While most people think that sticking to liquor and avoiding beer and sugary mixed drinks will help keep the weight off, this is not quite the case.
Research considers the standard alcoholic drink to be around 15 grams of ethyl alcohol, which can be found in 5 ounces of wine, 1 ½ ounces of 40% liquor such as whiskey or vodka, and 12 ounces of beer. With every gram of alcohol comes about 7 calories as well, and with the standard drink being 15 grams of alcohol, every drink comes to around 105 calories. Unless drinking in moderation, alcohol can quickly add up and put someone into a caloric surplus.
Along with the calories, alcohol has quite an effect on the thermic and oxidative properties of the human body. Since alcohol cannot be stored like macronutrients, alcohol is quickly broken down into two different by-products that the body deems to be dangerous and wants to get rid of as quickly as possible. Because of this, the body switches from using fats and carbohydrates as its main sources of energy, and starts using alcohol instead. This causes a significant reduction in the burning process of fat, as well as an increase in the conversion of carbohydrates into fats to be stored (Siler et al, 1999).
As for alcohols effects on muscle recovery, alcohol has been shown to increase markers associated with reduction of recovery, such as cortisol and impaired cognitive recovery (Alistair et al, 2013). Muscle protein synthesis has also been shown to be reduced by alcohol at a rate of anywhere from %23 to %37, showing to be not as drastic when alcohol is consumed with protein (Parr et al, 2014).
Along with all these detriments that alcohol can have on weight loss and overall training, a big one to consider is just how you’re feeling overall the day after. If alcohol is consumed in moderation, about 2 to 3 drinks once or twice a week, than alcohol is nothing to be too concerned about. When prepping for a show or contest, alcohol should be avoided at all costs. I believe the big take home point should be that alcohol can quickly add up and can affect the average gym goer in a number of different ways that may elongate their goals, or just effect their overall health.
-Tyler Giery BS, CSCS, USAW