Alcohol: How To Booze Without The Belly Fat

Lifescape

Nov 20
alcohol_fat_loss_health

Can I booze and shift fat at the same time?

If I am on a night out, what should I go for and what should I avoid?

Food choices, before and while boozing, can be game-changing for you fat-loss success!​

The two biggest nutritional fat-loss obstacles for men I see most often are: junk food and alcohol. Your relationship with these two bad boys, can make or break your ability to rid yourself of your unwanted body fat.

Booze in particular can massively derail your weight-loss efforts – partly due to its inherent toxicity, but more so, the mindless self-sabotage you inflict on yourself while under its influence.

Enjoying a powerful substance like alcohol, however, doesn’t have to wreck your physique goals, as long as you are aware if it’s hurting or hindering your long-term plans.

I hope this article equips you with knowledge and strategies to smash fat loss and maximise good times without becoming teetotal!

What you’re gonna learn

  • What is alcohol?
  • How and why booze can cause weight gain.
  • Guidelines for weekly alcohol consumption.
  • Best choices to optimise fat loss.
  • How to minimise the downside of a night out.
alcohol_belly_fat

Nutritionally – What Exactly Is Alcohol?

Let’s make no mistake about it, alcohol is a drug – non-essential to your body, but loaded with “empty” calories!

Ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, is produced by the fermentation of grains and fruits. It’s classed as a depressant and can cause a whole host of problems if consumed in excess.

However, I’m not here to tell you not to drink – far from. The BodyPhi™ lifestyle is all about that perfect balance of looking sharp, feeling amazing and being able to enjoy life’s pleasures.

Alcohol certainly plays a part here – it’s just knowing what to drink and how to indulge without screwing up your health and physique progress.

Why Taming Alcohol Is Key To Fat Loss Success?

We all know that alcohol shouldn't be at the cornerstone of your food plan, but have you ever stopped to consider why not? Let’s dive in so you know the reasons for your choices:

alcohol_testosterone_belly_fat

Self Control

This one is big. In fact this is THE main reason why having a few drinks can lead to disaster for your health and fitness goals.

Alcohol dulls the prefrontal lobe of the brain – the very area responsible for decision-making and rational thought. [1]

Ever done something on a night out on the sauce, only to wake up and think “why the hell did I do that?” Me too ... a bit too often in my younger years.

Yea – alcohol does a great job of reducing the voice of reason inside your head. So, what do you think you’re going to go for after a night out?

A healthy dish of chicken, veggies and potatoes or a doner kebab covered in grease and extra garlic sauce? Mmm … goodbye fat loss.

It Get’s Worse … Fat Storage

“But, Sharif, your body can’t store alcohol and flushes it out … what’s the problem?”

Whilst this is true, this doesn't mean that you can drink as much as you want, clearly!

When you drink alcohol, your body will first and foremost try to excrete it as it sees it as a poison. This means bodily functions such as digestion and fat burning grind to a halt whilst alcohol is being processed. [2]

And even though alcohol actually requires more calories to process than other foods and drinks – the problem lies with food eaten along with it. Especially high-fat foods served at most restaurants. [3]

booze_alcohol_fat_loss

When calories are in excess, dietary fat is more readily stored as body fat than are carbs and protein. [4] So, whilst your body is busy trying to rid itself of the alcohol, all that dietary fat is FAR more likely to be stored as body fat – not what you want!

Curry and beers with the lads equals disaster for your waistline.

Calorie Concentration

How good do mojitos taste? Amazing, especially on a hot day. That perfect combination of rum, mint, ice, soda water … oh, and what was that last thing ... oh yes, SUGAR.

When else would you drink something with two or more heaped-tablespoons of sugar in it?!

You wouldn't and that’s the problem with really tasty cocktails and mixed drinks. You don’t realise you are piling in hundreds of empty calories.

Gram for gram, alcohol is the second most dense macronutrient, meaning it yields a high amount of calories per gram – seven to be precise, only falling short of dietary fat at nine.

Satiety

So … willpower and decision making are out the window, your body is in fat-storage mode AND the calorie count is insane. Can it get any worse? Well … yes!

Research shows that liquid calories score poorly for feelings of fullness compared to solid food. [5] But, the killer … studies have also shown that alcohol stimulates food intake and can also increase feelings of hunger.

Yea, really – don’t need evidence to prove that!

Drink before eating and you’ll likely consume an extra 20% more calories! [6]

Just combining these first four points:

• Low-to-no self control
• Highly-likely fat storage
• Ample unsatisfying calories
• Hunger pangs

and it becomes clear that boozing can have serious negative consequences to your fat-loss success, if you don’t know how to manage it.

Sleep

The importance of sleep for all things looking awesome naked can't be emphasised enough.

In my mind, it is THE most underrated factor in optimising your physique and health, and the crazy thing is – it’s so easily fixable. Loads of tips below …

Frequent and heavy boozing, however, can really screw with your sleeping patterns and circadian rhythm. So, adding to the list above – you’re also priming the next day for overeating.

In a French study, people consumed 560 more calories during the day following just one night of poor sleep than they did after sleeping eight hours.

Alcohol’s sedative effects are dose dependent. One or two drinks can send you nicely off into a deeper sleep, overdoing it however has the complete opposite affect. [7]

Testosterone

The odd glass or moderate alcohol intake has been shown to have no detriment to testosterone levels, and some research has shown that a low dose of alcohol could indeed increase T-levels. [8]

However, hitting the booze multiple times a week to excess will seriously compromise your testosterone production. So, not only are you stacking on the pounds you’re also killing off the hormone that helps you lose fat! More below …

Immune System

It’s no secret that alcohol taxes many bodily systems, with your immune system taking the biggest hit from substantial alcohol consumption. [9]

Yes, your liver and kidneys do most of the heavy detox-lifting, but, your digestive tract also takes a beating and research shows that your gut is also a massive part of your immune system health.

So … how exactly are you going to keep active, eat well and do your strength training when you're constantly in bed nursing a cold or flu?

Addiction

The BodyPhi™ lifestyle is all about putting you in complete control of your life:

• in control of your thoughts and actions
• in control of your food choices and how you eat
• in control of your confidence and how you carry yourself
• in control of your activity levels

… generally making good choices for our health.

By abusing alcohol, there is a strong possibility of addiction. Addicted to the feeling of being out of control and letting your inhibitions go … and this is not a good choice. [10]

Alcohol takes you out of the driver’s seat and makes nailing all your other healthy habits a lot harder especially when you can't see straight!

Dehydration

You all know that alcohol dehydrates you right? [11] I’m sure you’ve experienced it too – woken up in the middle of the night after a heavy night out, absolutely dying for a glass of water? I’ve been there too.

booze_alcohol_hydration

Your body can’t get rid of booze without first diluting it, hence the dehydrating effect. And any time you’re dehydrating, you’re losing water-soluble vitamins and minerals as well – not good!

Muscle tissue is 80% water, so it stands to reason that being dehydrated isn't going to be the best thing for you. In fact even a modest level of dehydration can result in a 20% decrease in physical performance, not to mention brainpower and low mood.

Stress Relief

“I want you to have a glass or two of wine or a scotch after work or with dinner”.

Would it surprise you to know I give this advice to my super-stressed-out clients from time to time? Those with highly-stressful lifestyles – work, kids, social etc. – often have a hard time losing weight.

This is in part due to the water retention brought about by your body’s stress hormone – cortisol. High levels of cortisol equals high levels of water retention.

Now, when you have a moderate amount of alcohol to relieve stress, often you can experience a drop in cortisol due to relaxation and bam – the scale is more co-operative to your fat-loss efforts and you’re down a pound or two. [12]

This is a very specific circumstance where alcohol use is great for true stress relief. However, beware of using alcohol as a crutch to escape life’s struggles.

To combat a hard day at work, to recover from a row with a loved one or to de-stress once in a while is fine – but, if it’s an everyday occurrence, this needs to be addressed.

How Much Alcohol Can I drink and still Lose Fat?

Alcohol can absolutely fit into your lifestyle if managed correctly. First thing to nail is your 80–90% real food plan, with empty-calories from junk food and alcohol making up to 10–20%.

Clearly, going over on the real food – all the way up to 100% most days is ideal, whereas going overboard on the booze and junk won’t do you any favors. You’ll just end up spinning your wheels and get nowhere fast.

If we take the example of the average male needing approximately 2500 calories a day to maintain a healthy physique, 10–20% equals 250–500 calories a day of the “fun” stuff.

And let’s say a third of that is alcohol and rest empty-calorie foods and drinks. This fits nicely in to the current weekly government guidelines of:

• 14 Single-shot Spirits
• 6 Glasses Wine
• 6 Pints Lager / Bitter
• 5 Pints Cider

Best alcohol to drink when trying to lose weight

That leaves you with 580 to 1150 calories a week to have fun with. So what does that look like?

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE

WEEKLY AMOUNT

Spirit & Diet Mixer

10–17 Single Measures

Low-alcohol Beer

7-10 Pints

Champagne

6–12 Flute Glasses

Wine [Red / White / Rose]

5–8 175ml-Glasses

Spirit & Non-diet Mixer

5–9 Single Measures

Lager

4–5 Pints

Alcopops

3–5 Bottles

Bitter / Cider

3–5 Pints

Guinness

2–3 Pints

Premium Lager

2 Pints

Carlsberg Special Brew

1–2 Pints

Vintage Cider

1 Pint

So as you can see, if you’re smart about it, you can enjoy drinking with mates and still nail your fat loss goals.

I personally recommend spirits with low/zero calorie mixers, as they offer you the biggest “bang for your buck” in terms of low calorie AND high alcohol content.

Taming Alcohol & Damage Control

Before I give you some practical tips on damage control on a night out, you need to get clear on why you’re drinking in the first place and how well you are able to moderate your alcohol consumption.

Short-term Abstinence

If you’re in the early stages of a fat loss phase or booze is complete kryptonite to you, avoiding alcohol in the short term may be the best course of action.

Take a booze timeout and focus on making some headway with your waistline and nailing your mindset before adding alcohol back in.

Booze Basics

If, however, you’ve got a handle on fat loss and you’re not using alcohol as an “escape” from the daily grind. Here are some pointers for having a fun night out without trashing your physique

Being prepared is a massive success strategy here – what you do beforehand can drastically affect the outcome of boozing. Ideally, plan for the day after to be as stress-free as possible – day off work, time for extra sleep, no commitments etc.

Before You Go Out

Fasting: Consider doing some intermittent fasting, so you’re less likely to be in a calorie surplus at the end of the night – at least for some portion of the day. Maybe skip breakfast on these days.

Limit Fat : Throughout the day, keep dietary fat as low as possible. Concentrate on very-lean protein sources such as: shrimp, turkey, chicken breast, tuna, why, egg whites for your protein needs.

High Fibre: Constipation is another knock-on side-effect of boozing caused by dehyration. Focus on green veggies and fruits as they are high in fibre, very low fat and nutrient-packed.

Asparagus, garlic and other sulfur containing veggies are particularly good at boosting your liver metabolism. [13]

booze_alcohol_nutrition

Hydrate: One of the best ways to help your body cope with alcohol toxicity is staying hydrated. Make sure you’re on top of your water intake beforehand, especially on booze days.

Adding a pinch of sea salt to your water will help your body hold on to the water and boost pre-hydration.

Before you go out, leave a bottle of water by your bed to remind you to drink before sleep.

Probiotics: As mentioned above your digestive tract takes a beating from alcohol – killing off all the good bacteria in your gut.

Probiotics are the good bacteria, with foods like: live yoghurt, sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi being great foods to keep levels on point.

These foods should be a permanent feature of your food plan but particularly before and after heavy boozing.

Antioxidants: As well as needing loads of water to dilute and detox your body of booze, antioxidants like vitamin C and E take a hit to neutralise alcohol too. [14]

Another reason to go for loads of fruits and veggies before a night out – green tea too is rich in antioxidants. Also consider a good-quality multivitamin to level-up and boost micronutrient levels across the board.

Plan Ahead: Feeling like crap after a night out AND not having your food plan sorted, or worse still – a kitchen primed with Ben & Jerrys and cookies, is a calorie bomb waiting to happen.

Sort out your kitchen and food plan for immediately afterwards and your recovery day before you go out.

While Your Out

Food First: It’s probably not best to start a night out on a completely empty stomach. For one, you’ll likely be a laughing stock: your mates … nice and tipsy, you … stumbling across the room far too early.

Secondly, as I’ve mentioned above, booze stimulates appetite, so with food already in your stomach, you’re less likely to cave in and eat a bunch of crap food because of amped up hunger signals.

Food Choices: The second alcohol hits your bloodstream, you’re effectively putting digestion on pause. So, the simpler your food choices are to digest, the better especially if you want to optimise the rate at which alcohol leaves your system.

Remember you’re really trying to avoid highly-fatty meals. They take longer to digest, don’t use up many calories to do so and, as previously discussed, can easily be stored as body fat when consumed with alcohol.

Good options are:

  • All veggie options
  • Steak, baked potato and veggies
  • Small bowl of pasta, shrimp and sauce
  • Chicken breast, sweet potato, veggies
  • Big tuna salad

Hydrate: Drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink.

Low-cal Drinks: Opt for drinks such as:

  • Vodka & Diet Coke
  • Gin & Slimline Tonic
  • JD & Coke Zero
  • Champagne – get someone else to pay 😉
  • Dry White Wines

Avoid all sugar-laden drinks like liqueurs, cocktails and non-diet mixers.

Now I’m not going to lie … cocktails are one of my favourite indulgences. But if I’m having them, it’s one or two max. I’m not going to spend an evening pouring straight table sugar down my neck and neither should you!

The Dreaded Late-night Munchies: You know very well that strolling past the kebab shop on the way home is a far better idea than going in and racking up thousands of calories of regret you don’t need right?

But, what if you do slip up and visit somewhere you know you probably shouldn't after a few gins? Well, here is the “best of a bad bunch” type of scenario:

Kebab Shop: Go for grilled chicken (not done meat) on a bed of salad. If you really must have the pita bread then so be it, but try and avoid the chips and the fat-laden garlic sauces etc.

Chinese: Go for a non-saucy chicken or beef dish, load up on veggies and go with steamed white rice – not too bad here.

Pizza: Now, all pizzas are topped with cheese – not the best right? To limit fat gain, best to get a small personal-sized one with minimal extra toppings.

Indian: Your best bet? Chicken Biriyani. Worst option? Chicken Korma & Peshwari Naan. Again, think dishes without sauces and leave the high-calorie things like bread out completely if you can.

Immediately After

Hydrate: Make sure you get in more water before you put your head down. Again, add a pinch of sea salt to your water to boost hydration effects.

Food: It’s probably a good idea once you’ve hydrated to get in some vitamins and minerals that will need replacing after your night out. Another multivitamin would be a good idea.

If you can avoid eating before bed, that’s your best option. Again think max nutrition foods such as fruits and veggies if you’re gonna eat.

The Day After

I’m hungover, what should I do?: Suck it up. The only hangover cure known to date is giving your body time to expel the alcohol. Forget special remedies from the health food store – they’re all a con.

Knocking back seven single-shot alcoholic drinks over a night out for example, will take in excess of 10 hours from the first one you drink to being free of the negative effects.

So, more than likely, proper digestion will still be offline well into the next day.

Postpone eating and just drink plenty of water for as long as you can, then get right back on schedule with your food plan you set up the day before. Same again, add a pinch of sea salt to your water to boost hydration effects.

Think protein, fibre and lots of micronutrition. A mushroom omelette with a bowl of berries and live yoghurt on the side is a good example here.

booze_belly_fat

Coffee: As well as helping get your brain back online, coffee too can have a laxative effect – really useful to help your gut eliminate the alcohol now in your gut from the night before. [15]

Coffee is also rich in antioxidants and has been show to help your liver cope with the toxic effects of booze. [16]

IN A NUTSHELL

• Alcohol is toxic to your body.

• Overdoing alcohol consumption can lead to:

• Overeating
• Weight gain
• Disturbed sleep
• Decreased T-levels
• Weakened immune system
• Alcohol dependency
• Dehydration

• In moderation alcohol can help with stress relief.

• With smart food and alcohol choices, you can booze AND lose fat.