If you are still unsure of how to best track alcohol and/or if you continue to have questions about how alcohol consumption is impacting your ability to achieve your goals, well … keep reading!
In this blog I’m going to tackle how to calculate and account for going out and enjoying your favorite adult beverages, the impact alcohol has on your body and health when it comes to weight, hangovers, hydration, muscle protein synthesis, your hormones, training and MUCH MORE.
First of all, it’s important to understand that your body identifies alcohol as a toxin, and what it essentially does is …
It shuts down metabolic processes of h hormones and other things in the liver to deal with this ‘foreign substance.’
What do you start to notice when you begin consuming alcohol?
* Your mouth gets numb
* Your face gets flushed
* You make more trips to the bathroom
* This is because your body is trying to get the substance OUT!
As you continue reading, I’m going to share with you the education, as well as provide suggestions for those of you in a fat loss phase, and …
Provide my input on how often a person could consume alcohol weekly, depending on their overall health.
Now whether you are a drinker or you aren’t a drink, this is still very valuable information I’ll be sharing here with you.
So let me start with what is almost always everyones #1 question and that is …
“Hey Coach, can I just track it and I’ll be fine?”
The short, simple answer is, “No.”
With everybody tracking their macronutrients, most people will just look at a label and say, “All right, the label says it has this many grams of carbohydrate, so I’m just going to track it as that many grams of carbohydrate.”
What you need to be mindful of is the amount of calories in that particular drink you are consuming.
Fo example, I was over at a friends house the other day and he happened to have some alcoholic drinks in his cooler. He picks one up, I think it was around 7 grams or 10 grams of carbs. He asked me if he could simply track that drink based the number of grams that were on the label. I told that was not correct and what he needed to track was the TOTAL calories in the particular drink. So we looked up the total calories and found that to be 130. So I said to him, “Well, you have to get the calories from somewhere, whether you decide to take it all out of your carbs, or if you decide to take some of it from carbs and some of it from fats. Either way, you have to account for the total 130 calories.”
So, you can’t track just track and forget about it. You have to be sure you are tracking properly.
Then there are the extremists … and I really want you to be aware of this as well. I’ve had someone ask me, “Hey, Will, I have a high carb day coming up, and I want to go out with my buddies. Can I just have all this carbohydrate from beer?” My response? “Dude, NO! You can’t have beer and think that is a solid replacement for good food that’s actually going to give your body glycogen.”
As long as you track the overall calories, and you’re young, and you’re healthy, in many cases, you’ll be able to metabolize it fine and can move on with your day.
The next question I’m asked often is if it’s better to drink once per week, or maybe five times per week, maybe four times per week? What I would actually recommend, if I had to recommend one of these options, would be for you to go out on a Saturday and drink until you get the job done, whatever that job is for you. Drink until you’re satisfied. Whether it’s three, four, five drinks, or whatever you need … do that once versus trying to have a drink or two every single night.
When I talk about the metabolization of alcohol, what I’m referring to is the the amount of time it takes your body to actually process the alcohol you’ve consumed and get it out of your system. If you’re a muscular, larger guy, you’re probably going to metabolize that alcohol rather quickly. If you are a small female with a a slower metabolism, that alcohol could have some consequences or repercussions in the system for 48 to 72 hours. So be mindful of that. When you consume alcohol, your liver has to make it a priority; it has to remove it. So, the metabolization of your hormones in the liver, specifically estrogen with respect to females, is now put to the back burner. And this can actually lead to estrogen dominance in some cases.
Next up, people always want to know how their weight will be affected by their alcohol consumption. In most cases, what I’ve seen with people who are constant drinkers is that their progress is slower. Especially if they’re female and on birth control, and they’re drinking one to two times a week. However, when talking about the scale and what you can expect the next day is this …
You’ll have a low weigh-in the next day after you’re night out drinking. Then maybe the following day your weight might be back up, a little higher than you were before that night you went out drinking. Normally, this is because your body is trying to rehydrate, so it’s going to be holding a lot of the fluids that you lost from drinking. Usually, after about three days though, you will return back to baseline, which is why I mentioned earlier that if you’re going to drink, try to keep it to one day per week, because at least then you can get maybe four or five really good days under your belt, before you go out drinking again.
But if you drink too frequently, you’ll always have this battle.
People also always want to know what they can do before they go to bed after a night of drinking to possibly avoid a hangover. I’ve experimented with this extensively. Obviously, I went to college, graduated, was on the football team and we partied a lot, so I had to experiment with this because one of the worst things ever, is going to a college party and waking up the next day, with the worst headache ever and you have football practice!
But here is what I’ve found to be the most beneficial … when you know you have gotten in your last drink of the night, start ‘flushing’ your system. How? I strongly advise drinking at least 32 to 64 ounces of water before you go to bed.
Now one of the WORST things to do when you are intoxicated is eat high-fat foods! There is research that shows that individuals who go out and have high-fat foods after a night of drinking, will actually store that fat much faster than they will store anything else … specifically carbohydrates or protein.
So, how does drinking affect muscle protein syntheses and hormonal adjustments? There is research that shows that muscle protein synthesis can drop by as much as 37% after four or five drinks. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine what I would feel like having four or five drinks!
The question that everyone wants answered right here is probably THIS one … “How much can you drink before it negatively affects your performance in the gym?”
I’m going to go against the research on this because the fact is, the research indicates four to six drinks, but that is highly variable depending on …
* How the alcohol affects you
* How long after drinking you plan on training
I can tell you right now that after four to six drinks I would be on my butt and somebody would literally have to carry me home.
What about hormones? In men, testosterone rises acutely and then drops after three to five drinks. Excessive drinking in males can lead to low testosterone and fat gain through insulin resistance. In females, testosterone acutely rises after low dose alcohol consumption, in part due to its effects on DHEA.
Now the long term effects of alcohol on body composition and hormones in men and women, typically equate to low testosterone, and also can typically can lead to estrogen dominance, over time, in females. Especially if they have some form of GI issue, if they’re on birth control, and because every time they drink, the liver stops metabolizing estrogen.
This is how estrogen dominance can actually start to be accumulated in the female physiology if you have a woman that does like to drink.
We all know that alcohol also alters our decision-making. So let’s just say you are out with some friends, enjoying a couple of drinks but … you are also tracking your macros. Once you consume what is ‘beyond your limit’ it’s much easier to follow the crowd and end up making an unplanned stop at a burger joint which can easily put you 1000-2000 calories over your maintenance AND now all that fat you consumed is being stored as adipose!
“Hey Coach … if I do decide to drink, what is best?”
While this is a valid question, I honestly I can’t say what’s best. I think if you have one beer, or one glass of wine, or one shot of liquor, it’s pretty much all about the same at the end of the day. As long as you account for the calories, you can essentially have any one of those that is preference. However, keep in mind …
That does not take away from the normal physiological things that happen when alcohol enters the system.
When it comes to being in a fat loss phase or contest prep situation, it’s common for people to want to know if they can drink during these periods. Typically this question gets asked by younger individuals who still want to be able to go out and party. In many cases we have this ‘come to Jesus’ moment where I say … “Look, your goal is your goal, okay? If you go out and drink every single weekend during your contest prep and you don’t win, all you’re going to think about is that thing that you did every single weekend, that potentially prevented you from winning the show. Because, you know that was something that you probably could have eliminated for a short period of time.”
All right so by now, most of you who’ve been following me know that I basically rock n’ roll somewhere in the middle of the ‘calories in-calories out’ crowd and the ‘functional medicine’ crowd. The reason for that is because I don’t necessarily care either way. If you want to drink, I think it’s important that you have this information, so that you can make the best choices moving forward.
So here is something I want to share with you because at The Educated Dieter, we actually do review bloodwork as well. Now it was around New Years and I was looking over somewhere between 5 and 7 sets of labs. What I noticed was that every lab showed high ALT. What’s ALT? ALT is Alanine aminotransferase, which is one of your liver enzymes and it was showing up high in all these labs because these individuals had been drinking in and around New Years. When I look for numbers I’m usually looking for something in the 20s or the 30s. The numbers in these labs were in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, so then that’s an immediate red flag for me.
What this confirms is that there is an immediate negative when you put alcohol in your body!
Your liver enzymes are taking a hit and the last thing you want is to have constantly elevated liver enzymes from a functional perspective. Now, reducing alcohol intake to safe levels can prevent further damage being done and allow the liver to recover. So, be mindful that if you’re drinking every day, your liver can’t recover.
If you’re drinking multiple times per week, it’s harder for your liver to recover. If you drink once a week, you’re probably putting yourself in the best position you could to allow your liver to recover, which again, is why I said it’s probably a good idea to drink and then take two days to recover.
Also be mindful that you have to think outside of just calories in and calories out and take into consideration your functional health … the things inside of your body that actually create your metabolism, and what else could potentially be affected by over-consuming alcohol.
A Final Thought
If you’re young and healthy, drinking once a week likely isn’t going to hurt you very much. My best advice however for all of you reading this is to use it, but don’t abuse it because over-indulging is going to have a greater and more negative impact on your body and all of it’s systems.
To learn even more about alcohol consumption you can listen to the FULL episode right here on our podcast channel Everything You Need To Know About Alcohol Consumption
God Bless and thank you for reading,
Coach William and the entire Educated Dieter Family
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