22 – Alcohol

Alcohol can be a tricky subject for those of us in the health field. Of course we all know that consuming loads of alcohol day after day is not healthy, but what about the occasional drink?

Some will say it’s poison and tell you to avoid it all together. Others will spout off the health benefits of antioxidants in wine and say you need some every day.

We fall somewhere in the middle and actually, it is based much more on your particular phase and personal goals.


Background on Alcohol

First off, a little background on alcohol and how your body processes it. I am sure you have heard people talk about alcohol as “empty calories” but what does that actually mean?

Unlike fat, carbs and protein, our bodies cannot store alcohol.  Whether you have one drink or ten, your body will cease to metabolize other fuels and focus its energy into converting alcohol into Acetyl CoA, which our bodies can oxidize. With even just four drinks, this can take up to seven hours. This can disrupt our normal metabolic rhythm quite a bit and hurt our body’s ability to burn fat.

Where you can really get into trouble is adding calories on top of the alcohol.  For example, a margarita is full of sugar or drinks mixed with sweet sugary mixes or soda.  Now your body has to process the alcohol and deal with the high sugar load all at the same time.  This is not a good combination for fat loss.

In a lot of cases when it comes to drinking on a night out, it’s more the choices we make after our judgments have been loosened. i.e dying for a curry chip after a few pints. Minimise the chances of that by having a balanced meal before heading out and if you’re feeling peckish after the pub, have some soup ready at home.

Alcohol and Sleep

Another big impact of high alcohol consumption is the effect it has on sleep quality. Whenever you have too much alcohol in your system, your body cannot get into the deep REM sleep that we need for a restful night of recovery. Our bodies oxidize the largest percentage of fat while we are sleeping. This is another way drinking too much can impact our body’s ability to burn fat.


What does this mean to you your goals?

If you are someone with a goal to lose a large amount of weight, we recommend you limit your alcohol consumption, but you don’t have to totally eliminate it.  It might be difficult, but you don’t need an excessive amount of alcohol to enjoy a night out.  And the great news is, most of our favourite types of drink; wine, spirits and beers now come with an alcohol free alternative.

If you are in more of a maintenance mode, you can get away with a little bit more drinking. This does not mean you can go out every weekend and have 10+ drinks, but you have more leeway than someone trying to lose 30 pounds.

Test it out on yourself.

Take a couple of weeks and limit the number of drinks you have and see what happens to your body composition. Was it easier for you to lose weight? Did you sleep better? If yes, start limiting the number of drinks you have each week. If not and you are still on path toward your goals, your current alcohol habits are probably just fine.


  • Alcohol in moderation can be ok. 
  • Drinking alcohol can disrupt your sleep and inhibit your ability to lose fat.
  • If you are trying to lose weight, avoid alcohol. If you are in maintenance mode, alcohol in moderation can be ok.