It was around the year 2015 when I went to Vegas with some friends. One night we went out for dinner. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary—we had some drinks in the room before dinner, took a ‘to-go cup’ for the walk to the restaurant. Upon arrival we all ordered some more beverages, along with appetizers, the main course and shared a couple desserts.
I am leaving out some of the finer details of shenanigans in between, but for the most part, this night doesn’t sound unordinary. However, a couple days later I noticed that my waistband was tighter and the shirt buttons were snug. “Damn alcohol” I said to myself. Most of us have said this before.
“If I want to lose weight I need to cut out all the alcohol.”
But when I was listening to a recent Scott Baptie podcast, Steve Kemp made the point that, it actually isn’t moderate alcohol consumption that makes us gain weight—it’s our choices we make after were drinking, that cause us to gain weight.
A key point here is moderate consumption. Calories from alcohol can quickly add up to a meal. For example, 3 glasses of red wine equals about 375 calories, while 4 pints of beer equals about 832 calories. Put that into more perspective, a Big Mac from McDonalds has 257 calories.
But still, it seems to be the affect alcohol has on our appetite that derails weight loss.
What does alcohol do to the body?
The liver digests alcohol. Your liver can digest 7grams of alcohol per hour. That amount is easy to hit. For example, a glass of wine has 14 grams of alcohol.
When your liver cannot digest the alcohol faster than consumption, it travels into your circulatory system (blood) and brain. This is when your reaction time, memory, judgment and pleasure seeking are affected and the Party Goblin wakes up. (If you want more information on the Party Goblin, click here.)
It’s not really the alcohol calories, but the affects of our appetite?
Scott and Steve discussed that alcohol affects our appetites short term. But not in the sense, “the more you drink, the more you eat”. Steve shared studies that show you can eat 30% more after drinking moderately. Not just more, but it also affects how much you eat after you are full. So, where you would normally feel “stuffed”, you don’t anymore.
Then it came back to me. Upon arriving back to that hotel room later that evening, we stopped by a fast food restaurant in the lobby. I would guess over 1500 calories were purchased before my head hit the pillow.
John Romaniello recommends eating 10% less of your daily calories before going out, but definitely eat to help curb any craving influx.
But I can still gain weight after drinking, even if I didn’t over-consume food. What gives?
This is a scenario I found myself in before as well. Whether it is upon returning from a vacation or simply waking up the next day from dinner and drinks, the scale seems to shift.
If you wake up and find yourself 2-4 pounds lighter, it’s probably because you didn’t hydrate sufficiently. So your weight loss is based off of dehydration, not actually fat loss.
If you wake up and see the scale 2-4 pounds heavier, it’s probably because you drank a lot of fluid and ate a lot of salt. The increase in weight is also probably not fat, but water retention.
This is why you don’t really want to weigh in every day anyway; there are a lot of factors at play. So when you’re drinking, give yourself a couple days post drinking for some time to stabilize.
So, how do you plan alcohol into your routine?
With most of my nutritional coaching today, I follow more habits based planning. So, if you want to build better habits, I would suggest planning in 1-2 glasses of wine (not 6-8) LOL.
Another method is actually allocating the calories from alcohol (including mixes if using) and subtract that from another. For example, if allocating 300-400 calories for your wine consumption, you have to take away the 300-400 calories from your food consumption. Calories do count when it comes to weight loss.
You have probably heard not to drink on an empty stomach because alcohol absorption is at 100%. Steve states that if you drink on a full stomach, that drops to 66% absorption. So eat beforehand, and try not to eat once you’re drinking.
Does the hangover also affect cravings?
As mentioned, yeah alcohol acutely affects our appetite, which can cause for some self-sabotage. The following day or two, Steve accurately states, our goal during the hangover is to “just feel better”.
We typically go for the deep fried, salty, comfort foods because we are simply craving salt and electrolytes—we are dehydrated. This is why we feel like garbage – dehydration. Well, and alcohol is a technically a toxin.
In order to offset any further sabotage, stock your kitchen with a lot of nutrient dense, low calorie foods—do not call Uber Eats.
Drinking water while partying helps, doesn’t it?
We know drinking alcohol dehydrates us. It would make sense to drink water. But in this scenario we actually aren’t doing anything because our body is also losing salt and electrolytes when drinking water. This is where the term “breaking the seal” came from – we are going to the bathroom a lot and just peeing everything out.
The solution here is to hydrate yourself before you drink, and then when you are finished drinking. Gatorade is great. Steve and Scott also mentioned milk, if you can stomach it.
And my workouts?
Along with alcohol’s affects on appetite, we also need to acknowledge that if you have over-consumed or not sufficiently done the prep work to keep the hangover at bay, the workout the following day(s) may be missed altogether. So try to workout earlier in the day, before you start drinking.
Can you workout on a hangover?
Absolutely. In fact, it will probably make you feel a little better. But Steve and Scott note that you need to be realistic with the fact that your performance will not be up to par, so adjust appropriately. It should be something light that can allow you to get moving and a little sweaty.
John Romaniello sums it up perfectly, “the fact is, if you DO want to go out and party, you should be able to do that as often as you like without completely screwing everything else up.”
The information on this topic is extensive and often confusing, and more studies still need to be done.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with some more information so you can enjoy your drinks, minimizing the damage to your body, your fitness goals and keeping your Party Goblin asleep.
If you would like some more information, Doctor Jade Teta has a fantastic write up here.