How to lose fat and build muscle whilst drinking alcohol

Aggiornato il: 3 dic 2020

Many people every year try to lose fat, build muscle and improve their health and wellbeing.

Most of them fail, partly because of alcohol.

Taking part in social drinking it’s in some cases so radicated in the culture that not drinking is not socially accepted and can create other problems like social withdraw.

Nobody wants to lose friends in order to lose fat, and the cool thing is that is not necessary.

This guide will help you understand the alcohol game so you will be able to achieve your fitness goals and not being perceived as a weirdo.

So we are on the same page:

  1. The only way to lose fat is to create a calorie deficit.

  2. Most of the time it’s the fat me consume in our diet which makes us fat. The fat in the foods we eat will only be stored when we consume over our energy needs for the day;

  3. It’s tough for the body to convert excess protein intake to fat, and only with regular overfeeding does the body convert excess carbohydrate intake into fat. However, they both contribute to the energy balance for the day, so indirectly they cause fat gain by causing us to store the fat we consume in food.

  4. Alcohol does not have any fat, but it has an energy value. Many popular alcoholic drinks usually contain carbs. (Wine has them from fruit, beer from hops, wheat, and barley, and carbonated drink mixers have sugar.)

  5. Alcohol calories are burn first as fuel in the body. This is because the end-product of alcohol metabolism, acetate, is toxic. If you were burning fat, this stops temporarily until you burn those calories off.

  6. Drinking can easily push us over our calorie budget for the day. This causes some, or all of the dietary fat we ate on this day to be stored as body fat, depending on how much over your maintenance calories you drank.

  7. 1 g of alcohol contains 7 kcal. 1 g of fat contains 9 kcal.

How to drink and still lose fat

Let’s define drinking with moderation with 1–3 drinks.

On that day you still want to match your protein target as that is what will help you retain or increase your satiety and muscle mass.

Also, having a high protein intake will allow you to burn more calories as the body need to burn more calories to digest them compared to carbohydrates and fat.

It’s intuitive that you will have to reduce the carbs and fat coming from food sources earlier during the day.

The key point in these situations is to reduce your food intake by an amount matching the calorie content of the alcohol you are drinking.

  • When you are dieting, muscle recovery can become an issue. When using alcohol calories (instead of say, carbs) to make up your daily calories the return of investment is poor. When you’re dieting aim to drink as little as possible.

If you drink 400 calories of beer (roughly 2 pints) consider reducing your macros by 200 cal from carbs and 200 from fat, respectively 50g carbs and roughly 22g fat (Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, fat have 9).

  1. Earlier during the day eat carbs from veggies, avoid or reduce to minimum any sauces, fatty food and stick to lean protein meals.

  2. In the evening try to drink shots, dry red wines (they are lower carb), or spirits with zero-calorie mixers.

Does alcohol makes us fat?

It depends (like most of the things in fitness)

  1. To lose fat, you need to have a caloric deficit.

  2. To gain fat, you need to have a caloric surplus, though it’s possible to maintain weight, yet gain fat if you are losing muscle at the same rate. (This would only happen if the training stimulus is too low to maintain your current training adaptations, or you chronically fail to recover from the training load.)

  3. Alcohol does not block fat loss, but it has calories that are burned preferentially.

  4. Alcohol affects muscle growth (and sleep quality, which affects recovery) — the dose makes the poison.

Also, consider this: Nobody wants to lose just fat. Retaining muscle is important to have that toned, muscular and lean look.

When trying to build muscles the ratio of muscle gain to fat gain would almost certainly be poorer than if these calories came from protein, carbohydrate, and fats that can be utilized to fuel growth and recovery.

Alcohol is pro-inflammatory. If you’re looking to ensure storage of energy sources as muscle, it would be important to ensure other usages of energy (such as processing inflammatory molecules) is reduced as much as possible.

Alcohol impairs the absorption of some vitamins like thiamine (B1), has a heavier liver load and has a diuretic effect (which wastes important electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium).

So to answer the question: yes, alcohol can cause fat gain.

Does this stop me enjoying a few glasses of wine during my trip to South Of Italy (I am in Noto, Sicily whilst writing this article) with friends on the weekend?

Hell no!

Life is imperfect and so are humans, so if you need to take part in social drinking even when you don’t want to, it’s worth knowing how to manage the rest of your day of eating without gaining fat over the long period of time.

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