It feels like summer around here today, so I'm thinking about Mojitos, which makes me think about a topic I haven't covered in a while: alcohol and how it affects your fitness.

I get the question all the time, "Can I still drink if I'm trying to lose weight?"  The answer is of course, yes.  You can do whatever you want.  Everything in moderation.  BUT the most important thing is how far do you want to go with your fitness?  Do you want see infomercial-like, insane results, do you want to see "kind-a" results, or do you want to look exactly the same 90 days from now?  If you are committing to a bootcamp type mentality whether it is one of my 5-person fitness challenges, or simply saying "yes" to 90 days of P90X, I would be lying if I told you alcohol doesn't negatively impact your results.  Of course it negatively impacts your results, we all know that, and in fact the reason I often get asked is as if I am supposed to give you permission to drink, when in reality you already KNOW the answer to the question!

So why is alcohol not good for you?  First of all it is treated like a toxin in your body and for every gram of alcohol you ingest, it contributes 7 empty calories to your daily total.  I say "empty" because these calories aren't metabolized into energy.  Carbs (the other perceived enemy in our society) by contrast provide you with 4 calories per gram, and if you choose to eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as your daily carbs, they actually provide you with energy and many health benefits.

Additionally, alcohol is a depressant.  As a depressant, it slows you down, which means it can negatively affect your metabolism.  It can also inhibit your sleep.  You might "crash" after a night of drinking and feel like you are sleeping like a baby, but the sleep is not a deep sleep, it is a really shallow sleep which is one of the reasons you wake up feeling so terrible the next day!

A well known side effect of alcohol is that it inhibits judgment.  If you are out at the bar, your diet might go out the wayside if you aren't thinking about all the hard work you have done in the week before.  Maybe your friends will order a stack of nachos or sliders and before you know it you've eaten a ton.  Of course, your judgment is still under your control, but I'd say this "soft" side effect of alcohol is that it usually puts you in a social position where you are more likely to eat unhealthily.  Throw on top of that the mentality of "eating less" throughout the day to "save" for your night out, and you may WAY overeat on your night out.  At that point, total calories is almost a moot point; if you ingest, say, 1,200 calories from burgers and beer over a couple hours at the bar (and that might be a low number depending on how much you eat and drink), your body doesn't know what to do with all those calories and stores more of it as fat anyway.

Finally, alcohol acts a diuretic.  This means it makes you urinate and if you aren't replacing water all night, your sodium (and other electrolytes)/water balance can get out of whack.  This is one of the main causes of a hangover.  You will have that dry mouth and bloated feeling the next day.  Ironically, when you are dehydrated you retain more water so you won't love the number on the scale the next day.  You also put yourself in a bad position to be active the following day if you are hungover and/or dehydrated.  It can take DAYS to get back to normal hydration, you can't just drink a gallon of water and magically get there.

So what does this all mean?  It means now you know.  I, myself, enjoy a beer or glass of red wine, or even a glass of Jameson every once in a while.  Shaun T even says he'll have a glass of red wine here and there, and I'm sure he drinks socially once in a while.  But the truth is, you have to evaluate your own situation, your own goals, and HOW BAD you want to achieve your goals, knowing that alcohol is definitely a major inhibitor of a lot of things - most importantly, it inhibits your goals!  If you want to keep that "bootcamp" type mentality because you have committed to GO IN for 60 or 90 days, I'd suggest cutting it out completely.  For everyone, I recommend not drinking to get drunk for a variety of reasons, not just the health ones I listed above.  

I know we are human, and we all falter (believe me, I have) but that doesn't mean we can't be resilient and not make the same mistake twice!  Or at least not twice in the same year :).