Earlier this week I stumbled into a Starbucks in dire need of a coffee when a Guinness truck drove by and I found myself longing, deeply, for a beer.
As I sat there and debated whether it was wise, or appropriate considering it was 9:30 AM, for me to head to the nearest bar and throw a few back, my train of thought moved on to a conversation I had with a client of mine over the weekend about alcohol, calories, and alcohol’s place in weight management.
My Quick Take On Alcohol and Fitness
Look, everyone needs a drink now and again. And personally, I think if it weren’t for alcohol all of us would have lost our minds by now and many of us (myself included) would need some form of psychiatric help on a regular basis. So I think we can all agree that alcohol has its place in society and if consumed in moderation, can provide some light pleasure and help us destress.
That said, when it comes to managing your weight and getting fit, alcohol isn’t your friend.
The Big Negative of Alcohol: Calories
If your main objective is to lose weight, or maintain your weight loss, your number one objective needs to be to keep your caloric intake less than or equal to (respectively) your caloric expenditure.
The issue is that that alcohol isn’t calorically free. In fact, alcohol is actually calorically dense. To put this into perspective…
- One gram of protein contains 4 calories.
- One gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.
- One gram of fat contains 9 calories.
- One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.
Alcohol is the 2nd most calorically dense macronutrient (type of food) you can consume. (If you didn’t realize alcohol is it’s own macronutrient, we hear you. The vast majority of people we teach this to are surprised to learn this.)
What This Means In Real Life
So, for every gram of alcohol you drink you are adding seven calories to your diet. But what does that mean in English?
What this means is that on average, most alcoholic beverages will clock in at about 125 calories. So we are talking 125 calories for an average glass of wine, an average beer, and an average non-cocktail hard drink. (Cocktails will run you more because of all the juices, sugars, and other “extras” that get added.)
What This Means For Your Alcohol Intake
When it comes to losing weight, simply put, the less alcohol you drink the faster you’ll lose weight and the easier it will be to keep that weight off.
It’s just that simple.
But as we discussed earlier, in the context of life, the vast majority of us are going to want a drink sometime.
So what should your balance be?
As always I need to preface my answer by saying it is different for everyone and will depend on other variables, but in general here is the recommendation my team and I give our clients who are trying to lose weight: Limit yourself to two drinks a week.
You can have one drink a night twice a week, or two drinks in one night. Whatever you prefer. But do your utmost to keep your overall intake limited to two a week. Anything more than that and the calories are going to start to add up.
What Should You Do If You Have More Than Two?
Of course there are going to be occasions, lets say your best friends birthday for instance, where you are going to pass your weekly limit.
Is it ideal? No.
But it is okay. In cases like this, just try to avoid alcohol all together the next week. And if that doesn’t happen, its okay, just move on and get back to your two drink a week pattern.
The take away here is if you go past your limit, just get back on track and move forward.
It’s Not Fun… But It Works
Listen, we know the idea of limiting your alcohol intake doesn’t sound like fun. Often it’s not. But it works. (It’s not that bad though.)
And as with all things in life, if you are trying to lose weight, you have to ask yourself, “how badly do I want this?”
If you want it badly enough, sacrificing a few drinks will feel like a drop in the bucket compared to building the body, the confidence, and the happiness you’ve always wanted.
So put that wine down and get back to the gym!
Founder & Director of Zach Moore Training
Your Exercise & Dietary Management Team.