Have you ever noticed that a LARGE percentage of fitness enthusiasts also enjoy drinking alcohol?
The majority of my friends who are fitness authors or personal trainers also like to drink moderately.
Why do people drink alcohol?
This phenomenon has been studied by Dr. Fred Navarro.
Dr. Navarro completed his doctoral thesis on the psychology of health behavior and wrote a book about his findings titled Pattern of Health.
In this book, he finds that people gravitate and fit into one of 10 different health behavior groups (PATH 0 – PATH 9).
One thing he found?
The group most likely to workout regularly and seek out health related information… is the 2nd most likely to drink alcohol regularly.
I’ll give a more detailed description of this group, right after a quick music break.
The music theme for this post?
Pop music done lounge-style, by Richard Cheese.
(Richard Cheese is a guilty pleasure of mine. If I ran a bar, I’d play his stuff during happy hour.)
Okay, back to the gym and cocktail group.
PATH 8 (Independently Healthy) adults are associated with a very strong attraction to regular vigorous physical activity. These adults have a strong commitment to keeping their bodies in top physical shape, looking for health information about different treatments and looking for health information about nutrition and healthy dieting
PATH 8 adults have the lowest odds of smoking (0.27:1) and the second highest odds of consuming alcohol more than 5 times per week (1.37:1).
This stuff is really interesting to me.
For instance, a lot of people in my family are PATH 7 (Healthcare-Driven).
PATH 7 people avoid regular vigorous physical activity but will seek out a doctor at even the slightest sign of a health related issue.
Do you know people who go to the doctors and get antibiotics as soon as they get a cold or the flu?
Those are PATH 7 people.
…and you won’t typically see them in the gym.
I’m the exact opposite.
I pretty much have to have an arm or leg falling off before I visit a doctor’s office.
I’m terrified of doctors, so I do my best to avoid the need.
Us PATH 8 people also have the highest level of self-reported health.
Remember, this is self-reported…
Maybe we just think we are healthier.
My guess is that if you are reading this far, you are likely a PATH 8 type.
…or you have PATH 8 tendencies.
How Alcohol Affects Fat Loss
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, the body gives priority to burning the ethanol in those drinks.
Alcohol isn’t stored as fat.
When the body is metabolizing alcohol it STOPS the burning of any food calories.
Alcohol temporarily pushes the pause button on your metabolism.
When drinking alcohol I highly recommend keeping fat intake low. I’ll explain in a bit why this isn’t as big of an issue with carbs and protein.
This is really not even an issue until you eat in a calorie surplus.
If you REPLACE your fat calories with alcohol, there will NOT be an increase in fat storage.
If you are eating at maintenance and had 300 calories worth of drinks, you would just need to reduce your fat intake by 300 calories.
What about reducing protein and carbohydrate intake when drinking alcohol?
Your body is not as efficient at storing protein or carbohydrate calories as body fat when compared to the fats you eat.
Here’s an article I wrote explaining why carbs rarely get converted to body fat: Do Carbs Make You Fat?
If you are drinking and not trying to put on weight or are trying to burn fat?
I recommend cutting back on fat calories.
The followers of Keto diets are going to disagree with me, but I’d say cut back on fats BEFORE you decide to reduce carbs.
Your body is still much less efficient at storing carbs as body fat as it is at storing fats as body fat.
Lean protein sources like chicken breasts are your friend if you are trying to get lean while enjoying drinks.
Here are a few go-to recipes I use that are low-fat and low-carb.
Boneless chicken breasts for the win!
I realize that focusing on chicken breasts is an old school 80’s way of dieting, but we got a few things right in the 80’s when it came to fitness.
How Alcohol Affects Muscle Growth & Recovery
There have been studies in the past which show excessive drinking impairs muscle growth and recovery.
The key is the word “excessive”.
The significant negative issues occur when drinking 5-6 alcoholic beverages or more.
Here’s a link to a study which discusses this in more detail: Alcohol: impact on sports performance and recovery in male athletes
Additionally, if athletes are to consume alcohol after sport/exercise, a dose of approximately 0.5 g/kg body weight is unlikely to impact most aspects of recovery and may, therefore, be recommended if alcohol is to be consumed during this period.
Muscle growth doesn’t seem to be hindered MUCH by moderate drinking of 1-3 drinks.
But let’s be honest…
Are there positive effects of alcohol when it comes to fitness?
Optimum muscle growth and recovery are best with ZERO alcohol consumption.
I enjoy 1-2 drinks but do realize that it has at least a little bit of an effect on muscle recovery and protein synthesis.
It just isn’t really significant until you hit the 5+ drink level.
The calories in alcohol are empty calories.
If gaining maximum muscle is a huge concern, those calories would be better spent on other macronutrients.
Is Drinking Alcohol Bad for You?
It certainly CAN be.
Some of the least healthy people I know do NOT drink.
I’ve also had a relative who died early from drinking too much.
For me personally?
I really enjoy traveling and sampling beers of different regions.
One of these days I’d love to go to Oktoberfest in Munich.
I’m also a huge fan of going to local restaurants that have rotating micro-brews.
…and trying a beer I’ve never had before.
I’m good at limiting myself to 2-3 drinks.
(I know I’d be a tiny bit leaner if I never had beer but beer sampling is a hobby I thoroughly enjoy.)
If alcohol makes you feel bad, don’t drink it.
(I do think it is best to keep it in the 1-3 drink range.)
This post isn’t about whether you should or shouldn’t drink it.
It’s really aimed at the PATH 8 people, who I know are already drinking along with working out.
If that is you and you are trying to get or stay lean?
Limit fat when you have a few drinks.
Stick to carbs or lean protein sources like chicken breasts.
This works well.
As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.
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