By Jake Boly, Staff Writer
An issue I want to cover this week has most likely been on a lot of our minds at one time or another. This issue is consuming alcohol while losing fat, gaining muscle, or both. So where to begin when trying to find the truth that surrounds alcohol and fitness/diet oriented goals.
The first topic I want to begin with is what alcohol actually is and what effect is has within our body's. Alcohol's caloric value is around 7.1 kcal but, after thermogenesis (thermic effect of feeding) its said to be around 5.7 kcal. Ethanol unlike cars is something our body can not use. When consuming alcohol our body identifies it as a toxin and tries its hardest to get rid of it. This is why alcohol has such a high caloric value, it requires more work to process and get rid of. Is a calorie a calorie when it comes to alcohol? Alcohol isn't a vital nutrient our body needs for energy or growth, yet the calories still count.
The first assumption I want to talk about is the "negative" effect alcohol has on muscle growth and testosterone production. I guarantee in every magazine or media driven outlet you'll read the same thing, "alcohol will largely effect gains". Sure, that might be true if you assume the public are all alcoholics. Martin Berkhan reviewed a study that followed men and women for three weeks while they consumed 30-40g of alcohol (3 beers) a day. The result? For men, only a 6.8% drop in test production was found after three weeks which is very small considering it was for a span of three weeks. The first noted significant decrease was at 120g of alcohol at one time dropping test by 23%. That's right, it takes 120g of alcohol (10 beers) in one sitting for your test to actually drop significantly. Oh yeah, ladies there was no decrease in the three week study for you.
The next assumption I would like to cover is alcohol and fat gain or more importantly fat loss. Before I dive into this topic lets stop and think, "If you consume more than you burn you will store, if you burn more than you consume you will lose". Sure, a lot of college kids and adults go over board on drinking a few days of the week. Do you really think going over your caloric limit twice a week is going to result in massive fat gains? Over time sure a little gain might be seen but, in short no. Although, when you pair abundance of alcohol with drunk eating and poor food choices before and after, fat gains can be sped up considerably. The body is always undergoing oxidation of the food you've consumed throughout the day. When we consume alcohol food oxidation is put last because the body is currently trying its hardest to oxidize the alcohol. You might argue that its easier to store calories while alcohol gets the priority in oxidation but, if you're in your caloric limit you will be fine.
Alcohol isn't the worst or best when it comes to muscle gain, fat loss, or both. I'm not saying, "yes its okay to go out and drink as much as you want". I am saying, alcohol like everything else in a diet with moderation won't make or break you. In fact a lot of sources believe alcohol in moderation offers a wide variety of health benefits. Remember to eat intuitively, hit your macros, give it all in the gym, don't forget micronutrients, and to be consistent. With this combination you can't go wrong.