Alcohol.. Friend or Foe?*

Friday, 15 January 2016, By Nicolas Rouco

As a Personal Trainer, I am frequently and resolutely warned:  "I will not give up alcohol".  To which I respond,  "That is perfectly okay."  …providing you align your expectations of your progress with your behaviour.

The fact is, you  can  still enjoy alcohol in moderation while taking a step closer to your health and fitness goals each week. However, this intake does make the process more challenging and will most likely slow your results to some degree.

The lifestyle you want to maintain during the process in becoming healthier and happier is equally as important as the lifestyle you want to maintain once you achieve those results. If you're feeling deprived, restricted and unhappy, it is highly unlikely you will be able to commit to your program for very long. And who would want to?

So here are the facts about alcohol, why it impedes your progress and how to combat it:

Fact:  Alcohol is almost twice as energy dense as carbohydrates.

We've all heard of calories as a measurement of energy, and each macronutrient (fat, protein, carbohydrates) offer different amounts:

Carbohydrates/protein: 4 calories per gram Fat: 9 calories per gram Alcohol: 7 calories per gram

This means, alcohol provides our body with almost  double the energy of carbohydrates. This extra energy consumption if left unaccounted for will put your body into an energy surplus (consuming more energy than you burn), stalling the weight loss process and even causing weight gain.  Strategy:  Make space for the extra energy, by planning it in.

My personal method for recalibrating the energy consumed through alcohol is to process each alcoholic drink as one banana in your food diary, as they have a very similar energy value. This will tell you what space you have available for the rest of your day through your food, allowing you to enjoy a few drinks without sacrificing your results.

Fact:  Energy from alcohol is burned by our bodies before food.

Because our bodies are unable to store alcohol, combined with its toxicity to our liver, alcohol is metabolized (essentially burned) as a priority over food. This means that any food we have eaten recently either before or after consuming alcohol is immediately stored - most likely as fat.

Strategy:  structure your intake smarter during the day.

Typically, the foods we eat during or after drinking are heavy on the fat and sugar, often starting with "M" and ending in "acDonald's". By eating more of your carbohydrate and fat allowance earlier in the day you will burn off a lot of that energy through your daily activity. Then having a high protein, lighter dinner will ensure your body doesn't store any additional fat or sugar as a result of any alcohol intake.

Enjoy in moderation with a sound understanding of the impact it can have on your progress!


*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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