Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reader Mailbag: Drinking And Weight Loss

In response to my earlier post, a reader asks:
99% of fitness related blogs assume people get fat on fast food and soda, and they drink alcohol only on social occasions. This may fit the major trends of American culture - although it sounds like an oversimplification of even that - but I am Hungarian. 3rd most drinking nation in the world. Three shots, three to four beers sounds like an average evening to me....Add it to the fact that alcohol increases the desire for fatty food (they seem to affect same parts of the brain or so did some scientists found), which is in our case is not a Big Mac but more like lard with bread, and you know why I am have a BMI of 30.... I got my blood test done, liver function (Gamma GT) is perfect, testosterone at 380 is probably low but getting more serious at lifting and doing a few diet hacks should sort that out. Therefore, unless I see a compelling reason to think otherwise, I will keep thinking you can be a masculine behaving, masculine looking, strong and not too fat man while being a moderately heavy daily drinker.....Secondarily, my masculine role model or ideal is not todays holier-than-thou athletes, but those men of the past who did hard physical labor, mining, farming, or were warriors or discoverers. They were usually heavier drinkers than me. ...At any rate, can you give a weight loss advice that is not like all the pansies who go knee jerk with "drinking problems" and is not like "athletes" (screw that) have to be saints, but somehow imitates the lifestyle of a hard-drinking miner, farmer, soldier, sailor, conqueror, a manly man of the past? While having an office job and have time  for example 4-5 1-1.5 hour trainings per week? So cannot work or work out all day?
I have been to Hungary and am familiar with your people's fondness for alcohol. Regardless of the cultural tolerance for daily drinking, it is an inescapable fact that having 6-7 drinks a day is going to have an adverse effect on your body. As I am sure you know, alcohol inhibits fat burning and indirectly increases the ratio of estrogen to testosterone in the male body. It also prevents getting restful sleep, causing your brain to release less HGH, which slows building muscle and recovery from stress.

On the fitness end of things, I'm glad you're getting into the gym and lifting/running regularly. Going to the gym for 4-5 hours a week is more than enough for most people to maintain a reasonable physique as long as their diet as decent, but drinking to that extent will undo a lot of the progress you make with your exercise. It is unreasonable for you to expect to drink hard like men who did daily physical labor when your lifestyle outside the gym reflects the common sedentary modern life that most of us (myself included) share.

We have to accept that life is a series of trade-offs. If you absolutely insist on drinking beer every day, and 4-5 of them at that, to have any chance at progress in the gym and on your waistline you have to be that much more fastidious about your diet. No more spaghetti dishes, no more potatoes, cut out the grains and starch completely. If steak is too expensive, eat more chicken, fish, eggs, and other sources of low-carb protein. Your diet has to be squeaky-clean and low carb to have any chance at weight loss, and even then the amount of drinking you do will still likely stall or completely halt your progress. Look up the ketogenic diet, but getting that to work properly will require limiting or cutting out beer entirely (though vodka with no caloric mixers is still ok).

Rather than go on a crash diet like you mentioned, I would still try to cut down on the drinking as much as you can stand --- if you could even turn 4 beers and 3 shots into 2 beers and 2 shots for a few nights of the week, you might see a significant difference in your body after a month or two. Also, this is an excellent article that explains the biochemistry of alcohol and gives some tips on how to minimize its impact on your training regimen.

Good luck and thanks for writing in.

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