How alcohol can affect your fat loss
Posted by Nicky Perks
Can one drink alcohol on a low carb diet? It all depends on your goals and timelines. In general, if you want to maximize your fat loss, alcohol is best avoided or strictly limited. You get to make the rules. You might decide to have only 1 or 2 glasses of wine on a weekend and then not to drink during the week at all. Another option is that you only drink alcohol when there is a special event or when you eat out (provided that is not too often). You could also decide to avoid alcohol completely in the beginning of your weight loss journey to lose weight faster. The challenge is balancing “having a life” or “being social” or “unwinding with a drink”, with your fat loss goals and finding a happy medium that is going to work well for you.
5 reasons why alcohol is best avoided or limited when trying to lose weight:
Alcohol is a toxin that your body must metabolise as quickly as possible before it does any damage. This becomes your body’s top priority. All other food consumed gets put into a ‘holding pattern’ and very often ends up in fat storage instead of being burned for fuel. It can take up to 3 days for your body to revert back to fat-burning and fat-loss.
(2) Alcohol messes with your hormones.
Alcohol impacts your hormones and can cause imbalances. Alcohol raises cortisol and estrogen and decreases testosterone (in both men and women). These hormonal changes inhibit fat loss and can result in weight loss resistance despite following a healthy eating plan. See my Spare tyres and man boobs article for more info.
(3) Alcohol disturbs your sleep.
We burn most of our fat at night when we sleep. Therefore, getting sufficient quality sleep is critical for weight loss. Drinking alcohol at night causes frequent wakings and therefore deep restorative sleep is not achieved. This will directly affect your body’s ability to burn fat efficiently.
(4) Alcohol reduces your willpower.
After a few glasses of wine, most people find it very difficult to make good food choices. We are more inclined to let our hair down, say “what the hell” and eat things we shouldn’t eat. It has also been shown that alcohol makes us hungrier and we end up eating more – a double whammy!
(5) Alcohol contains empty calories.
Consuming calories devoid of any nutritional benefit will hinder progress towards your goals. Calories still matter. A calorie deficit is still required for fat loss. One mechanism whereby a low carb, healthy fat diet assists with fat loss, is that our appetite is naturally reduced, and we eat fewer calories (creating an effortless calorie deficit for weight loss to occur). Why sabotage this process by over-consuming calories in the form of alcohol? Sharing a bottle of wine with someone will pack on around 300 calories – that’s like a whole meal!!
The bottom line is that alcohol is not a diet food. You need to make the decision whether to include it or not. If cutting out alcohol completely isn’t realistic, at least make a conscious effort to significantly reduce what you consume. If you are going to drink stick with dry wine, or spirits like whiskey, vodka, gin and tequila (mixed with soda water). Avoid carb-heavy drinks such as sugary cocktails and beer.
Warning: Alcohol tolerance can significantly decrease when following a low carb or ketogenic diet, so always drink responsibly and go slow.