Truth About Alcohol and Fat Loss (and CB’s favorites)

Chances are you’re reading this on Saturday or Sunday…hopefully you didn’t have too much to drink last night.

Let’s talk about a real politically incorrect topic in the fitness world – booze.

So many readers ask, “Can I still drink while on a fat loss program?” And well, the answer is yes, you can do anything you want on a fat loss program…you just have to accept the consequences of your actions.

And what are the consequences of drinking?

Well, here’s a dirty little secret.

My infamous shirts-off abs photo, the one of me and Bally the Dog in what looks like a random field, was taken back in the day when I still consumed more alcohol than was healthy.

In fact, I did so for many years, being a young Canadian guy, that’s what a lot of young Canadian guys from small towns often do…we drank a lot of beer when we were younger.

But just because you drink a little beer – or have a glass of wine every night – doesn’t mean you can blame your belly fat on booze.

After all, a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of alcohol all roughly contain the same amount of calories, between 100-150. A glass of wine adds fewer calories to your diet than most minor eating mistakes, such as:

– a cube of cheese
– two handfuls of nacho chips
– a few chicken wings
– half a giant bakery muffin
– or half a slice of post-bar pizza

Of course, if you’re drinking a Jack and Coke, you can expect to almost double your calorie intake…so 6 of those in a night and you’re looking at 1800 calories – that’s REAL damage…but only moderate damage if you stick to 6 light beers, which would hit you up at 600-900 calories.

The reality is that alcohol does NOT add that many calories to most people’s diets.

The truth is you need to stop blaming alcohol for your belly fat and look at what you are eating. That’s where your calories are probably piling up.

NOTE: Unless you’re consuming one of the 500 calorie Starbucks concoctions…then you DO have a liquid calorie problem…but one glass of booze per day is not making you fat.

As for all the so-called fat loss ‘gurus’ who try to impress us with their knowledge and claim that alcohol slows your metabolism, that just doesn’t hold up in the real world.

What matters is total calories coming from the liquids, and if you keep that low and it fits into your daily diet, then yes, you can drink booze on a fat loss program and still lose fat.

But there are other factors in the booze discussion we must address.

First, I’d never recommend someone start drinking just to get the so-called health benefits of alcohol.

I’ve seen first hand what booze can really do, and it hurts more people than it helps – directly and indirectly.

My father drank about 12 beers a day for 30 years, and while he never weight over 165 pounds at 5’9″ until his final year, it was the booze that killed him.

Handle your drinking with care. It can be a dangerous vice. Even binge drinking, which is what I used to do back in the early 2000’s, can be quite harmful.

If you go all week without drinking and then drink six, nine, twelve, or more drinks in a night, this will hurt you in the long haul.

Besides, once you get over 30 years old, the “mornings after” are hardly worth the “nights before”, at least in my opinion.

Today, I’ve come a long way from the 18 year old who used to drink all Friday night, work manual labor all Saturday, and then drink again all Saturday night.

I’m also a lot different from the 27 year old who would go all week without booze and then drink from 4pm to 4am on Saturday night.

Neither of those were healthy lifestyles. And I should have known better, particularly the 27-year old me.

Today, I rarely drink, and I recognize that when I do have a couple of drinks, it decreases the quality of sleep and leaves me stuffed up the next day.

It’s just not worth. In fact, for anyone who drinks each night and feels tired the next day, I guarantee you’ll overcome your lack of energy by giving up your nightly alcohol.

That’s a fact.

Booze tonight will ruin your tomorrow.

BUT…it shouldn’t stop you from losing belly fat. Alcohol is not kryptonite to your fat loss efforts. Of course, alcohol isn’t going to HELP your fat burning either.

Alcohol contains calories (about the same as you’d get from a similar sized soda or juice), and too many calories from any beverage will leave you with belly fat, but don’t blame your beer belly on beers when you have two drinks and a plate of 2000-calorie nachos and wings.

Understand that for most people, the real belly fat damage comes from the food you eat with the booze, not the booze.

Know your enemy.

Handle with care.

Make the healthy choices.

Now, having lectured you, I’ll admit that from time to time, on special occasions, I’m happy to have a drink.

While in Nicaragua recently, sitting in a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I had a few Coronas (and yes, chips and guacamole) on the beach, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

When I go to restaurants, I love a Cabernet with my Ribeye.

And for my cocktail of choice, a friend and I have a ritual of celebrating business deals with a “Moscow Mule”. At STK, the steakhouse in the Cosmopolitan in Vegas, they even bring you the drink in a fancy copper mug.

Oh, and if we’re doing shots (which I don’t do anymore), it’s tequila, no lime or salt needed.

But most of the time, a club soda or bottle of water will do.

Now you know the deal with booze and your belly fat,

Craig Ballantyne, CTT
Certified Turbulence Trainer

PS – I gave up booze to concentrate on this 1 Million Mission.

 

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  • Joel Marion

    You forgot the royal flush!!1!!1!1!!!!!!!!

  • With ALL due respect Craig, I have to disagree. Yes, you CAN ‘have’ booze while trying to lose fat, but many people don’t want to have ‘one or two’ .. they want to have 6 or7 or 10 (holy crap, that’s at least 1000 calories consumed without ANY food going in). And some don’t need to eat at all. They’ve eaten before leaving the house, with the best of intentions.

    And then they want to do it 4+ times a week (‘social life’ is such a great patsy when it comes to making excuses).

    I’ve trained.. and am friends with… and have BEEN that person… the trick is realizing that you REALLY have to monitor your consumption, and not let that “1 glass feels like 2 feels like 4 feels like ‘hell lets order another bottle'” thing get its grips on you. Cuz more often than not ‘a couple of drinks’ WILL cause the drinker to feel less committed to their goals once the effects of the drink settle in and next thing you know you’re thinking “screw the diet, who wants to have some FUN?”

    Drink if you want, but don’t let the drink own you.

    my two cents. thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
    Jackie

    • Jackie – I have to agree with you… I have no problem incorporating the CALORIES of a few Corona Lights into my Friday night repertoire … it’s AFTER I drink those Coronas that I feel a lack of commitment and a sudden urge for late night pizza. Hard to control yourself through the haze of a buzz 🙂

    • Jackie,

      Much like Craig did in the article, I believe you too have hit the nail on the head of this issue. Really, whether or not a person’s consumption of booze affects their weight/fat loss comes down to personal discipline.

      I think the impact of booze really boils down to calories in versus calories out. If a person expects to go a little overboard on Saturday night, then he or she could always try and cut back on calories earlier in the week. Obviously, the more one is able to limit him/herself when it comes to poor calorie consumption (alcohol, super processed food, etc), the easier it will be for the person to lose weight/fat.

      Can a person drink a lot of booze and still burn fat? Sure. Will it make fat burning harder to maintain? I believe so.

    • Cathy

      Jackie, if you read the article, Craig isn’t saying that alcohol will not stop fat loss. He is basically saying what you have said, but I have seen friends who are heavey drinkers gain weight. like anything we consume, there are calories in alcohol & when you overconsume, it’s only logical that the fat will add on.

  • Nice read for a Sunday morning.
    I do agree with you that it is about the food you eat, but don’t you think drinking has some effect on insulin levels which is a contributing factor in belly fat?

  • What about the horrible things we eat after drinking? Can be very scary.

  • Perfectly said!!

  • I think you’re spot on with this one Craig. I was drinking wine regularly throughout TT Transformation Contest 2, and my results were good to say the least. I went on to lose 10 more pounds while having 2 glasses close to every night. Big however… when I stopped drinking completely my energy shot up and I got in the best shape of my life (end off TT challenge 9).
    Today, I still enjoy a glass of wine, and big events are celebrated with a beautiful glass of Rombauer chardonnay, but I’m letting the wine go because I’d rather achieve my BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) than drink.

    Keep up the good writing.

    • Thank you Catherine, great to hear your feedback. Congrats again on your results.

      Craig

  • Shawn

    Let’s put it this way- if alcohol had a DIRECT impact on bellyfat (not talking about the post-drinking foods, if any), then most bartenders would have a big gut. I have many buddies who are bartenders/get hammered at the end of every shift (5 nights/week), and maintain a 6-pack. So, I completely agree with you, Craig, that IF you can fit the alcohol calories into a plan, then go right ahead…it’s the greasy shawarmas with a side of 2 Big Macs at 2am that will do the damage.

  • Suzy

    Great article! As with all things, the key is moderation. A glass or 2 of good wine enjoyed while looking at the ocean at sunset trumps a perfectly sculpted set of abs in my book! Life is too short to deny the things that bring pleasure in the quest for physical perfection. Thanks for taking the guilt out of enjoying a drink now and then!

  • Craig,

    Great article, as someone who committed from an early age to never consume a drop of alcohol (made it 28 years and counting) I agree that people can still drink in moderation and be lean. But as you effectively bring up in the article, many people aren’t able to drink in moderation. I can guarantee you that the millions of people who are alcoholics never took their first drink and said I want to become an alcoholic and ruin my life.

    When people ask me why I don’t drink, I tell them I make enough mistakes when I am sober and that I don’t need alcohol in my life to enjoy it.

    Thanks for addressing both the physiological as well as the social consequences.

    Dustin

    • Thanks Dustin. I can’t believe you’re 28 years old. Still pictured you as 25.

  • Lori

    This was so encouraging to me. I really enjoy wine, am a wine club memeber, go on wine tours, etc. Wine is just a wonderful part of my life. I drink about 2 glasses a night. And I have resented the diet community from making me believe that wine is an evil diet-buster and will keep you fat. I love eating healthy foods and really enjoy finding a special wine to go with that specially-prepared fish or steak. So it’s with a grateful heart that I say THANK YOU for helping me find the right balance in my life and diet. I can do this diet thing now with great confidence to look for other culprits that might be working against my best efforts.

  • Justin D

    I’m curious to know your take on the effect alcohol has on hormone levels, particularly testosterone. Everything I’ve come across says alcohol lowers testosterone levels, making it more difficult to build muscle and in turn burn fat.

    • Justin, it might lower it for that day, but that means nothing in the long-term. I know plenty of muscle-bound guys who drink a ton on the weekend. Remember – always focus on real world results.

  • Craig,

    Great article! Tough to read with a morning after headache 🙂 I’ve decreased my consumption and it’s usually at a event I have a few drinks.

    My crew is still the hard party crew so I have to chill with them less to hold true to my once a month 3-5 drink night.

    I tried giving drinking up and that only lasted about 9 weeks. For my body building show I gave it up for 20 weeks total.

    I’m with you less is best, more often than not I have to watch the post drink garbage food that calls my name.

    Ciao

    Rahz

  • Yannis Parmakis

    Hello Craig,

    I have really been puzzled over your article. It has been over one year since my last dip of alcohol (I never really was a drinker – just 1 to 2 glasses of wine per week) and that was because what I read about the negative effect of alcohol on leptin secretion.
    My friends often urge me to have at least a glass of wine and they also argue that it is necessary due to the rasveratol concentration. Sometimes, I think I look aloof to my friends, because of my strong will not to deviate from my healthy habbits.
    Is my behaviour really obsessive?
    Thank you in advance for your response.

  • A close friend and personal trainers shared this post. It’s great to hear another voice of reason on the subject of alcohol and diet. For the last year I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness shouting that alcohol and weight loss can coexist. As you say, it all comes down to calories in vs. calories out. A bagel has about 350 calories. A bottle of Guinness dials in at 125 calories. Lose the bagel at the morning meeting and you have plenty of room for a couple of beers after work.

    Of course, we’ve been pitching this message to a much less fit, much less healthy audience. Nonetheless, we have spent a lot of time trying to dispel the myth that the only way to diet is strict prohibition. We are always happy to see others draw the same conclusion. You can check out our best argument at http://www.drinkyourcarbs.com.

    (Feel free to remove the link if you feel it’s appropriate to do so. I am definitely not trying to steal customers. In fact, we take no advertising and have nothing to sell. We look like a commerce site, but it is more of an art project. Someday we hope to have a book, but until then my wife and I do this because it’s fun, it often funny and something we’re passionate about.)

    • Couldn’t agree more Steven and Craig. It all comes down to calories in calories out. Didn’t matter much when I was young but now I need all the help I can get.

      Thanks for the info.

  • Craig,
    One, simple way to drink I find (if you know you’re going to be tying one on), is to cut back your food intake earlier in the day – halve your portions if you like.
    Then you can go out, have too many beers and the weight gain will be less profound.

    Giving up red wine with steak? – that’ll never happen. No-sir-ree 🙂

  • Hi Craig, great article! Can you give me your opinion on alcohol and leptin levels? I was under the impression that alcohol (2 drinks +) lowered leptin levels, which would not be optimal if someone is trying to lose weight.

    • It’s irrelevant. No need to focus on minor details. Focus on what really matters – calories.

  • jack

    You are right. I love these kind of articles. The only thing you guys who write these leave out is the 2000-3000 calories one eats after they are drunk at 3am cause they’ve been starving themselves all week.
    Not everyone is the same. Most people will do the above. Only serious dieters and discipline people can have a few drinks, drink water at the same time and not eat a ton of food to soak up the alcohol to try to prevent a morning hangover.

    • Joseph Weaver

      my discipline, comes with picking up a chick at 2 am and taking her home and licking her until she cums twice, then dicking her hot pussy until I cum, then sleeping until noon, then getting a shower, and going out for dinner, usually I have a regular salad, so how many calories did I consume?…better, that I did better than you from a normal Saturday evening until a Sunday afternoon., in fact, I think I lost 7 pounds…all true statements.

  • emilybeeble

    Hi. Great read – It’s nice to know that you are human too! I agree that the whole idea of metabolism being slowed by alcohol intake is not entirely accurate when it comes to the individual, and that the focus really should be more on the caloric intake that accompanies alcohol consumption ( and the morning after greasy burger/pizza/pasta consumption lol) . I did find it interesting to read elsewhere though, that there was a study that found that consuming just 24g of alcohol could decrease your body’s whole lipid oxidation or ability to burn fat by 73%. As you probably already know, when alcohol passes the liver it produces a by-product called acetate, which inhibits fat burning capabilities of the body. Basically it means that if you drink alcohol consistently without giving your body enough time to process all the alcohol out of your system completely before you drink again, the fat burning processes in your body will take a back seat. This eventually results in more fat stored in your body from the drinking calories and the fact that even if you exercise/eat less during this time, your body will find it challenging to burn fat until you allow all the alcohol to be processed – which for some chronic drinkers can take days. At least that’s what I read – I’m no expert but it makes sense – what do you think?

    • Joseph Weaver

      funny you should talk about food, the only thing I want with a hangover is a hot woman with no panties, that will sit on my face, I call it pussy caloric intake…the best of the best…f sausage sandwiches, when I can make two people happy, Her and I.

  • John Dempsy

    Hello emilybeeble. After being in the Fitness industry for over 20 years and then studying recently at University, anatomy, physiology, psychology as I was studying for a masters degree. I have to agree with you. Putting it simple for people to understand. If you drink alcoholic beverages the main fuel source is acetate. This becomes the primary supply of energy and thus all the foods eaten are secondary in being used. So what happens? In simple terms those food calories store as unused calories and adipose cells (fat cells) enlarge making us more blown up. If you really, really are serious about drastic fat loss, then people, you have to stop the alcohol or at least until you get to your optimum weight and then sometimes you can have the alchohol. It’s difficult, rather anti social but after a while you kind of don’t miss it. It’s also made easier with the fact of seeing fat loss results. You can cardio and do the weights until your hearts content but you will see such faster results from what I have just discussed. Around 70% of looking good is what we feed and drink on. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise as of course there are many benefits to doing both aerobic and anaerobic training. Best of luck to all of you people out there wanting to look great, but make it easier for a while and cut out the alcoholic beverages.

    • Joseph Weaver

      now that is a true answer

    • Joseph Weaver

      so you are as gay as a California summer is long, you needle dick, son of a bitch, bet your real name is endickeah

  • Joseph Weaver

    you suck banana’s, you are a freak who thinks the world owes you something, I was in Europe for 2.5 years, and all those people did was drink, it killed the boredom of a European climate.

  • Joseph Weaver

    say what you mean….I have at least 18 friends who go to the “club” everyday, we talk, have a close friendship, its not all about health, its about healthy life, not lifestyles, to be bored and alone, is not the way I want to leave this world, my mother lived until 89, hopefully even though I drink 4 beers a day, I will too, at least….someone will come say bye to me, don’t you get it, drinking is a social thing.