least a good hour or so before you decide to go drink.

How much to drink and how frequently

I know that from looking at the benefits of alcohol intake you may think that it might be a good idea to just go crazy, binge, and drink every day. After all, a good boost in testosterone means results for muscle and in turn that means a better body too. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

Alcohol does have benefits but only if you drink moderately and drink once in awhile. An example is that if you drink 30-40g of alcoholic beverage a day, which is the equivalent to roughly 3 beers or 15 ounces of wine your testosterone can drop. In fact it can drop by as much as 7% at the 3 week mark of continual drinking (37).

Binge drinking on the night you decide to go and finally have the good stuff is equally bad. A study shows that 1.5kg of alcohol per gram of bodyweight (which is an insane amount), had their testosterone levels drop by 23%. It even made their cortisol levels elevated by as much as 36%! Cortisol is a stress hormone in our body that breaks down muscle and that stores fat. How long did it take for these dazzling negative effects to occur? 10-16 hours! (38).

How about post workout? Wouldn’t that negate the effects of binge drinking if you drank immediately after? As mentioned, drinking after a workout can have good effects if the drinking is reasonable, but it will have deleterious effects if you go overboard. Your testosterone WILL go down if you decide to binge drink after a workout to the same point that you’ll binge drink at any other time. That means your hard work for fat loss or even muscle gain will actually be almost for nothing (39).

So how much is a reasonable amount? 60-70grams of alcohol is good and there isn’t any affect on testosterone significantly decreasing when drank after training (40). Of course in knowing this, you will still have to calculate roughly how much alcohol is good enough to drink in terms of how many calories you are intaking also. So bottom line? Don’t drink too frequently and don’t binge drink! Drinking 60-70 grams of alcohol for the night that you do won’t be severe.

What to eat on the day that you decide to drink

The last thing that needs to be considered will be your eating plan on the day that you decide to drink. The best plan I can give is to limit your carbohydrate consumption because of the fact that the alcohol intake will make you want to have some, to decrease your fat intake, because the alcohol will impair your body’s ability to metabolize fat freely since the alcohol also is now what your body is going to be using for it’s energy needs for your activity for the dance floor or whatever shenanigan you decide to get up to that night, and to focus on protein since protein is much more satisfying in terms of controlling your appetite and it has a huge thermic effect (it takes a lot more energy to digest) so you’re getting the double whammy of increasing your metabolism. What you should focus on eating this day is lean meats and vegetables. When you do decide to go out and drink, if you can help it, then go somewhere where you can eat mostly meat and vegetables. If you cannot then just remember the rule to eat protein first, carbohydrates 2nd and please control how much you intake.

Use your portion control. When you do this you’ll be able to get the benefit that the alcohol is being used for your energy source (and since carbohydrates and fats aren’t going to be used for your energy source and alcohol is, they’ll be stored as fat), you’ll still be getting your daily needs with your proteins and vegetables, and you can be a bit more lenient with the drinking since lean meats are lesser in calories than the fatty meat (albeit it has less nutrients than fatty meat but the vegetables times infinity is going to at least take care of a few things), and thus still have a great time in the occasion you do drink and you’ll burn fat the next day.

Final note

When drinking and using a strategy to let the alcohol be of benefit to you as you read here in this article, being lean, which means having low body fat percentages, will be also one of the determining factors of just how beneficial alcohol drinking can be to your weight loss goals. If you are very overweight then you must EARN your right to drink and that means cutting out the alcohol until you do get into a good body fat percentile range. For everyone else, happy drinking!

References

  1. Kokavec, A. (2008). Is decreased appetite for food a physiological consequence of alcohol consumption?

  2. Arima, H., Kiyohara, Y., Kato, I., Tanizaki, Y., Kubo, M., Iwamoto, H., Tanaka, K., Abe, I., Fujishima, M. (2002). Alcohol reduces insulin-hypertension relationship in a general population: the Hisayama study.

  3. Vingren, J.L., Hill, D.W., Buddhadev, H., Duplanty, A. (2013). Postresistance exercise ethanol ingestion and acute testosterone bioavailability.

  4. Suter, P.M., Jequier, E., Schutz, Y. (1994). Effect of ethanol on energy expenditure.

  5. Sierksma, A., Sarkola, T., Eriksson, C.J., van der Gaag, M.S., Grobbee, D.E., Hendriks, H.F. (2004). Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on plasma dehydropiandrosterone sulfate, testosterone, and estradiol levels in middle-aged men and postmenopausal women: a diet-controlled intervention study.

  6. Valimaki, M., Tuominen, J.A., Huhtaniemi, I., Ylikahri, R. (1990). The pulsatile secretion of gonadotropins and growth hormone, and the biologival activity of luteinizing hormone in men acutely intoxicated with ethanol.

  7. Heikkonen, E., Ylikahri, R., Roine, R., Valimaki, M, Harkonen M., Salaspuro, M. (1996). The combined effect of alcohol and physical exercise on serum testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and corisol in males.

  8. Koziris, L.P., Kraemer, W.J., Gordon, S.E., Incledon, T., Knuttgen, H.G. (1985). Effect of acute postexercise ethanol intoxication on the neuroendocrine response to resistance exercise.

    1. Huang, P.H., Chen, Y.H., Tsai, H.Y., Chen, J.S., Wu, T.C., Lin, F.Y., Sata, M., Chen, J.W., Lin, S.J. (2010). Intake of red wine increases the number and functional capacity of circulating endothelial progenitor cells by enhancing nitric oxide bioavailability.

    2. Chiva-Blanch, G., Urpi-sarda, M., Ros, E., Arranz, S., Valderas-Martinez, P., Casas, R., Sacanella, E., Llorach, R., Lamuela-Raventos, R.M., Andres-Lacueva, C., Estruch, R. Dealcoholized red wine decreases systolic and diastolic blood pressure and increases plasma nitric oxide: Short communication.

 

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3 Comments

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    Reply Reply February 18, 2014

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