Can you drink alcohol and still reach your body goals? The short answer is yes. However, it’s crucial to understand how alcohol isn’t exactly helping.
Alcohol is a toxin, so when booze enters your body, it will do everything to process it out because alcohol does not store in the body (unlike carbs, fats and protein). If you are drinking while eating, your body will first process the alcohol, then move on to the food. Drinking on an empty stomach is a slippery slope to go down, as it can increase your chances of getting intoxicated. Tip: Enjoy a small amount of alcohol an hour before or several hours after a meal.
Alcohol slows down almost all processes in the body, including gastric emptying, making your body work harder to digest food. Alcohol can also damage beneficial gut bacteria, which is helpful for many processes, including the breakdown of nutrients. Our gut flora is also responsible for food cravings and impacts our hunger hormones. Tip: If you are going to drink while you eat, consider taking a digestive enzyme with your meal to help your body break down and process the foods.
As mentioned earlier, the body cannot store alcohol in the body. Alcohol does not come with any vitamins or minerals. Any nutrients present in an alcoholic beverage do not come from the alcohol compound itself but rather the fruit or plant used to make the alcohol. Tip: Don’t look at alcohol for the health benefits. It is better to eat whole foods from the plants made to produce alcohol, like grapes.
Hormones orchestrate our appetite. A primary hunger hormone called leptin is responsible for signaling fullness in the body. Alcohol is a neurotoxin that disrupts the nervous system, including our brain. When we are under the influence of alcohol, we are less sensitive to leptin’s response, which tells us we are full. Under the influence of alcohol, you can eat more than you would sober. Tip: Have a meal before drinking alcohol to avoid late-night hunger and munchies.
The liver is involved in nearly every metabolic process in the body, including the breakdown and storage of fats and carbohydrates, creating energy, and getting rid of toxic substances, like alcohol. The liver plays a huge role in fat loss. The liver is our internal filter in the body. Keeping this filter clean and working efficiently for healthy body composition and metabolism is essential.
Alcohol has seven calories per gram. The calorie content of alcohol is almost twice the amount of protein and carbs. Unless you take shots or drink spirits on the rocks, you are also likely consuming other carbohydrates like sugar. A margarita can have anywhere between 200 and 500 calories. A tequila soda with lime can have as little as 100 calories. Tip: Consider drinking alcohol on the rocks or sparkling water and citrus to reduce the caloric load.
There are, of course, other reasons to avoid drinking, but I am not here to rip on alcohol. If you see alcohol being a part of your life and handle it well, you can have both. We all process alcohol differently based on our size, tolerance and habits. What you drink is just as important as how much you drink and how often you drink.
I am by no means anti-alcohol, but when I’m serious with my body goals, I see it as a deterrent and not something that is making a positive impact on results. Getting to the gym can already be a challenge for some — then, add in a hangover, lack of sleep, dehydration and more friction in lifting.
There is good news for us in 2022. Many alcohol-free and alcohol-removed companies are sprouting up all over the place! These days you don’t have to miss out on the fun of drinking without all of the adverse side effects of alcohol. Many restaurants in Austin also offer mocktails and alcohol-free beverages on the menu.
To avoid the temptation to drink, it’s best to schedule something early the following day, like a bike ride or a workout. To avoid peer pressure, many of my friends mention that simply saying, “I don’t drink,” gives people less room to ask questions or talk you into doing it just this one time!
About the Author
Krista Large is a nutritionist, habit coach and online fitness trainer. Her passion in life is teaching others to dream big and live large, which starts with health. Large is an Ole Miss Rebel and runs her own brand and business based here in Austin. You can learn more about her at livinglargewellness.com.