Do Alcohol and Fitness Mix?

Posted On Nov 5, 2013 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

The relationship between alcohol and fitness

Avoid beer if you're trying to get a six-pack. Clear alcohol is the best choice when trying to trim down. Red wine is the healthiest alcohol to drink.

Heard these three claims before? Whether you sip martinis or gulp cold brewskies, quantity impacts health and fat loss more than the type of alcohol. It's simply not true that clear alcohol like vodka and gin don't find their way to your waist line the way beer does.

Let's look at a few facts:

  • Moderate* intake of red wine may be good for your heart.
  • Everyone's metabolism is unique, and this includes how your body handles alcohol.
  • Alcohol is an appetite-stimulant, can slow down your metabolism and provides calories without any nutritional value.
  • The higher the alcohol percentage, the more calories (for example, higher alcohol content beers have more calories per 12oz than lighter, lower alcohol beers).
  • Be careful with fruity mixed drinks: Some can pack a whopping 300-400 calories per serving!

Do you have to cut out alcohol completely if you're trying to get lean?

No, but cutting it out can only help you. I've worked with clients who have factored in calories to allow room for a glass of wine a few times per week, but have hit plateaus. Cut the alcohol out or down to one or two drinks per week, and magically the plateau is over. Even moderate drinking messes with your metabolism, changing the way your body metabolizes calories from food, essentially slowing it down and making it more difficult to lose weight.

If you drink wine or hard alcohol, especially if you use huge goblets for wine, measure a single serving to ensure you don't fall victim to the happy pourer syndrome. And don't restrict your food intake before a night of going out if you know you're going to have more than one drink. Have a solid meal with protein, fiber and small amount of fat.

Bottom line: If you drink, enjoy your beverage of choice in small amounts.

*Moderate drinking is defined as one daily drink for women and two daily drinks for men. One drink is considered 4-5 oz. of wine, 12 oz. beer or 1.5 oz. hard alcohol.