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Friday, April 29, 2011

Alcohol In My Diet

During my one month "One Ingredient Diet" I consumed 0g alcohol. I am not a big drinker anyway, but I do consume a few alcoholic beverages on the weekend from time to time. It is "common knowledge" that consuming alcohol is a killer to a diet. I thought this was a big reason for my weight loss during the one month, but then I did a little research.

There are numerous studies (CLICK HERE, HERE, AND HERE) that show alcohol consumption does not lead to weight gain. When consumed in place of other macronutrients, mainly carbohydrates, alcohol consumption actually decreases body mass. BUT, when consumed in addition to normal eating habits alcohol consumption will "lead to a metabolic condition that favors lipid (fat) storage and weight gain and can be considered a risk factor for the development of obesity".

If your only concern is weight loss then you are safe to have a drink or two, as long as those drinks replace carbohydrate intake. When alcohol is consumed it takes preference in your digestive system. Your body will metabolize (break down to make energy) the alcohol before it metabolizes any other macronutrient. When you consume carbohydrates (popcorn, pretzels...) at the same time you are consuming alcohol then your body will store the carbohydrates (fat storage) in order to metabolize the alcohol.

"That's great! Thanks Mike! Now I can go out every Friday night, have my drinks and not have any guilt!"
Not so fast loyal reader! Just because body mass does not increase with alcohol consumption doesn't mean body fat percentage doesn't increase. According to the research we know two things.
  1. Body mass does not increase because of alcohol consumption.
  2. Your body stores other macronutrients first in order to metabolize alcohol.
So, if you consume alcohol then your body stores fat. If you stored fat but have not gained weight then you have lost another form of mass. You have lost muscle mass. There are numerous studies that show alcohol consumption decreases muscle mass (HERE, HERE, and HERE).

When starting this diet my main goal was increased performance. Alcohol is one of the worst things you can consume when trying to increase performance. Alcohol makes your body store fat and lose muscle. Not a good combination!

If your only goal is to simply lose weight, then go ahead and drink! Just make sure you stay away from the popcorn and pretzels and be prepared for other health problems later in life. But if you would rather look and perform like this guy, rather than this guy, then stay away from the drinks!

I don't think there is anything wrong with having a drink or two from time to time. You just have to keep your goals in mind and be smart about it. Is having two drinks on Friday night going to kill your diet? No, but it isn't going to help either.

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