Fitness Distilled

The Post No One Wants To Read

I’ve never been a big drinker. I hardly ever drank in college, and in fact, if I hadn’t moved to New York City—where one’s social life pretty much has to entail going to bars—I probably wouldn’t drink now. Ever.

I’ve certainly enjoyed alcohol on occasion, and I’ll admit it’s helped me talk to girls and have a better time than I would have allowed myself to otherwise. But if you told me that, starting now, I could never drink again for the rest of my life, I’d get over it pretty fast.

One thing that would ease the pain is knowing how much better my progress would be when it comes to training. I’d be able to burn a lot more fat by not drinking on a weekly basis, and I’d recover better from my workouts. It’s absolutely amazing to me what people tell themselves they can get away with simply because they go to the gym. It’s even more amazing how much people think they can drink even if they do everything else right.


He raced cars, fondled women… and died young

It seems to me that the “fit” guy on the street would rather give up red meat, cheese, plastic water bottles, and even his car before he gives up his booze. As if any of those things had nearly as much impact as just cutting your drinking back from four nights a week to one.

It’s a subject in the fitness industry that no one really wants to broach because it’s not sexy, it’s not what people want to hear, and it scares off customers. Tell a guy he has to give up beer and he immediately assumes his social life and very ability to relax are out the window.

“What’s the point?” he’ll ask. “It’s not worth being in shape.”

I won’t go into what this says about our society and the pathetic lack of discipline I see in people today. I’ll just look at the facts.

Alcohol is poison. You are hurting your body every time you drink it. It’s making you fat, preventing you from burning fat, and keeping you from your goals.

I’m really not exaggerating.

Alcohol is not a natural part of the human diet. It’s no wonder then that when you drink it, your body doesn’t recognize it as food. In fact, it recognizes it as a toxin, and wants to get rid of it as soon as possible. It STOPS fat burning until the alcohol is gone. Forget if you’ve been good on your diet all day long. You won’t burn fat until your liver gets rid of all that booze.

On top of that, a gram of alcohol has seven calories in it. That’s almost twice what a gram of protein or carbs has. And unlike fat, it’s not having a positive effect on your hormone levels or keeping you satiated so you don’t over eat later.

Studies consistently show that subjects who drink regularly have larger waists in relation to their hips (the waist-to-hip ratio). In other words, they’re fatter than non drinkers or those who drink sparingly.

Alcohol also appears to cause muscle wasting in the thighs and glutes, at least according to a 1993 study in Metabolism. A 2000 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that cortisol—a stress hormone that promotes fat storage—rose 61% in people who drank after lifting.

In addition to this, I was just editing a piece by Mike Roussell for Men’s Fitness yesterday that painted a pretty bleak picture for drinkers. Mike’s a smart nutritionist and offered some advice on how to get around it (you’ll have to read the December MF to see!) but he made no bones about the fact that booze is bad for muscles. Just a few drinks can prevent you from setting PR’s in your workout later that day, and a night of heavy drinking can make you weaker for several days to come afterward.

But here it comes…

The crowd that wants to argue that alcohol is “healthy” because it can lower heart-disease risk. Yes, there are anti-oxidants in dark beer and resveratrol in red wine. Guess what, there’s anti-oxidants in a lot of things! But they’re in such small amounts that they don’t add up to much, and they’re dwarfed in comparison with other things you eat.

If I eat a whole box of blueberries and then have two pizzas and smoke a cigarette, do you think I’ve really done myself any good? You got some anti-oxidants from the beer but you also got a lot of sugar and alcohol.

You can get resveratrol from peanuts and grapes, and I suggest you do. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that wine is some kind of health food. Maybe there is a strong benefit to drinking red wine, but the studies show it maxes out at 2 GLASSES. Any more and you’re overdoing it.

Now ask yourself, how many times do you uncork a bottle of wine and stop at 2?

If all that isn’t enough, drinking goes part and parcel with a lot of other behaviors that derail fitness goals completely. Eating bad food, staying out too late, smoking, doing drugs, and listening to bad music in clubs (no studies showing the danger here but I’m sure it exists!) are all likely to accompany a bender.

Call me a curmudgeon, a tight ass, or a self-righteous, teetotaling son of a bitch. But I speak the truth. (Don’t get pissed if you see me out having a drink, either. I am human and don’t claim to be above it.)


This is probably a rare occurrence for this guy.

If you want to be generally healthy, I think two or three nights of moderate drinking (two glasses as stated above) is fine. If you want to gain muscle and staying lean is not a priority, I’d say maybe one weekly binge wouldn’t kill you. If you want to lose fat, fast… forget about alcohol entirely for the next few months.

So while every trainer and nutritionist says it’s ok to have a drink or two “now and then”, what they really want you to do is stop completely. They just figure that’s too much to ask.

Is it?

And if it is, how bad do you really want to reach your goals?

Summer is over. Time to get serious.

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