“But what about alcohol?”
“Will having a round of drinks on a weekend stall my progress?”
“I’m losing fat too slowly, is alcohol to blame?”
These are just some of the questions we get quite often – undoubtedly, alcohol is a hot topic! With some of the first boozy beverages having been introduced in early Egyptian civilization, it’s easy to see how long humanity’s relationship with alcohol is. It’s ingrained in many cultures to have a celebratory drink for special occasions, to have a glass of wine with dinner, or to have a few beers with colleagues after work.
At BBR, we’re all about balance and making fitness fit into your lifestyle. So, we can’t solve the “to drink or not to drink” dilemma for you. However, as we often get asked about incorporating alcohol into one’s routine and the effects it may have, we feel compelled to provide the information so you can make more informed decisions.
Can alcohol be good for you?
There are many beliefs floating around, such as “a glass of wine per day is good for your heart” and “drinkers live longer”. It doesn’t help that some of those statements are seemingly backed up by research, hence the “Scientists discovered…” headlines with poor interpretations.
However, most studies only find links – not causation. Could red wine drinkers have better heart health because they generally have higher income? Do those living long lives really do it because of consuming alcohol? We will never know definitive answers because of the research designs employed.
What we do know is that a recent global study combining data from hundreds of available studies on effects of alcohol found that the safest level of drinking is abstinence, and alcohol consumption has no proven health benefits whatsoever.
So, whilst safe drinking guidelines do exist, their purpose is to minimise the harms, not to establish benefits.
Bottom line: whilst there are safe levels of alcohol consumption, no amount of alcohol is good for your health. Enjoy alcoholic beverages responsibly if you choose to do so, but do not expect them to prolong your life or otherwise benefit your wellbeing.
Alcohol and training
Now that we’re past the grim stuff, let us confirm consuming alcohol as such isn’t going to ruin your progress! If you’re someone who enjoys occasional social drinking, cutting it out completely can put you in a deprivation mindset. This isn’t good, and as you’ve probably noticed, we are strongly against falling into the trap of black and white thinking!
In saying that, if you’re currently at the very beginning of your journey or are preparing for an important event (e.g. comp) that is coming soon, it may be advisable to cut alcohol out temporarily for maximum progress. As Rachel likes saying, “big results equal big changes”!
Otherwise, you can incorporate alcohol into your plan by keeping the following in mind:
- 1 g of alcohol contains 7 kcal – and most beverages contain 10-30 g, which means 70-210 calories per drink. It’s easy to see how on a night out, a few rounds of drinks can easily push you over your energy budget for the day.
- Then, there are mixers! For instance, cocktails often contain syrups, juices, soft drinks…you name it! A standard Margarita on the rocks contains over 450 kcal, for example, so having a few can easily equate to your daily calorie allowance.
- It also doesn’t help that alcohol calories are prioritised as fuel over other energy sources, like your own fat storages, due to the way alcohol is metabolised. Until the alcohol is out of the system, fat burning is pretty much put on hold.
- Being tipsy can lead to poor choices, including nutrition. It’s a good idea to nibble while (and before) drinking, but do you really need an entire pizza and a caramel sundae? Alcohol says yes, and it’s probably wrong.
- It also appears that alcohol can reduce muscle protein synthesis, potentially impairing muscle growth if consumed regularly.
Bottom line: if consumed frequently and excessively, alcohol can hinder progress in a variety of ways – so keep it in mind and plan ahead!
Tips for safer drinking
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach! Food slows down alcohol metabolism, helping you avoid getting too tipsy too quickly.
- Stick to lower calorie options, such as vodka soda - but remember, “low calorie” still doesn’t mean “calorie-free”
- Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and follow each alcoholic drink with a glass of water
- Sip your drink slowly to stretch it further
- Avoid having more than 4 standard drinks on any occasion as it is associated with acute health risks, which can be serious (ideally, stick to under 2 standard drinks and have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week)
To consume alcohol or not is a personal decision, but either way, it can be a part of a balanced lifestyle! Use the tips above to make informed decisions and stay safe.