Let’s start with just how many calories are in one gram of alcohol.
Most research pits this number at around ~7 calories/gram.
More than both protein and carbohydrates (4 calories/gram) and almost as much as fat (9 calories/gram).
Alcoholic beverages are what nutrition buffs refer to as “empty calories”. This means that they count toward your daily caloric intake, but won’t provide any health improving benefits. To put this in perspective; if you consume 100 calories/day more than you burn over the course of one year you can gain as much as 10lbs of fat(!).
Do you realize just how many calories are in your favorite beverage?
Check this infographic from LiveScience out:
If you’re like me and like the “girly” type drinks such as the pina colada listed above, I am sure you gasped just like I did when you saw just how many calories were in only NINE OUNCES (490cals). That is just over half the size of your standard water bottle in case you needed a point of reference to make you feel that much worse.
If you do drink, plug in your weekly intake into this calculator. If you were to have one glass of wine with dinner 4 nights/week and 3 (4oz.) margaritas on the weekend that would be an additional 1,004 (empty) calories/week!
The research is mixed in the realm that says “drinking alcohol makes you fat”, drinking alcohol does not necessarily make you fat. What it does do, though, is that it makes it harder for you to burn fat. That’s because when your body ingests alcohol it expends all of its energy metabolizing the alcohol rather than other foods you may have eaten.
Another topic we are not accounting for here is the impaired judgement that comes along with drinking. Im not talking about the text messages you regret. Or that you make a fool of yourself when you think you whisper to your wife “lets go these people suck!” but instead of whispering you were actually yelling. I was that guy one time, made for an awkward couple of minutes so don’t be like me.
I’m talking about the errant food choices that often come along with a night of drinking:
- (insert terrible food you would not normally eat here)
Please don’t tell me that you have complete control over your dietary choices when you’re drinking. I don’t want to hear it!
Can consuming alcohol have an adverse effect on your performance?
Short answer is, yes.
But let’s dive a little deeper.
Excess alcohol consumption can cause dehydration in a variety of ways. Firstly, alcohol decreases the body’s production of an anti-diuretic hormone, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. With less anti-diuretic hormone available, your body loses more fluid than normal through increased urination. We all know high performance isn’t happening when we’re dehydrated. Not to mention intense training will be causing you to sweat profusely which will dehydrate you further.
When your body is breaking down alcohol your liver is not able to produce as much glucose (which is the faster acting of the energy substrates) and you are forced to burn fat which sounds good but the energy produced from fat comes at a much slower rate therefore limiting how intense your exercise can be.
So what is the verdict?
If you want a casual drink a couple of times a week it’s probably not going to derail your progress. As with anything, moderation is key.
If you still binge on the weekend along with a couple of drinks during the week? Well, unless you’re extremely blessed genetically you probably will not be achieving the beach body you want any time soon.
This topic could go on forever but I just wanted to throw out some basic facts so you can come to an educated decision when it comes to alcohol consumption. There are no magic numbers when it comes to “just how much can I have before it hurts me”, everyone is different. Sex, weight, height, genetics, activity level and so many other factors will play a role in how much you can personally consume before it gets in the way of your fitness goals.