Yesterday we received a question from one of our Facebook friends, asking about the effect of alcohol on weight loss. The truth is, the two don’t mix – not only in the moment (yikes!) but also over the course of time.

Alcohol use impairs fat loss in three important ways. First, alcohol down regulates the body’s production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), our biggest, baddest fat-fighter. HGH is referred to by some as the hormonal fountain of youth. It encourages the body to burn fat, build and preserve muscle, and produce more collagen (among other things). When exercising for fat loss, HGH is the hormone we train to stimulate, and the protocol for doing this requires getting out of breath as often as possible in one workout. Once stimulated, HGH then goes to work on our behalf, making us leaner and more fit. When we introduce alcohol to our system, however, HGH production wanes, resulting in less fat loss than would otherwise occur. As a result, it may not matter how hard you go in the gym at 6 pm, if you regularly drink in the evenings afterward you may not see the results you wanted.

In addition to turning down production of a critical fat burning hormone, alcohol use also impairs fat loss by stimulating production of a fat-storing hormone, specifically, insulin. Alcohol, like all refined carbohydrates, is basically just sugar. When we ingest sugar, our body responds by producing insulin to clear the sugar from our blood stream and either burn it immediately, or shuttle it away for storage. Whether these sugar calories are burned straight away or stored for later depends upon our physiological state at the time that we consume them (whether our body’s carbohydrate stores are full or empty, when we last ate, what we consume the alcohol with, etc.). Either way, in order to deal with sugar effectively the message sent to the body by insulin is: “Stop burning fat. Store it for later. There is sugar to run on.”

The final way that alcohol interferes with fat loss is that it inhibits our restraint. When we drink and begin to lose our inhibitions, we are more likely to compound the fat-loss damage done by alcohol alone by eating something incompatible with a fat-loss lifestyle, chiefly: starchy carbohydrates, fried foods, and desserts. Adding insult to injury, ingesting junk food along with alcohol only moves us farther away from our fat loss goals (and leaves us feeling like garbage in the morning).

Does this mean that in order to achieve or sustain fat loss that you have to give up your cocktail forever? No. A weekly cheat meal, including alcoholic beverages if you like, helps the body to stay in fat loss mode by up-regulating another fat burning hormone, leptin. Giving your body a good solid cheat once each week effectively convinces the body that you are at no risk of starvation, which is key to keeping your thyroid functioning properly and your metabolism humming along.

In end, the answer to your question, friend, is that alcohol and fat loss are largely incompatible, except for one time each week. We hope you find this information useful. We are here to help.