Let’s be honest, getting a buzz on is really FUN, but just like anything else it has its drawbacks as well. Let’s weigh the pros and the cons and then you can make an informed fat loss decision from there!
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and if you’ve been following me for a while now you’re aware that protein and carbs clock in at 4 calories per gram while fat sits at 9 calories per gram.
How does that look in the real world…?
1oz shot - 100 calories
5oz glass wine – 125 calories
12oz 5% beer – 150 calories
Personally I’m a beer guy, I absolutely love the stuff and not so much Budweiser or Corona, I dig the taste of hoppy IPA’s that pack a seriously boozy punch! Keep in mind that the higher the percentage the beer, the higher the caloric content and that goes for wine as well. Some wine is 9 or 10% alcohol while others are upwards of 14 or 15% and the latter contains more calories.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the calorie content of some of our favourite bevies, let’s glance at how booze relates to nutrition, movement, sleep and ultimately our behavior because all this stuff plays a role when fat loss is your goal ;)
Alcohol + Nutrition
Some folks tend to eat quite a bit more when they drink and others seem to be turned off of food completely and would rather just sip and socialize. It’s important to know yourself and your tendencies when it comes to how food and alcohol interplay in your life. Something I’ve noticed with clients is that certain types of booze may stimulate their appetites more than others. For example…
You may find that wine has you want to crush an entire charcuterie board but if you’re drinking beer you feel fairly full and simply aren’t all that interested in food. This is an important distinction because of course the calories that are in the booze you’re drinking matter, however how that alcohol impacts your appetite matters as well. A few 6% beers (360 calories) are higher in calories than a single 11% glass of wine (125 calories) or even two (250 calories) but if the wine has you eat an additional 600 calories via getting snacky, the beer may be a better call!
Now nobody makes better food decisions when they’re drunk or hung-over so how much total alcohol you drink is going to impact your food choices acutely (while you’re tipsy) as well as the following day(s).
When I’ve had more than a couple wobbly pops I’m WAY more likely to hit a pizza joint for a few slices on the way home from the bar and realistically when I get home I’ll probably scrounge through the cupboards and the fridge post pizza as well!
The next day if that pizza didn’t soak up all the alcohol and rid me of a hangover like I willed it to, I’m much more likely to order in or go grab something quick and easy because I’ve got a headache and I don’t feel like cooking! Am I grabbing a healthful version of chipotle or a poke bowl…ha, nah, it’s a 1000+ calorie brunch!
All of a sudden one night out turns into a couple slices of post-bar Hawaiian, whatever I can get my hands on when I get home and usually another super calorie dense brunch in hopes of bringing me back to baseline.
Alcohol + Workouts/Movement:
Working out sucks when you’re hungover…shit often a long walk is a struggle when you’re feeling rough around the edges so keep in mind that how much you drink also impacts your behavior on the movement front…the couch just becomes a whole lot more appealing when you’re feeling tired or nauseous and we expend fewer calories watching Netflix than we do when we’re on the go walking…shocker I know.
For instance, instead of getting your regular 8-10,000 steps daily, you barely leave the house so you clock in right around 2,000. That’s a BIG difference in calories burned not to mention how creaky your body feels at the end of a lazy couch day like that!
So far we’ve got more calories consumed via booze and food and less calories burned from lack of activity…not a fat loss recipe in the slightest.
Alcohol + Sleep:
Wobbly pops impair sleep quality and research shows very clearly that lesser quality sleep equates to higher calorie food decisions. Also going to bed a lot later than you usually do is going to throw off your circadian rhythm, so if you stay out late on Saturday night and hit the hay around 2 instead of 11…it’s going to be much harder to fall asleep on Sunday night. That then means you’re going to feel tired come Monday morning and chances are you might not feel fully like ‘yourself’ until Tuesday or Wednesday.
When I was in my early to mid-twenties I could bounce back after a big night out no problemo…nowadays it takes me 2-3 days to get right, 32 isn’t that old is it?
Alcohol + Social Connection
This is a BIG ‘check’ in the pro column for alcohol…up to a point of course! Getting wasted and not remembering half of your conversations sort of wipes out the social connection piece but having a few drinks with friends, laughing, telling stories and making fun of each other is no doubt one of the funnest things in the world!!
Lack of social connection has been shown to be as detrimental to health as smoking a pack a day…so if you’re worried about the calories in a couple drinks and therefore being a bit of a hermit and not ‘filling’ your social connection bucket, that’s a net loss in my book.
We’re social creatures and connection is essential to our overall health. I’m not saying that you can’t connect without booze…hell coffee, lunch, or just going for a walk with a friend will do too but just be sure to stay connected regardless of your body composition goals.
Think big picture.
Zero Calorie Mixers: Skip calorie dense pops, juices and syrups and opt for zero calorie mixers if you like spirits.
Plan Movement: If you’re heading out on Friday night, plan something active with a friend for the following morning like a hike or a nice long walk, it’ll keep you accountable. Preferably plan with a friend that wasn’t out with you the night prior ;)
Move Asap: If you didn’t plan anything, get up and go for a walk as soon as possible as it’ll help brush off the cobwebs from your night out.
Convenience Food: Have the food you WANT to eat prepped and ready to go for when you’re not feeling your best the day after your fiesta. The key here is to make it easy to eat the foods you want to eat and hard to eat the foods you don’t want to eat…we’re creatures of convenience.
Skip Last Call: The following morning have you ever regretted opting out of that last drink? Didn’t think so!
Start Early, Finish Early: Building off of the last tip, the earlier you start and stop drinking the better because like we just chatted about, booze impairs sleep quality…I know what you’re thinking and yes, I just made a case for happy hour :)
DD: If you don’t want to drink for whatever reason but tend to feel a bit of pressure or just highly tempted when you go out, drive, it’s one of the only excuses no one can argue with.
Alcohol contains calories in itself which can impair fat loss if it throws off your caloric balance for the week, however that’s only one piece of the puzzle. How that given amount and type of alcohol impacts your food and movement behaviours as well as your sleep quality factors into the overall equation as well.
Having said that social connection is extremely important to whole body health too, so alcohol can play a potential beneficial role here but by no means is it required. The truth is you’re just going to have to balance all of the factors at play and make an informed decision from there based on your goals and the lifestyle you’d like to lead.