In one of our workshops last week, a woman in her mid-twenties who was following a losing weight regime looked at me with a long face:
“I work so hard on eating healthily but basically, if I go out for a night on the town, I undo all that hard work in just a few hours, don’t I?“
It’s true. Whatever our drinking habits, alcohol is not our friend when it comes to exercise and losing weight. The underlying reason is that our body processes alcohol as poison. Unlike a donut, which at least has carbohydrates and fats which our body is fully equipped to process and use, our body has nowhere to store alcohol and it must be expelled. It affects our bodies in multiple ways, all of which can affect our fitness and weight.
Why do I crave kebabs after a night out?
The minute you have that first G&T it starts messing with your delicate system of blood sugar control, leading to an evening of fluctuating energy as your blood sugar rises and falls. Your craving for fatty and carb-heavy foods comes as your blood sugar levels dip low at the end of the night.
…and glug coke the next day?
Those bouncing blood sugar levels and the dehydration caused by booze continue the following day (and even the day after that), making it harder to choose healthy foods. A recent YouGov survey found that a night of drinking could lead you to consume 6,300 calories more than you normally would in the next 24 hours. That’s three days’ worth of food! You could be gaining 2lbs every time you overdo it on the weekend.
But I eat fresh green food, so that helps with losing weight, right?
Whilst you may take your supplements in the morning and eat lots of great food full of vitamins, alcohol actively undermines your virtuous lifestyle. Drinking aggravates the lining of the stomach, making it harder for your body to absorb vitamins, especially the B vitamins but also A, D, and E, leading to problems with zinc and iron deficiency as well. If you are trying to get fit and healthy, you need to make up for this vitamin robbery, before you can start on what you need to do to become the best version of you.
Is it worth going to the gym with a hangover?
You may blow away some cobwebs, but you won’t feel the full benefit of a workout. Dehydration may increase the risk of injuries such as cramps, muscle pulls, and strains. Alcohol’s impact on the water balance and protein synthesis in your muscle cells also affects how your muscles recover and grow, making it harder to see meaningful gains, and achieve your fitness or muscle building goals. And all this can last for up to two days after a binge!
I have not drunk for two weeks, why am I not losing weight?
It won’t surprise you to know that all of this can mess with your metabolism, and it can take a while to get back to normal. For me that was three months (but then I made no dietary changes and did not introduce a gym regime. I just slept and drank water!). What I did see was that the bloating in my face went within a month of quitting drinking. Some people who drink a lot are already thin, as they eat little and drink lots. So they may actually see weight gain after quitting. We are all different, and sometimes it takes the body a bit of time to recover. I always describe changing your drinking as a marathon, not a sprint.
Help, I am craving sweet things which isn’t helping with losing weight!
This is not unusual. Your blood sugar levels are settling down, and at the times when you may have reached for a bottle (when you are hungry, lonely, angry, bored or tired), you are psychologically primed to put something in your mouth. So have something healthier at hand, but also don’t worry too much if you end up eating some chocolate. It is still better for you, and once you have got the alcohol out of your system, dealing with the chocolate is easier.