Wine over dinner, happy hour with friends, and beers on the weekend. Before you know it, alcohol can add up fast.
For some reason, people think their healthy nutrition choices and regular workouts shut down alcohol’s negative impact on their bodies as if they counterbalance each other.
Indeed, drinking in moderation can positively impact your mental well-being by improving social connections and helping you relax, but does that mean there are no adverse effects at all?
In this Ask Ted episode, Ted answers the question “How much alcohol can we drink before it negatively affects our weight loss and muscle growth?”
He describes his relationship with alcohol throughout the years and how it affected his fat loss journey, and the lessons he got from it.
Ted also explains how counting calories work with alcohol calories and debunk some myths about them.
Plus, he goes through the questions you should ask yourself to know if alcohol is getting in the way of your fitness goals, he shares advice on dealing with excessive alcohol consumption, and much more.
- About Ted’s relationship with alcohol in the past and how it evolved
- How are alcohol calories different from food calories?
- Can I drink alcohol and still lose weight?
- Why do you drink? Can alcohol affect your fitness performance at the gym?
- Do I have a drinking problem? How to recognize a drinking problem & cut back on drinking
- Why it is crucial to pay attention to how we use alcohol
- And much more…
Ted Talk 129: Why Weight Loss Isn’t Always a Nutrition Problem
298: How Fitness Saved My Life (And How It Can Save Yours Too)
402: The Secret To A Happy Life with Ed Latimore
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Podcast Transcription: Ask Ted: What Is Your Recommendation for Alcohol Consumption and Fat Loss?
Ted Ryce: “Ted, what is your recommendation when it comes to alcohol and fat loss?” That is the question I’m going to be answering today on today’s Ask Ted segment. So, what is up, my friend? Welcome back to the show. I’m your host, Ted Ryce, health expert and coach to executives, entrepreneurs, and other high-performing professionals. So, let’s get to it.
First thing I want to say is this: I used to drink a lot, and I don’t anymore. And the reason I’m telling you this is two things. One, because I’ve been that person. I’m going to answer this question about alcohol, but I want you to understand my relationship to alcohol, my experience with alcohol.
So, I used to drink a lot, I used to binge drink, specifically, I would drink to get drunk—or more specifically, I would drink to calm my social anxiety, which started with a drink or two, and then it kept going. And by the way, I was able to stay in shape when I was doing that. When I used to drink heavily and go to clubs, I would stay in shape. And then in my 30s, I got back into drinking heavily for a bit, I would go on and off, and then I got fat.
So, I just wanted to give you a little bit of context here, just so you can understand. I’m also the child of two alcoholics. My dad had a lot of problems with alcohol consumption. He ended up slowing down when he got older. But he was drunk every single day, along with my stepmom, every single day. And really, alcoholism killed my stepmother, led to her heart attack. She had been drinking heavily for just year after year after year.
And so that’s a little bit of my story and alcohol. By the way, the reason I don’t drink now is just simply because—I actually liked the taste of alcohol. I’m one of those few people who actually likes the taste of alcohol. But I don’t like the high of alcohol, I don’t like how it makes me feel, it raises my heart rate. And even if I just have one drink, raises my heart rate, and I tend to sleep poorly.
So that’s really the reason I don’t drink anymore. Although when I say don’t drink anymore, I’d be happy to have a glass of wine. In fact, I’m going to force myself to try some wine when I’m here in Portugal. And I’ve already tried Ginjinha, which is a cherry liquor served in chocolate shot glasses here, and it’s absolutely delicious. So that’s a little bit of my history with alcohol and my own personal relationship to it now.
So, let’s get into my recommendations when it comes to fat loss. And the first thing is this. There’s nothing special about the calories coming from alcohol. Calories come from grass-fed ribeye steak that came from a cow that was blessed by priests from several different religions and massaged every day. It doesn’t matter. It’s just calories.
Alcohol is just calories. “Oh, but it’s full of sugar,” you hear all this nonsense. It’s just calories, and the calories don’t come from sugar. It’s from acetyl ace…I forget the name of the chemical. But alcohol just has calories in it. It’s the fourth macronutrient or fifth macronutrient. There’s carbs, fat, protein, fiber, and alcohol.
And so it has nothing to do with this sugar, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that alcohol has calories. You can do other drugs, and alcohol is a drug, psychoactive drug, and it won’t have any effect on you. I’m not saying that’s a good thing. I’m not encouraging you to go smoke crack, or to snort crystal meth because it doesn’t have calories. I’m not saying that.
I’m just saying alcohol has calories what makes it different from a lot of other drugs. So, if you can keep your calories in check…I’m about to get into the real—the deeper answer here, but I wanted to answer this superficially. So, if you can keep your calories in check, you can drink nothing but alcohol and lose fat. “Oh, no, that’s no true, Ted.” guess what? Go look up the beer diet. There are people…And I, again, don’t recommend this because your liver is not going to like it.
But there are people, a few people who got written up in the media, Men’s Health and whatnot, because they went on a diet that was nothing but alcohol. And not only that, they drink beer and water, by the way, because you have to drink water, and they lost weight. So, it’s not alcohol that is the problem; it’s too many calories from alcohol.
Now again, this is the superficial answer. We’re about to get a bit deeper, but that’s the superficial answer. And so if you can keep your calories in check, you can drink and lose body fat. In fact, I have clients who do drink, shout out to Dan. Dan’s crushing it. He lost 40 pounds with me and he’s still going. I looked at his, you know, he had a few beers, he drinks a couple times a week.
Shout out to Trevor. Trevor’s ripped and enjoys a cocktail with his wife, and drinks a little bit. I’m not sure exactly the frequency that he drinks, but he drinks. A lot of my clients drink. It’s not the problem. The problem is fitting the calories in. And let’s get into the second part, shall we? Let’s get to the deeper issue, shall we? The problem with alcohol is this: it’s just calories, but there’s a psychological effect to alcohol consumption.
What do I mean? Let’s say that you have a stressful life. Maybe your stress is the fact that you’re growing a business. One of the reasons why I don’t want to drink a lot right now, is I’m growing my business. Maybe I’ll end up drinking a little bit more later, where I can handle a bad night of sleep, and it’s not a big deal. But for me to have a bad night of sleep now and go into work the next day and crush it, I’m not in that mode.
And I’ve seen this with other clients have worked with when, let’s say, they’ve worked hard, they go out, they hang out with their friends, their other entrepreneur friends or their attorney friends or their consultant friends, and they’re having a few drinks. The next thing that happens is they don’t sleep well, they wake up the next morning, they don’t feel terrible, but they certainly don’t feel like going to the gym, so they skip their workout.
On top of that, there is this desire to eat less than healthy foods. Alcohol kind of gives you the munchies, too. It’s not just marijuana. Alcohol gives you the munchies, and you’ve already drank calories from alcohol. And then now you have the munchies. I remember when I used to get out of the club drunk at 5am in Miami Beach, what would I do here? Well, it’s time for a salad with some superfoods in it, or perhaps a kale shake.
No, I’d go to the pizza joint. And I would eat a slice or two, or maybe even half a pizza. So that’s the issue, it disrupts your sleep, it makes you not want to work out and it makes you crave pizza, burgers, french fries, desserts, whatever it is that you’re experiencing. So, the real issue is not just the calories; again, that’s the superficial challenge. But you can just fit it in, fit in your calories if you know, or just track it on My Fitness Pal. That’s easy.
You just fit it in. But the problem is most people can’t. And they think it’s something special. It’s the sugar and alcohol that’s really causing the problem. No, it’s your behavior. It’s the fact that the next day, you’re sluggish. Look at your step count for that day after you drink. Is it the same as usual? Did you take less steps that day? Did you work out that day? What were your food choices that day after drinking? And if that’s one day, what about if you’re drinking several times a week?
So, the real issue is that alcohol, is that it triggers these other behaviors, it triggers, it leads to poor sleep, which leads to lower motivation to work out, which leads to sluggishness and you not taking walks and getting in as many steps. And then you end up eating higher calorie foods. And if you do that enough, because you’re just not in a place where you can handle the stress of one night of disrupted sleep or several nights of disrupted sleep, that’s what it’s going to lead to. So that’s the real issue here.
And I want to say this, Gisele, my business partner, she has a friend, a Brazilian friend, who the guy is, I think in his 60s. He’s either in his late 50s or early 60s, but the guy is loving his life, and he drinks every single day. And I’m like, “Gisele, he must be like a miserable dude.” And she was like, “No, he’s in love with his life. He loves his life.” I think he’s a wealthy guy. He’s retired, and he just has fun with his friends and he is out drinking, dancing, having a good time in Brazil and travels the world.
And the issue is—or the way he manages it, he goes and works out every day. And she told me what he said is he works out for like two hours. So, the reason why I’m telling you this story is that there’s some people who, yeah, he’s got a little bit of a belly, that wouldn’t be either if you didn’t drink, but he’s a guy who gets in the exercise. It doesn’t matter if he had a bad night of sleep from drinking the night before, he gets up, he goes, and hits the gym.
So that’s a person…And like my clients who are crushing it right now, my clients are losing fat. Again, Dan lost 40 pounds, drinking alcohol a couple times a week. And one of the things he even told me, he’s like, “Ted, I noticed that I can get away with about two nights a week of drinking. And more than that, I can’t do it.” So, he set a boundary for himself. If he wants to make progress, he knows exactly the number of days that he can drink without going backwards.
And these are the types of questions that we need to ask ourselves. So, what I would tell you is first, you have to get a handle on how many calories you’re drinking, in addition to how many calories you’re eating. And if you can get that dialed in, then you’re fine. And then you have to say, well, I can’t do that. It’s too hard. Okay, why? Well, I’m sluggish. I don’t sleep well, when I drink. I wake up, I feel sluggish. Don’t want to go to the gym and want to have a burger and fries for lunch, and maybe a milkshake.
It’s like, okay, well, how many days? Are you doing that per week? And can you cut back? So just find, how many days can you handle? Maybe it’s one, maybe it’s none, maybe it’s two, maybe it’s three? I don’t know, you’ll have to test it. And the last thing I want to say is this. If you’ve got a problem with alcohol, the way to get a handle on it is to go cold turkey. That’s what I would tell you.
I shouldn’t really be saying that, to be honest, because that’s how I did it. So, what I should say—let me go back and say that again. The way I got a handle on alcohol is I just stopped. And then after I weaned myself off of drinking frequently, I started to look at okay, how can I add alcohol back in.
And in 2020, when I arrived to Colombia after being in Southeast Asia for two years, I started drinking in Colombia, in Medellin, because it was fun party time, going out, having a beer, having a couple beers, and it was fine. I was going out on dates, no problem.
But when the quarantine hit, I stopped drinking, I couldn’t handle the stress of quarantine and drinking at the same time, because drinking would have led to my depression, or led to a depression. I was struggling psychologically. If you were listening to the podcast in that time, I shared it. So I had to stop. I just couldn’t do it. And then my dad got sick. Actually, I drank quite a bit when I got into his place. He had wine everywhere.
And I got drunk a few nights because I was really sad. I saw my dad. I knew where it was going. I knew he was going to die. It just was a matter of like, is it going to be a month? Is it going to be a couple months? So, I got drunk a few times. It did not help the situation. It did not help how I felt.
But I don’t regret doing it either. I didn’t go down a cycle of you know, I didn’t go down the drain with it of alcoholism like my stepmother did, right? I got a little bit out of shape, I got drunk a few nights, and then reined it in.
And so again, we all have to ask ourselves: How much control do I have over this situation? Do I feel out of control? And if you feel out of control, you’ve got to get the right help. And I don’t mean hiring me for coaching, okay? You’ve got to get the right help for that.
Some people, I can help, but if you really feel hooked on alcohol, like, man, get the right help. Do the 12-step thing, do whatever you need to get it handled, see a psychologist. Do whatever you need to? There are free groups, make yourself do it.
Get the help you need to stop, because alcoholism, I mean, it’s one of those things we don’t talk about enough because it’s so normalized in our society. Everybody just gets drunk when they’re happy, gets drunk when they’re sad. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with alcohol. I think it’s how we’re using alcohol.
The same thing with, there’s nothing wrong with food. I love food. It’s how we’re using food to manage our emotions, and how we sit there mindlessly eat just out of anxiety, instead of saying, “Oh, this is the legendary tiramisu that I’m going to savor every bite of,” right.
So those are my thoughts. I hope that helps. It’s complicated and one way it’s quite simple, but I think it’s complicated when it comes to talking about our relationship to it, especially for the people who have more of a habit of drinking.
So that’s what I’ve got to say. I hope that helps. I hope you took something away that gives you some perspective on it. And like I said, if you’re struggling, make sure you get help, all right. There are people in your life who care about you and need you to be your best. Think about them and get help for them.
That’s what I would have wanted my parents to do. They never, ever did it. So, there are people who care about you, and so get help if you need it, all right? Love you lots. Hope this made some type of impact for you. Have an amazing weekend. Track your calories, make sure you fit it in, and you’ll be able to drink and lose fat at the same time. Have a great one, and talk to you soon.
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