“Are They As Bad As You Think?”
The subject and information in this article may seem negative or depressing at first, but it’s very appropriate for this time of year.
Plus, we’ve been bombarded with questions regarding the subject of alcohol and fat loss, so we wanted to take the time to answer all these questions.
There’s actually a very positive long term take-away at the end of this article, so take this information seriously because it can really make the difference.
We give you a list of action steps that you can pro-actively start taking today. Whether you’re a beer lover or just a social drinker, these action steps will help you on your fitness journey.
Ok, time for the negative and depressing stuff first.
Aside from the fact that alcohol decreases reaction time, slows muscle contraction, digestion and thinking, people perceive it to be a stimulant.
That’s probably because it knocks down your inhibitions and makes you act like an idiot. Even though I do like to drink occasionally, my opinion is there’s very little to be said for the positive “benefits” of alcohol.
Although many of us have our “moments” where we celebrate a little too much, lets look at what it does to you nutritionally.
Alcohol is a carbohydrate, or a simple sugar, void of any vitamins or minerals. Since it is a carbohydrate, one ounce of alcohol provides 70 calories. The problem arises because these calories don’t have any vitamins or minerals so the alcoholic finds his hunger satisfied without ever getting proper nourishment leading to serious deficiencies.
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 so it actually enters the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach as opposed to most nutrients, which are absorbed in the small intestine. 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?
But wait! There’s still 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”.
We’ve already educated you on how simple sugars impact insulin and fat mobilization.
Alcohol is the equivalent of the most notorious simple sugar, carrying with it all of these other dastardly effects. 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 since, it spares all other nutrients that follow it.
When calories are prevented from being used as food, what do they likely become? You know the answer by now. 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 you might even have ;-), the first thing they wanted to do when the excitement slowed was EAT!
So is alcohol really a stimulant? By now you should see that it isn’t, and in addition to all the effects listed above, it does a number on your motivation and sense of well-being. Of course, this is what we call the famous “hangover”.
Can you drink alcohol and still stay lean?
In the final analysis, this topic seems to be a common struggle I hear from a lot of people…they want to get lean and stay lean, but they don’t want to give up drinking alcohol.
Will a few beers during the football game destroy your fitness program? Probably not. It comes down to a matter of commitment. If you are totally committed to health and fitness, you will probably minimize your alcohol intake.
You’ve heard rumors of the positive cardiovascular effects a daily glass of wine might have because of the antioxidants. Just remember, you can get these antioxidants in many supplements and even from whole food sources without getting all the sugar from the red wine.
If you enjoy an occasional drink or two, that’s fine. Just be aware of the whole picture when alcohol enters your system.
First, I think the best thing anyone can do is live alcohol free until you reach your initial goals or a maintenance type of schedule and then add alcohol back in 1 or 2 times per week in moderation.
The second best option is to limit alcohol intake to once a week after the first 4 weeks of beginning any serious fat loss lifestyle.
I believe most of us can drink in moderation, and still stay perfectly healthy and lean after some initial sacrifice to get to our goals, but there are a few tricks that can help you to not pack on the pounds.
Alcohol Intake Damage Control Plan
1. 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.
2. 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.
Just like we explained above, too many carbs + alcohol intake = “fat-spill-over”.
3. Make sure you stay away from syrupy, fruity drinks that are loaded with sugar…this has a two fold 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 or lemon juice is my favorite, but I make sure I 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 this, but tonic water is loaded with almost as much sugar as regular pop and club soda has no calories at all.
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.
4. Try to get in a high intensity full body workout or some type of GL-12 or HIIT 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.
5. 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.
There’s also been plenty of times late at night when I will prepare a whey protein shake with natural peanut butter to help “fill me up” because I didn’t have any other food planned ahead. It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s better than eating junk.
6. 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”.
Please leave us a comment and let us know how you liked this article.
Happy New Year!
Shaun and The GL-12 Team
P.S. As far as smoking, how does lung cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, pulmonary disease, emphysema, backing cough, nicotine breath, stained teeth, respiratory illness, throat cancer, and even death sound? Although I’m guilty of an occasional cigar, that’s all I have to say about smoking.
P.P.S. Before the end of this week I’m going to share an aggressive approach to lose 7 to 10 pounds the first 7 to 14 days of 2010. If you’re anything like us, your body and Leptin levels are “primed” to burn fat next week. You don’t want to miss out on this fat burning window.