Alcohol is often made out to be the bad guy when it comes to fat gain, belly fat, etc. Many of us are led to believe that alcohol(like bread and sugar) are “bad” foods. But as with bread & sugar….everything in moderation is fine. The problem comes from overconsumption of calories overall. If you’ve been following me for awhile you know that I preach finding a sustainable approach to nutrition that works for you and your lifestyle….and for many of us this means the occasional adult beverage. So...is it possible to hit your fitness goals and STILL meet your girlfriends at a winery or enjoy some drinks on a first date? Absolutely.
First things first: The Facts
It’s important to note that while alcohol has no added nutritional value it also doesn’t inherently CAUSE fat gain outside of overconsumption of calories. And while alcohol can impact recovery it also CAN fit into a fully well rounded diet and healthy lifestyle. Aka you CAN lose weight & drink alcohol.
In order to lose fat overall you need to be in a calorie deficit(eat less calories than your body burns throughout the day). The only way to gain fat then is to consume too many calories in general regardless of where those calories come from(alcohol, bread, or “healthy” foods).
Want to know how to find your calorie deficit? Click here
Alcohol also does not fall into one of our 3 primary macronutrient groups(carbs, protein & fats). Because of this, it is very easy to over consume as it has no nutritional value and is naturally not as filling.
BUT overall as long as you are fitting alcohol into your total daily deficit calories, you can absolutely still lose weight & drink alcohol. Bring on the wine!
Gut Check Time:
As with most things, moderation will be key to losing weight while drinking alcohol. This is where it’s time to have a Come to Jesus Moment and set some priorities. If you’re not willing to give up your 3 beers after work every night the reality is, you likely won’t see the progress you want to make. It’s decision time. Are you ready to commit to lifestyle changes and reduce your alcohol consumption to something more moderate in order to lose the weight? This is YOUR choice but if you’re frustrated with the results not happening and you haven’t modified your alcohol intake at all... it might be time to stop the complaining.
You’re ready to commit and make some adjustments? Amazing! I’m so proud of you. Committing to change is the hardest part. Now that you’re all in….
A few Simple ways to consume alcohol and still hit your goals:
1. Set bright lines!!
If you’re someone’s whose social life revolves around drinking, this section is for you. I get it, my social calendar is pretty full of events centered around alcohol as well. Setting bright lines for these social events can really help.
What is a bright line?
A bright line is a firm boundary around something that you will not break. It removes all of the grey area. Since you’ve already made the decision on how to handle something, you won’t have to rely on willpower or motivation in the moment to make the decision you’d be more proud of.
A few possible bright lines surrounding alcohol: “I will only have 2 glasses of wine tonight”. “I want a few margs so I’ll say no to the chips and salsa”. “I’ll have one “fun” drink and then switch to something lower calorie”.
These may seem like small things but they will add up BIG time if you stick to them. Bonus points for having that little voice in the back of your head saying “You already decided this wasn’t happening” to hold you accountable after a few drinks when your decision making skills go out the window a bit….
2. Pre-log your drinks:
It’s a bummer but unfortunately alcohol DOES have calories in it and you DO need to track these calories to ensure you’re staying within your deficit. Tracking your drinks in advance in your calorie counting app can help you 1. Stick to your plan of how many drinks you’re having and 2. Plan the rest of your day of eating around these drinks. This way you know forsure that you are staying within your deficit calories for the day.
Most calorie counting apps will have basic forms of every drink with calorie info already included. For common alcohol brands you may even be able to scan the bottle and get more exact! Bonus points for getting your food scale out to get SUPER accurate with your wine pours :)
*Side note: Alcohol ultimately lowers your inhibitions which can cause you to make less nutritious food choices than you typically would. Know yourself. If you’re always going for the late night pizza, track that in advance to. It’s better to OVER estimate calories you’ll be consuming than under.*
3. Stick to lower calorie drinks and mixers:
Calories from alcohol add up quick but a lot of times there are additional calories hiding in the mixers. Stick to lower calorie mixers or “plain” drinks when you can. Things like:
-Dry white or red wines
-Vodka or tequila with soda water
-Hard liquor with diet soda
Pro tip: if it has a ton of ingredients or is a pre-made mix(looking at you tub of margaritas) it’s likely higher in calories. Opt for 1-2 of these before switching to something lower calorie. Bonus points for having less of a hangover without all the added sugar :)
4. Stay hydrated:
My friends have coined it the “sweatsimple drinking method” but a glass of water with every drink is key. It won’t make you less drunk but it WILL make you significantly more hydrated and your likelihood of a hangover the next day is a lot less. It’s not magic but it can help with recovery the next day so you’re not a total POS after enjoying a few drinks :)
In summary, can you lose weight and still drink alcohol? Yes, as long as you stay within a calorie deficit. Is it recommended to enjoy large amounts of alcohol every week while trying to lose fat? No, moderation will be key here.
Have more questions on this topic? Shoot me an email! Interested in a customized nutrition plan to help you reach your unique goals? Apply for coaching here.