No wiggle room. Just zero. Zero drinks.
Why? It's not the calories, though they don't help. The problem is the effect alcohol has on your body. Alcohol is a sugar molecule that bypasses your intestines and goes directly from your stomach lining into your bloodstream, thereby taking your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. That means it (1) makes you very hungry, and (2) promotes fat storage.
It’s a double-whammy; it makes you eat more, but also ensures that whatever you do eat goes directly into your fat cells.
When I tell my clients that, while on a fat-loss program, I expect them to consume zero alcoholic beverages, I usually get some form of the following protests:
"But some people lose weight while drinking moderately!"
Okay, fine -- it is entirely possible to successfully lose body fat and drink alcohol in moderation. It’s also possible to run a marathon in high heels, and be a Broadway singer who smokes cigarettes. That does not mean it is optimal, or that I will recommend it to clients.
“I can have vodka and clear liquors because they’re lower in calories, right?”
No. Remember, it's not about the calories. You can have a vodka soda, minus the vodka.
“How am I supposed to socialize? All my friends drink.”
So? You’re not losing weight for them; you’re doing it for you. Here are possible strategies:
1) Be the designated driver. Safety first!
2) Tell them you’ve been training really hard lately and don’t want to derail your progress. You know, honesty.
3) Make me the bad guy (“Guys, if my trainer finds out I had a drink, he’ll kill me!” Which is true. Watch out.)
If your friends have your best interests at heart, they’ll support you. (Related: read my thoughts on dealing with fitness naysayers.) No one is going to hold you down and pour booze down your throat. You are in control.
Nice try. You know what’s better for your heart? Losing excess body fat. If you want antioxidants, eat blueberries and drink black coffee.
“But I need to have a drink every now and then!”
This one is touchy. If you truly "need" alcohol, then you're describing a substance addiction. Helping people overcome substance abuse is outside my scope of expertise, but I will direct you to someone who can help you, if that’s truly the case.
“Do you seriously expect me never to drink alcohol again?”
Hell no! I don’t expect you to permanently cut out alcohol any more than I expect you to permanently cut out dessert. What I expect -- and the way you will get results the fastest -- is some short-term discipline with a clear goal in mind. Give it 6-12 weeks of commitment. You'll be amazed at the results.
And then, once you’ve achieved your fat loss goal, you can re-introduce alcohol in moderation.
Trust me: cutting out booze makes a big difference. Everyone I have worked with who has done it has made accelerated progress, and enjoyed “resetting” their tolerance while losing weight.
Make the commitment to get out of your own way and cut out alcohol completely while pursuing your fitness goal. You'll be thankful you did.