Most of us love a little drink here and there, maybe a glass of wine or beer. It tastes good, it's relaxing and it gives you this little buzz. But as much as we'd like to believe it, wine is not helping us to get healthier, fitter and leaner.
I'm not going to deny that I like wine.
But I also don't drink it as often as I used to, say, about a year ago. I've cut it down significantly, especially in the past months–and as a matter of fact, just recently I had a period when I didn't have any for 10 weeks straight.
Did I notice any difference?
We'll get there, but first, let's see what happens in our bodies when we drink…
What Happens In Your Body When You Drink
When we're drinking alcohol, it's being treated like a foreign body in our system. It doesn't belong there.
You get calories from alcohol, for sure. But alcohol and its caloric content is a perfect example of how not all calories should be treated equally. While all the energy we consume can be used as a fuel, the fuel coming from alcohol is pretty low quality.
Think about it: What fuels your workout better, a small bowl of rice or two glasses of wine? (Let's leave aside all the other effects of alcohol, because you don't obviously want to work out when woozy.) Of course, you feel way more energized and ready to train after eating a bowl of rice (that's just one example; it could also be two eggs, a container of yogurt, a banana etc) than after drinking wine.
The Fat Storing Mode
You may have heard that calories that you get from alcohol turn into fat, which is the reason why it's hard to avoid weight gain when you drink often.
That's not exactly true, even though there's a relation between alcohol and storing fat.
Here's what happens: It takes a lot of effort from your body to convert alcohol into an efficient source of energy. Your body has to work hard, but it doesn't get much valuable energy from alcohol. It gets so much more out from real foods–energy that it can actually use for feeding your muscles, fueling your workouts and keeping your brain healthy and happy.
But because alcohol is a foreign body in your system, your body works hard to get rid of it first. While it's busy with that, the rest of the nutrients that you got from your food, like sugars and fats, will still keep rotating in the body.
Those fats and sugars won't be burnt as quickly as they normally would, so when you're drinking, your body is basically in a fat storing mode. That's why we say that alcohol turns into fat that ends up on your belly and hips.
But Red Wine Is Healthy!
As much as we'd like to believe it, wine is not a health food. It's been said to keep your blood vessels healthy, reduce the level of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and prevent blood clots. Some people believe that drinking red wine helps them to prevent diabetes and heart disease.
But there are no really reliable studies to back all this up.
There are ten times healthier foods than red wine, and you're definitely not missing out on anything uber healthy when you skip your daily wine. I also don't know anyone who's gotten over obesity by starting drinking wine.
Can You Have Booze At All?
Wine, or any booze for that matter, is not helping you to get any leaner and fitter. That's a fact.
You may be able to drink it and still be in a good shape if you were like that before, but don't expect your pounds to fall off if you keep drinking a glass of wine more than twice a week.
It's highly individual how much drinking you can get away with without gaining weight. Some people can have one glass of wine every day and maintain their current weight, but I'd say that that's the very maximum amount.
If you're currently working out 4-6 days a week, being active also outside of your workouts, eating mostly healthy diet, getting 7 hours of sleep every night and having a fairly stress-free life but you're still not able to lose any body fat, look at your booze intake. The answer may be there.
Reduce your drinking to 2 glasses of wine or beer per week or better yet, cut it out completely for at least six weeks to see if you feel and see any difference in your body.
Make Your Choice
However, there's something to be said about enjoyment and fun too.
My friend who once didn't have any booze for a year once told me,
For a year, I had visible abs, but I didn't have much fun.
So, there's a tradeoff, and it's up to you what you take and what you leave.
For many of us, drinking a glass or two of wine while hanging out with friends on a Sunday brunch makes that quality time even better. Life should be enjoyed, right?
Restricting and limiting yourself to extremes may have the opposite effect. Despite the good intentions, if you end up completely cutting out something that makes you feel really good and relaxed, the effect may be counter intuitive and cause you a lot of stress.
So, I don't think saying “no” to alcohol should be a life sentence. But you have to be pretty careful and choose the situations and occasions when you drink, and do it wisely.
My 10-Week Wine Detox
Just recently, I went more than 10 weeks without having any alcohol at all.
In February, I was traveling for two weeks. I saw a lot of friends, there were plenty of get-togethers, birthdays and other celebrations. And most of them included wine…
It was good and fun, but when I got back home, I didn't really feel the need to pour myself a glass of wine on Saturday night. It had been… too much.
I didn't also feel like it the next weekend. And without even realizing it, I had gone on a wine detox. It wasn't planned and there wasn't any specific reason to do that (like gaining weight while on a vacation, because I don't bother myself by weighing myself. I don't have a scale at home).
I just didn't feel like drinking.
After five or six weeks, I noticed some differences like less brain fog, feeling “thinner” and seeing a teeny bit better muscle definition.
And these were just the results from 5-6 weeks. If you did that for a year, that would add up and you'd definitely experience even clearer mind and you'd definitely lean out even more, if the rest of your diet is still on point.
I broke my unplanned wine “fast” when my friends were in town a few weeks ago, so we visited some of the best wineries in the area. And I had a glass of wine yesterday on my brunch, because I really wanted it.
But I know my body well enough to know that for me, a glass a night is the amount where maintaining my current body is still possible, but it's by no means easy.
Drinking wine because it's heart-healthy is a poor excuse. Let's just be honest and say that we like it, we love the taste and the contribution that it adds to the social life. That's okay 🙂
If you want to change your body composition and lean out, drinking wine every night is not going to help you to achieve your goals. At best, a glass a day may be okay to maintain your current body if you still work out and eat a good diet. But don't expect to lose weight.
However, I'm not a fan of super strict rules. Not anymore! I think that completely removing of foods or drinks that you love can possibly cause overdoing of those things on that one day when you finally allow yourself to have them.