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I didn’t drink any alcohol and my weight stayed the same or went up! Solutions!


Do not panic and fetch Sauvignon just yet.


When we want to get healthy the first thing many of us do is start to avoid certain foods, alcohol usually falls into that category.


Some of us can have a half with Sunday dinner or a glass of wine and leave it right there.


Some of us can’t put it down and keep drinking it like we’re thirsty, which adds up. 


The latter also changes what the user may do after drinking.


There is no safe level of alcohol but alcohol is deeply rooted in many of our social situations, weekends and routines and feels like an escape to look forward to something.


Immediately obliterating it could be a solution for your health goals.


Still, in reality, a dry January or any full avoidance of any drink or food is quite possibly an unrealistic change for you, just yet.


Usually, the foods we have 100% exclusion over (alcohol, carbs, cheese for no reason) typically leads to "f-it" cycle and then there are days no holds barred ensues.


Face it.


You’re going to eat or drink it anyway!


If you've given up alcohol and you're happy, don't feel like you're missing out and aren't causing any harm or issues, then you're doing amazing things for your health and your blood pressure and exercise performance will be loving you.


It’s difficult for those of us who don’t want to affect our body composition and sports performance progress or ultimately, our health.

If you choose to have alcohol in your day-to-day diet and removing it is having more impact on your overall well-being such as losing friends, fearing going out, losing control and generally feeling like not much is left for you, then maybe you have to find ways to manage and balance it on your terms.


So...


If you gave it up for a few days, tried hard, had a weekend of boredom, got on the scales Monday and…


Well… no change.


Of course, it is disheartening.


What is Moderate Drinking?


The NHS (UK) states that 'it's recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across 3 days or more.'


In terms of beverages, 'that's around 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine (approximately 1.5 bottles of wine), or 6 pints of <4% beer.' not drank in one sitting, spread over three or more days.


In the Mediterranean diet, touted for huge health benefits and longevity, moderate alcohol intake, according to Examine (2024), 'consumed with meals, is a recognised part of the dietary pattern. Moderate intake is defined as up to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women', although it is a constituent of the diet, it is still not outwardly recommended.


Excretion and Elimination


When you drink alcohol or any beverage, your liver and kidneys typically deal with that process and metabolise the nutrients.


Alcohol isn’t the same as other nutrients, it gets brought forward in the liver’s processes to metabolise as it is a toxin and needs to be removed.


Liquid is pretty quick to get through digestion and your body wants to keep the water balance steady, if you oversupply liquid, you’ll initiate the need to pee, add alcohol and that process may get heightened.


The liver will use the nutrients (proteins/carbs) and the toxins/liquid is excreted through the kidneys, or commonly, you wee it out.


Alcohol also has to be used and cannot be stored in our bodies to fuel us.


In short, it spends much less time inside of you.


Food, however, metabolises longer and digestion time varies greatly depending on the type and composition of your food.


High-fibre and complex carbohydrate foods, which are healthier for us generally take longer to digest than simple sugars and processed foods.


These are foods you might have added more of whilst you also removed alcohol.


So...


You removed alcohol, you’re also eating much less like a student, trying to eat more vegetables and protein and hydrating better.


With more fibre and whole food in the diet, that takes longer to digest than drinking simple sugars.


Both food and liquid calories require energy to metabolise but the rate and duration of energy release differ depending on your food choices.


The gut lining may be absorbing an improved level of nutrients as you supply nutrition and lowered alcohol reduces inflammation.


You have to remember the primary focus relies on caloric intake, the secondary focus relies on the improvement of your health markers and ultimately, performance relies on your health.

Alcohol, albeit a toxin, metabolises differently and your body reacts differently to nutrients. 


When alcohol goes in, you get hot and flushed and you work hard to burn up the energy.


Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, while protein, carbohydrates, and fats contain 4, 4, and 9 calories per gram, respectively. 


Fibre has a variable calorie content due to varying degrees of digestibility but generally contributes some calories (around 2-3 per gram).


If you want to lose weight, by the end of the day, week or month you need to be consistently under your target.


If you’re trying to perform, you need to eat the same or above your caloric expenditure consistently.


You might have also, been unknowingly replacing those calories with food too.


Whether alcohol helps or hinders that progress is wholly up to you, you know your habits, behaviours and therefore your body best and you need to make the right choice on your terms.


The Solutions


If you want some answers and solutions to help reduce your alcohol intake, then here are a few ideas you might try.


You don't have to do any of them if you don't want but treat it like a buffet, take what you like and leave the rest.


The Environment Buy-In


Firstly, understand that sometimes the environment or situation is the cue to that habit and that putting some distance, as in steps, between yourself and the situation can make it more challenging. 


Think of it like when you fancy buying something online but your credit card is in the other room, most people genuinely don’t buy just because of that.


So for example:


  • It’s Friday, it’s time for a beer.

  • When I go to a pub, I go to the bar.


That firstly can be challenged and changed.


  • It’s Friday, I can wait till tomorrow.


or


  • When I go into a pub, I sit down first instead.


Delaying the matter may help in the initial instance but you also have to promise that you can have a drink on your terms if you ride out the initial cue first and see how you feel later.


This then stacks into my favourite solutions.


Planning Your Treats and Drinks


If you currently acknowledge (and be honest, it's worthwhile) your current intake and its caloric value then you can make some smart swaps and reduce the amount, frequency and type of drink or you choose food you love instead.


#1 The Food Option


If you know you have 4 pints of beer, they are “typically” 200 kcals each, more if they’re heavier in alcohol and less if clear and light, they also cost around £5.00 each, depending on where you drink.


4 beers, £20


A 41.2g Snickers bar is around 212 kcals, has good incentive value to me (I want to eat them), is delicious and I can use those calories to fuel me and my training.


4 Snickers in a multipack, £2.00


  • That’s a 90% reduction in spending. 


Choose the same chocolate bar, yes, just like the 4 pints of Stella, don’t deviate. 


It also has to be near or match the calories you would usually take in alcoholic drinks and not buying 300 g Dairy Milk and eating “some”, needs to be a portioned, repeatable amount.


Now you buy your Snickers bars and take them to the pub. 


Stack them on the table.


When your mates or family etc buy a drink and want to get a pint. Grab a soda water with lime or Diet Coke and eat your Snickers.


Take your time with it, eat it slowly and match the pace of drinks at the table if you like.


Now, if challenged, be honest and tell them exactly what you’re doing and why you want it. 


Usually, people who want your best (family and friends) will wholly support you when you're upfront and honest. You’ll be setting trends and thoughts in their minds and they might even try it too without telling you. 


“Be the change”


Most wouldn’t eat all of those bars, you’d feel sick though, wouldn’t you?


You can have them all but now you can have them on your terms.


Is that healthy?


Well, maybe it's preferred to take on calories that you know you can use for training later that don't affect you as harshly with high rates of health issues as shown by the Office of National Statistics (2022).


Best of a bad bunch let's say but a Snickers bar isn't probably the worst thing you've ever put into your mouth before acknowledging this writing now is it? The goal here is to reduce your alcohol intake.


#2 The Liquid Option


If you prefer and still want alcohol, you can make some adjustments to the alcoholic drink such as still having a pint of beer but having a 50/50 shandy with a diet lemonade to reduce the calories and alcohol or switching to halves or bottles and pacing yourself. 


You can swap those large glasses of wine for mediums or even swap the drink completely for a spirit and diet mixer.


#3 The Pace Solution


Another solution is to keep a drink you’d normally have and pace yourself with a soft drink or alcohol-free version in between so that you reduce the exposure and total amount by the end of the evening.


For example:


1 glass of wine - sipped

1 water

1 glass of wine - sipped 

1 Diet Coke


This helps hangovers massively if you stick to water and also helps you stay more focused and engaged with others at the table so you know when it is time to go home.


#4 Make It a Habit You Don’t Enjoy


Finally, you might choose a drink that links to the first point and places a step between you and the beverage.


Choose a drink that you do not enjoy, like neat spirits (over ice makes them more unappealing as the ice dilutes the flavour and makes the alcohol bitterness even stronger) and have a long drink.


Typically you will sip slowly versus a sweet cocktail or mixer-infused gin, meaning you naturally pace yourself and find it unappealing.


At the end of the night, always take an electrolyte to replenish and prevent dehydration, better yet, throw in some vitamin C and some charcoal before you drink to help detoxify the alcohol.


Remember that any change is a good change and the more you persist with what you want and acquire it, you’ll be the master of your fuelling.


References


Examine. (2024). Is alcohol allowed on the Mediterranean diet? (online). Available at: https://examine.com/diets/mediterranean-diet/faq/is-alcohol-allowed-on-the-mediterranean-diet/


National Health Service. (2024). Better Health, Drink Less. (online). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/drink-less/


Office for National Statistics. (2022). Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2021. (online). Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/alcoholspecificdeathsintheuk/2021registrations#main-points


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