Bad news first…
One gram of alcohol yields approximately 7 calories, almost twice as much as protein and carbs. From a health standpoint, these calories are empty and useless. Alcohol is such a simple sugar that it actually enters the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach as opposed to most nutrients, which are absorbed in the small intestine.
Alcohol decreases reaction time, slows muscle contraction, digestion and thinking. It knocks down your inhibitions and makes you act like an idiot. Even though we do like to drink occasionally, there’s very little to be said for the positive “benefits” of alcohol. This quick absorption explains why you may feel the effects of alcohol shortly after having just one or two shots.
It also goes directly to work on the central nervous system and starts to damage valuable brain cells. So far alcohol consumption doesn’t seem like the greatest idea in the world, does it?
Ready for more???
Alcohol damages these brain cells by withdrawing water that is essential for cellular health. Next, it moves on to other cells in your body, which leads to dehydration. That’s the primary reason you’ll get the famous “hang-over-headache”.
Alcohol is the equivalent of the most notorious simple sugar. It requires no digestion. It is a form of fuel, but in this case, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Your cells uptake it because it is so simple. Your body will use it for fuel before using other carbs, proteins, or ingested fats. It is considered “nutrient sparing.” Since it becomes the quickest available food source, it spares all other nutrients that follow it.
If calories are prevented from being used as food, what do they likely become? You guessed it… accumulated body fat stores!
If you’re trying to reduce body fat, you should also know that alcohol is very rapidly synthesized into triglycerides and stored as fat. It is also an appetite inducer! If anyone you know has ever gotten drunk (l would presume that even you might have), the first thing they wanted to do when the excitement slowed was EAT!
So…can you really drink alcohol and be lean???
People want to get lean and stay lean, but they don’t want to give up drinking alcohol. It comes down to a matter of commitment. If you are totally committed to health and fitness, you will probably minimize your alcohol intake.
If you enjoy an occasional drink or two, that’s fine. Just be aware of the whole picture when alcohol enters your system.
You can drink in moderation, and still stay perfectly healthy and lean after some initial sacrifice to get to your goals, but there are a few tricks that can help you not pack on the pounds.
Get plenty of water to prevent the dehydration. If you decide to drink beer after working up a sweat, I suggest killing your thirst with a few large glasses of water first. Or if you pull a late-nighter, make sure you have damage control in place by drinking extra water before bed and having a water bottle by your nightstand.
If you know you’re going to consume more alcohol than you’re supposed to, it helps to make sure that dinner is based only around protein and vegetables. Eating a good portion of appetite-satisfying protein along with nutrient-rich vegetables can help to control your appetite and give your body the nutrients it needs. As explained above, too many carbs + alcohol intake = “fat-spill-over”.
Make sure you stay away from syrupy, fruity drinks that are loaded with sugar. This has a twofold negative effect for your belly and butt fat. You’re not only getting all of the empty alcohol calories, but also loads of empty sugar calories. These drinks can have as much as 500-600 calories per serving! The best thing to do is stick with a clear alcohol mixed with water or club soda. Vodka with fresh squeezed grapefruit, orange or lemon is yummy, but make sure to add water too. Another option is vodka with club soda and extra lemon/lime. This is easier if you’re at a restaurant, bar, or nightclub. Also, most people don’t realize that tonic water is loaded with just as much sugar as soda pop. Stick with club soda because it contains zero calories. If you’re a beer drinker, you’re better off choosing just 1 or 2 dark beers rather than 5 or 6 light beers. Although dark beers have more calories than light beers, they also have more B vitamins and antioxidants than light beers, so you actually get more nutrition from the dark beer. As long as you keep it to just 1 or 2 dark beers you’ll be ok, but if you go beyond that you should start counting calories and go with a low-calorie light beer option instead.
Try to get in a high intensity, full body workout before your night out of drinking or socializing. This is always a great way get your metabolic rate cranking for some extra damage control. Also make sure to get in some long duration cardio the morning after your night out along with extra water intake. Your energy will probably stink, that’s why you should stick with lower intensity and focus on sweating and rehydrating.
Avoid late night fast food or junk food after drinking. This will sabotage your fat loss efforts big-time! The worst thing for your body is loading up on burger, fries, pizza, ice cream, or other junk foods after consuming alcohol. The best method is to plan ahead. Make sure you have an alternative healthy option planned ahead of time so when you get home you can heat it up and satisfy your late-night cravings.
Make sure you consume extra water and nutrient rich vitamins, anti-oxidants, and food sources the following morning. Alcohol is very good at depleting your body of the vitamins and minerals we need to be healthy and feel normal, so it’s important to replenish these key compounds to help us recover.
Although ridding alcohol intake from our lives is definitely the BEST option, we also have to be realistic. Most people are going to consume some type of alcohol at least socially. If that’s you, why not do it the healthiest way possible and keep yourself on track by using the steps above? This is also a great way to possibly prevent a “hang-over”.