We are just over a week from Thanksgiving, and just over a month from Christmas….the holidays are officially upon us!
This is hands down my favorite my time of year…
Everyone instantly becomes “THANKFUL” (I wish this happened far more often)…
Everyone gets in the spirit of GIVING (I wish this happened more often too)….
And….well…..there is also A LOT of alcohol consumption that is likely to happen 🙂
Clearly, because this is a nutrition blog, we should probably talk about the drinks you are likely to have, and how they will affect your progress….agreed?
Awesome – let’s not waste time and jump in 🙂
The goal of this article is to help you understand that you CAN drink and still results, but that it may not be as simple as many “experts” are claiming it to be.
It’s no secret at this point that you CAN “track alcohol within your numbers”. I put this in quotations, because this statement needs to be understood with several caveats. Calorie for calorie, alcohol can be accounted for relatively simply. If you know how many calories your alcoholic beverage has, you can simply remove those calories from your fat or carb prescription. Examples:
Let’s assume your alcoholic beverage has 200 calories…
If you would like to subtract this from your carbs, take 200 and divide it by 4 (a carb has 4 cal/g) which will yield 50. Subtract 50g carbs from your daily intake and you have now accounted for your beverage.
If you would like to subtract this from your fats, take 200 and divide it by 9 (a fat has 9 cal/g) which will yield 22.2. Subtract 23g fat from your daily intake and you have now accounted for your beverage.
This is not new information, and has been included in several articles across the interwebs for the past few years.
Unfortunately, as with most things that hit the internet, I do not believe that this is the whole truth…it’s just not this simple.
WE MUST GO BEYOND THE NUMBERS
While the industry will have you believe that “numbers” are the only thing needed to achieve fat loss, we know that it goes much deeper.
Even in a dietary process that does not include alcohol, we know that we need to account for things like:
• Hormonal status
• Energy expenditure
And when we look at alcohol consumption, we know that it directly affects each of these variables beyond simply what is “normal” for a typical fat loss process.
Research is clear, alcohol consumption WILL impact testosterone production.
To be fair, this effect is acute, but it must be observed.
When testosterone production is decreased, two major things happen:
1 – Your body will not hold, or build as much lean tissue as it would when it’s hormone production is optimal.
2 – Your metabolic rate will decline.
Clearly, neither of these are optimal, and will result in difficulty when pursuing fat loss.
It is important to remember that there are 4 components to the Total Daily Energy Expenditure composition:
• Thermic Effect of Food
• Exercise Activity (Thermogenesis)
• Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
Note that two of those items are ACTIVITY RELATED.
Alcohol, even in the smallest quantities, can impair performance in and out of the gym. And while you may not be at all concerned with “performance” as one of your goals, you must consider that your ability to create caloric expenditure WILL MATTER when you are trying to create fat loss.
Remember, the fundamentals of fat loss are simple – Calories IN vs Calories OUT → We must observe the caloric expenditure part of the equation as much as we continue to emphasize the caloric intake part.
Another fundamental element of body transformation is as follows: “every dose of stress imposed on the body must receive a subsequent dose of recovery” – this is non-negotiable.
If you follow this blog at all, you know that this recovery can come in many forms – from adequate calorie intake to proper carbohydrate timing, but the single most important factor is getting adequate SLEEP.
Unfortunately, even one drink can disturb a normal sleep pattern. No big deal right? Well, until you consider the fact that the pursuit of body transformation is already an intentional movement towards under recovery…..calorie deficits, extra output, etc….
In an ideal world, as we become leaner we should actually be able to sleep more to help offset the natural metabolic adaptations that will occur. Unfortunately our natural physiology tends to work against us here, creating sympathetic nervous system activation and making it naturally more difficult to rest and recover.
Add in some alcohol consumption…and….well…..you get the point 😉
SO WHAT DO WE DO????
Listen, this article is not being written to scare you….quite the opposite in fact. This article is here to bring you THE TRUTH….something that most media outlets do not necessarily like to present.
FACT – YOU CAN ACCOUNT FOR ALCOHOL IN YOUR MACROS
ALSO FACT – THERE IS AN EFFECT BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Ultimately, what you have read to this point is INFORMATION, it is your choice what you do with that information.
I firmly believe that moderation will yield to long term success…..and while patience isn’t everyone’s strong suit, it certainly will serve you best when looking for body transformation.
In terms of actionable items that you can move forward with, I highly recommend the following:
1 – account for your alcohol inside of your macros – quantity is still king
2 – don’t drink too often – acute hormonal fluctuations WILL become chronic
3 – prioritize NEAT – if we know that output will be impaired following alcohol consumption, logically we can add in some extra non exercise activity to help offset this
4 – RECOVER – perhaps consider 1-2 extra recovery modalities to help offset the lack of quality sleep that will follow alcohol consumption.
As we move towards the holidays, alcohol will undeniably be a part of your menu. Hopefully the tips above help you enjoy a few drinks, and still enjoy some progress towards your fitness goals 🙂