Let's set it straight from the get-go that the tips provided by OMNI Strength & Performance in this article won’t give you a free pass to drink bottles upon bottles of alcohol, and still look and feel the way you want to. They will, however, teach you a few tricks of the trade so you can sustain a balanced lifestyle (and that means not beating yourself up if you have a few extra drinks once in a while) and continue to achieve all your fitness goals.
Let’s start off by gaining a better understanding of why excessive alcohol consumption isn't ideal and how it can affect your fitness progress:
Impairs muscle growth
Excessive alcohol consumption in the long term will throw off hormonal balance and also interfere with muscle recovery and regeneration after exercise. Ultimately, these can cause a major setback in our body’s ability to generate gains.
Barrier to fat loss
Since alcohol contains energy value (1gr equals to 7kcal), it can be a barrier to fat loss if consumed excessively. Calories from alcohol will take priority as fuel in the body over other fuel sources because its byproduct, acetate, is toxic. Put simply, when you consume alcohol, your usual fuel source - fats - will stop burning until you’ve burned all the alcohol off. This isn’t ideal if fat loss is the main goal.
Affects training and performance
Whether or not alcohol consumption affects your training and performance is entirely dependent on the dosage. This is why your trainer will often let you off the hook if you report to drinking within a reasonable standard. Excessive alcohol consumption, however, has the ability to inhibit mental focus after ingestion. Reduced focus can affect your training performance, and suboptimal training performance results in suboptimal stimulus.
Tips & tricks to enjoy alcohol and continue to achieve your fitness goals
If you clicked through to this article, you’re probably guilty of reaching into your stash of booze a little more often than you should to get through the stress and boredom of self-isolation during this tumultuous period. Here are the tips and tricks you’ve been waiting for, folks.
Keep your fat intake low on the day you plan to drink
Fat contains the most energy value compared to other macronutrients (1 gr equals 9kcal) and since the calories from alcohol can very quickly add up, it makes sense to keep your daily caloric intake in check by trading off this particular macronutrient. In addition to this, as mentioned above, alcohol takes priority as fuel when consumed - so if your diet is high in fat and you drink alcohol, your body won’t have much of a chance to burn the fat as fuel until the alcohol is completely metabolised.
Hit your daily protein targets
Whatever your daily protein target is, do your best to make sure that you’re hitting it everyday - even on days that you intend to drink a little more than usual. This is to ensure that you preserve muscle mass. Seek protein from lean sources such as chicken, egg whites and casein protein. If you worry about going over your daily calorie intake, restrict carb to veggies on drinking days.
Liquor on its own is calorie-dense. Adding mixers like sweeteners, juices, or soft drinks can really pile on the calories all the more. Have a look at the alcohol & mixed alcohol calorie chart below:When reaching for drinks, try to stick to shots or dry red wines (as they are lower in carbs). If you really need to mix it up, go for spirits with zero-calorie mixers such as diet coke or soda water.
Schedule a workout
On the day that you plan to drink, schedule time to do some form of training or cardio. Doing so will help set you up with a good mindset of having done something good for yourself physically, keep you accountable, and remind you of your health and fitness goals!
Your fitness goals, particularly maintaining or losing weight, all comes down to energy balance at the end of the day.
Technically, you can actually get away with having more glasses of alcohol by cutting down your food intake of the day to keep your total caloric intake in check. That’s not to say that you should be doing this because ultimately, it’s not a sustainable strategy for your long-term health and approach in dieting.
There isn’t an exact formula to how many glasses you should or shouldn’t limit yourself to drinking in one night, but the team at OMNI Strength & Performance recommend sticking to a maximum of 2 units or glasses as a point of reference to ensure you’re getting a good balance of eating a healthy amount and enjoying the some of the finer things in life!