To Drink or Not to Drink: How Alcohol Affects Your Fitness

 In Nutrition

We all know alcohol is high in calories, and when drinking excessively it can be hard to keep up with your fitness goals.

But this is not the only factor to consider.

To truly understand how alcohol affects your weight loss, let’s get into the science. Alcohol contains 7.1 kcals per gram, however due to the thermic effect of alcohol (the amount of energy expenditure above the resting metabolic rate), it only accounts for 5.1 kcal per gram. What is considered “one drink” (12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of the hard stuff) is about 15 grams of ethanol.    

Since the body perceives alcohol to be a toxin that needs to be disposed of, upon consumption your body makes it a priority to “burn it off.” Ethanol alcohol is immediately broken down by the body into acetate.  

What this means is that if you are eating while drinking, you are doing yourself a disservice. Acetate takes precedent as a fuel source. The breakdown of alcohol can slow your fat burning metabolism by as much as 70-75% between 1.5 and 2 drinks. This is obviously not good for your overall metabolic function or how you can absorb certain fat soluble vitamins.    

But, it’s a fallacy that alcohol is stored as fat. Because alcohol burns so high as the primary fuel source once it’s ingested, only 3-5% of alcohol consumed is stored as fat.      

The issue is that after those 1.5 to 2 drinks, your body now is unable to use the energy required to breakdown other carbs and fats. Depending on how many more drinks you consume, your metabolic functions can be slowed for anywhere from 10 to 48 hours. This is a long time not to be fully using carbs and fat for energy, increasing the likelihood they are stored for later use as body fat.

Alcohol & Weight Loss


Some Tips for Consuming Alcohol:

Everything in moderation.
Don’t cut things out of your life cold turkey if you enjoy them. Doing this is unreasonable and more than likely going to cause your diet to ultimately fail. If you enjoy a couple of drinks with friends, this is fine. Just be choosey as to when and how often you decide to do this

If you’re going to drink, don’t eat.
Don’t get me wrong — I am not advocating that you abstain from food so that you’re blackout drunk once you have a couple. I am simply saying if you are going to have a glass of wine with the girls or crack a cold one with the boys, maybe you skip the cheese & crackers and pizza rolls. Just have your drink and enjoy the good company!

All this said, it’s all about what you’re willing to do to reach your goals. Lifestyle choices must align with fitness goals for both to work.

If your goal is to be happy and healthy and fit, of course alcohol has a place. If you are looking to get up on stage with 5% body fat and veins coming out of your abs, then alcohol might not be for you for a while. Get it?  

Be objective, keep an open mind, and think about what you really want — not just out of your fitness or aesthetics, but your life.


Schedule a nutritional consulting session and learn how to best align your lifestyle choices with your fitness goals!  

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