I like to drink alcohol.
I started drinking alcohol regularly around the age of 18. I know this is a shocker to many, but at the college I attended, drinking alcohol was normal.
I am not sure if I knew a single person who didn’t drink any alcohol at all.
Granted, the 4-5 nights per week we drank in college tapered off to 2-3 nights per week after we graduated and joined the working world.
Especially with my chosen profession. Nobody wants to teach children with a raging headache and cotton mouth. I’ve done it a few times and it is no fun.
The 2-3 nights per week even tapered off to 1-2 nights per week after my wife and I had children.
You think it’s bad working with a hangover? Try waking up at 5:45 with a 6-month old.
Even to this day, I still drink alcohol regularly. It’s a vice I’m not willing to give up. I am more responsible with my drinking, and after 3-4 drinks, I’m pretty buzzed up and I usually cut myself off.
But I still enjoy my nice, warm buzz on a Saturday night. It’s my little, personal celebration of another week in the books.
The most commonly asked question I get from those interested in joining our online fat-loss clients is:
Can I still drink and lose fat?
The answer to this question is “Yes”.
The next question is always:
Yeah, but can I drink beer?
And again, the answer to this question is “Yes”.
This is my current condition:
This picture was snapped on a Sunday morning.
The Friday evening before this picture, I drank 8, heavy IPAs.
The Saturday evening before this picture, I had another 6, heavy IPAs.
You, too, can make fat loss progress like this and still drink regularly. Even beer. 8% beer, too.
In this article, I will show you how it’s done.
Macronutrients And Your Body
Before we discuss how to properly drink alcohol and make progress, we need to discuss metabolism and how your body stores fat.
Although the phrase “it’s the fat that makes you fat” isn’t entirely true, there is a bit of truth within those words that you need to understand in order to have a framework for how you can drink and still lose body fat.
There are 3 main macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Alcohol is technically a 4th macronutrient, and we will get to that in a minute.
If you are in a fat loss diet, it’s suggested that you get ample amounts of protein. Somewhere between 0.8-1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass will be adequate for most people.
Although it’s technically possible for your body to store protein as fat, it’s unlikely.
You would need to eat protein in extreme quantities for this to happen.
There was a study done in 2012 by George Bray and his colleagues to examine how closely excess protein was linked to excess body fat.
In the study, there were 3 different groups of subjects: a low protein group, a medium protein group, and a high protein group.
At the conclusion of the study, there was substantial weight gain differences in the 3 groups.
But almost none of the weight gain from the medium and high protein groups was the result of body fat gain.
Even though those two groups were in a caloric surplus, the additional protein caused little to no fat gain.
The same can be said for carbohydrates.
It is possible for your body to turn carbohydrates into stored body fat, once your glycogen levels have been surpassed.
This process is known as de novo lipogenesis.
The human body is inefficient at this process, though. The only way to store substantial amounts of carbohydrates as body fat is to eat little to no dietary fat, and excessively feed on carbohydrates for days in succession.
Since you will be dieting for fat loss, neither of these situations are likely to occur.
You will not be:
- Excessively consuming protein in huge quantities.
- Keeping dietary fat at unhealthy/low amounts.
- Excessively consuming carbohydrates well past your maintenance.
So, if protein and carbs don’t directly cause any sort of substantial fat gain, where do our body fat stores come from?
Remember that quote about “the fat doesn’t make you fat”?
The truth is when calories are consumed past your maintenance, virtually ALL of your dietary fat gets stored on the body.
Your body is incredibly efficient at storing dietary fat. If you are above your maintenance, any fat you consume will be converted into body fat – quickly.
This is where the real issue with drinking comes into play:
===> If you drink, you add calories to your diet.
===> If you add calories to your diet, you run the risk of being over your maintenance for the day.
===> If you are over your maintenance for your day, any and all dietary fat will immediately be stored as body fat.
It really makes you rethink ordering chicken wings and blue cheese with your Budweiser, doesn’t it?
How To Drink Booze And Still Lose Fat
For the purposes of explaining how to do this, I give you an artistic masterpiece:
This (awesome) illustration highlights four individuals who are drinking for the night.
Let’s break down each individual.
Individual #1: Drinking, but still under maintenance for the day.
Our first subject has done what should be your ultimate goal for an evening’s worth of drinking:
Have your drinks, eat your food, but stay under maintenance.
Admittedly, this is easier said than done.
Alcohol has a lot of calories in it: 7 calories per gram, to be exact.
If you’re dieting, you’re already in a deficit. It can be tough to shave off enough calories in order to have your drinks, stay under your calorie goal, and not get overly hungry in the process.
A few best practices to be Dieter #1:
- It’s best to trim calories from fat, if possible, when drinking. Especially since fat will be stored easily when you eat over your maintenace.
- Your best bang-for-your-buck alcohols are non-flavored spirits and zero calorie mixers, such as:
- If you find yourself getting hungry when drinking, drink 20 ounces of water immediately. There is a good chance you are actually becoming dehydrated, and you’re mistaking your thirst for hunger.
- It’s best to eat dinner before you head out drinking, if possible. That way, you can choose wisely when you’re thinking clearly. It’s difficult to make good decisions with a warm buzz and a case of the “fuck its”.
Individual #2: Drinking, but right at maintenance.
Individual #2 is still in the clear. They are right at their maintenance, and will not gain any fat as a result, assuming they don’t consume anything more.
It will be difficult to gauge if this is “you” after drinking.
Notice you’ve had more alcohol in this situation, and your natural instincts have likely been blurred.
Although if you’re Dieter #2, you will not gain any body fat, any additional calories you consume that day will cause your intake to exceed your maintenance.
There is an inherent danger to being Dieter #2: You may think you are doing yourself a favor by eating a “low-fat snack”.
After all, if it’s low fat, it won’t be stored as body fat, right?
You need to view the diet in a full-day context, however.
Any calories you consume if you are dieter #2 will cause the fat you ate – at any time of the day – to be stored as body fat.
Best practices if you think you may be Dieter #2:
- Switch to water or other non-calorie drinks. You are done drinking for the day.
- Enjoy your buzz. You’re “there”. You’re “cut off”. Relax and have fun with your friends.
- If you’re drunk, and the night is getting long, grab an Uber. Go home. And go to bed. You may want to grab a Powerade Zero to begin to replenish your electrolytes.
Individual #3: Drinking, and slightly over maintenance.
Individual #3 is in what I like to call “the danger zone”.
Dieter #3 has gone over on their calories for the day.
The striped box represents fat gain – there will be some fat gain due to the dietary choices which were made.
The reason Dieter #3 is in “the danger zone” is because anything they eat will cause additional body fat storage.
How do you know when you’re “there”? It’s hard to tell, really.
If you’re buzzed up, you’re snacking, and you’re feeling good, you may even still not “feel full”, especially since alcohol causes you to feel hungrier than you actually are.
A good rule of thumb: If you think you’re “there”, then you probably are.
Pop in a piece of gum and do your best to resist temptation.
Individual #4: Significantly over maintenance.
Dieter #4 has “screwed the pooch” with their diet.
This dieter has made some poor choices with their drinks.
They have eaten a significant amount of dietary fat, they’ve drank themselves silly, and they will gain fat as a result.
However, there is still a silver lining for Dieter #4:
- At this point, assuming the dieter can make choices without dietary fat, no further fat gain will result.
- Chances are, though, that they are very intoxicated. Perhaps a stomach pump is in order.
- If you find yourself stuffed silly and drunk, and you find the need to continue snacking, find the lowest fat snacks possible. Good choices include:
- Non-fat popcorn
- Twizzlers/sugary non-fat candy
- Dum-Dums (my favorite when buzzed)
This position is not a good one to be in, and we should avoid it at all costs.
That being said, do your best to remain in control. Eating loads of fat-filled crap at this point will do nothing but cause excessive fat gain from your drunken debauchery.
Key Takeaways And Best Practices
So, with all of this information, how do we best implement it to stay on our path to shreds?
What is my own, personal “gameplan” if I know I will be drinking at night?
How do I get to this point, while drinking consistently during my entire diet?
Here is my exact plan for fat-loss success on my alcohol-fused weekends:
===> Eat as low fat as possible during the day.
There is no need to be obsessive with the fat intake, but dietary fat is kept to an absolute minimum.
Usually, I get from 40-60 grams of dietary fat per day.
On days where I will be drinking, I try to cut that number to 10-20 grams of fat.
My choice foods include cheese/mayo-free lunchmeat sandwiches, egg-white omelettes with veggies, and protein shakes with fruit.
===> When dining out, pick seasoned chicken and veggies (or something similar).
Dietary fat at restaurants catches up on you fast.
You may think you’re not eating fat by eating bread, but there’s a good chance that bread is covered in butter and/or oils.
You can’t go wrong with a chicken breast, a white fish, or a turkey sandwich (hold the cheese/mayo).
===> Avoid fried foods like the plague.
Fried foods – including chicken wings – add fats at an insane rate.
Steer clear, whatever you do.
===> Leave a sizable calorie buffer.
I try to leave 1k calories’ worth of a buffer before I head out drinking.
That may not be possible for you – I have a large maintenance (~3k calories).
A 500 calorie buffer will do it, if you choose your alcohol wisely.
One shot of unflavored liquor will be ~60 calories.
If you shave off 500 calories, that will give you ~8 drinks’ worth of wiggle room. (60 x 8 = 480 calories)
===> No snacking. Your alcohol is your “treat” for the evening.
Yep, this is a tough one.
There’s always a “give and take”.
But my mental framework when drinking is that the drinking is the “treat”.
No snacking – at all. Deal with it, or don’t drink.
===> The next day, you must train, or do cardio.
This is an extra one I threw in there. You can choose to do this or not.
To me, it’s more of a mental thing than anything else.
I say to myself:
Alright, tough guy.
You’re the one who wanted to drink.
Don’t be a little bitch.
Go run 5 miles.
Let’s just say I’m not setting any land-speed records on my runs the morning after drinking.
I go slow, and I only try to sweat out the booze.
As a bonus, when I’m done, I feel great, without much of a hangover at all.
Alcohol is one of life’s great pleasures.
I can’t imagine a life without tasty hops, dry scotches, and glasses of red wine.
The great lubricator should always be a part of your life – assuming you want it to be.
I hope you found this article helpful.
Go grab a brew, make a gameplan, and continue on to shreds – with a drink in your hand.