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There’s a common misconception that being fit means giving up everything remotely enjoyable in this world. 

While extreme deprivation may be one path to looking unattainably shredded, it’s definitely not the only one— nor is it one you should feel like you have to take. 

So can you really get abs and have your cocktail, too? Yes. Well, with a few conditions.

Your Body on Alcohol

To understand how alcohol impacts your ability to stay fit and lean, you have to understand how alcohol impacts your body on a physiological level.

When alcohol’s around, your body essentially holds up the stop sign to other traffic until that alcohol has crossed the road. In other words, your body prioritises getting alcohol out of your system before anything else. It is a poison, after all.

Your body is smart, so it knows processing that alcohol is far more important than utilising any other comparatively harmless macronutrients (like the fat and carbs from that deep-fried snack you inhaled with your pint). It’s likely to quickly store them as fat so it’s free to deal with this poison.

This also means your body isn’t going to waste any energy building muscle from that heavy lifting session you did a couple of hours earlier. Those beers you “earned” after leg day? They may very well be sabotaging your hard work during a crucial recovery period.

Is Alcohol a Gains Killer?

Regardless of what’s happening under the surface, there are also some physical consequences of drinking that are far more noticeable.

While this may not be true for everyone, many people can attest to the decrease in performance when they hit the gym the morning after a night at the pub. 

Some people need to go hard on the tequila to notice the effects. For others, all it takes is an extra glass of red wine with dinner to feel like a zombie in activewear the next day. It’s all subjective. Is the trade-off really worth it?

Counting your calories? You’d better believe liquid calories count. All alcohol has a caloric count, and these numbers vary depending on your poison of choice. But the real culprit is often the mixer. You might find that enough sugary beverages each weekend is enough to stall your weight loss progress, or even lead to gaining a few extra kilos.

None of this is to say that you have to avoid alcohol completely to get a shredded physique. It’s all about making smarter choices.

Fitting Booze Into a Fit Lifestyle

There may very well be times where you have to sacrifice some particularly luxurious choices for specific goals— at least in the short term. But the best diet is one that promotes health and can also be sustained long-term. 

While the healthiest choice is to avoid alcohol, that may not be realistic or sustainable for you. 

Are you happy to trade in those weekly binge drinking sessions, but don’t want to be sipping kombucha during Friday work drinks? Figure out how to minimise the damage. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Choose low calorie or sugar-free options to minimise the damage, like clear spirits mixed with soda water and lime
  • Schedule those drinks the night before your rest day to avoid sabotaging your workouts
  • Pace yourself throughout the night and have one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage

The best piece of advice regarding alcohol and fitness is one you’ve likely heard before: practice moderation. Sure, this isn’t always the best advice for everyone. But the truth is, maintaining a fit lifestyle is all about prioritising. 

Do you want abs for that upcoming holiday? Maybe you can do without the beers for a few weeks leading up to it. Love that nightly glass of scotch more than maintaining a certain level of body fat? Accept where you’re at and enjoy your drink. You might not always be able to have both, but you can almost always find a happy middle ground.

Want more health and fitness tip? Be sure to browse the blog for more helpful information, and don’t forget to check back regulary for new posts!

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