The Alcohol Guide

Andy MorganDiet & Nutrition, Diet Theory135 Comments

Alcohol diet fat loss

Update 17th March 2014: Rules for moderate drinking are best summarised in the more recent article, The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance #2 – Macros, Fibre & Alcohol.

***************************

I’m often asked by clients, “How can I drink and not screw up my diet?”

Good question…

I believe the best diet is the one you can keep in the long-term. Plan for the ‘screw-ups’ and make them work for you.

I never say “No!” to alcohol with my clients diets. It’s not realistic. It will set them up for failure, because once they have one beer, they decide, “I’ve already screwed up so I may as well have 10.” Which combined with the ‘drunken munchies’, means game over.

Beer, shots, margarita’s; they can all be ok. Following a few rules could save you.

But, first…

Things you need to understand

  1. Eating more calories than you need (maintenance calories) makes you fat.
  2. Alcohol itself does not make you fat, but it does have calories.
  3. Fat will only make you fat when you eat over your maintenance calories for the day.
  4. Alcohol calories take priority as fuel for your body over fat-stores and glycogen. This is because the by-product of alcohol metabolism, acetate is toxic. So when you drink, fat burning stops until you burn those calories off.
  5. Drinking can push you over your calorie budget for the day. This causes some, or all of the dietary fat you ate for this day to be stored as body-fat, depending on how much over your maintenance calories you drank.

Alcohol calories are empty calories. They can’t help you recover or build muscle, but they can fuel you for moving around etc. Alcohol calories will still count to the weekly overall calorie balance and thus will help determine whether you lose or gain weight.

Now, when running a calorie deficit recovery becomes an issue. To use alcohol calories (instead of say, carbs) to make up your calorie budget you’re stealing from the band-aid drawer so to speak. In moderation it’s not so much of an issue, especially when bulking.


Once a week moderate to ‘hard’ drinking

Plan carefully and don’t go over your maintenance calories you can drink any alcohol and still lose weight. Problem? -Counting calories isn’t very fun when you’re in the middle of a party.

So, on days that you know you are going to really drink:

  1. Keep that day very low fat. – Drinking too much (meaning over maintenance calories) will cause you to store only the fat you ate in your diet this day. Fat burning will be halted, but no other punishment besides the hangover.
  2. Eat your protein for the day to preserve muscle mass (lean sources such a chicken, egg whites, casein protein) and restrict carbs to veggies.
  3. Drink shots, dry red wines (they are lower carb), and zero-calorie mixers (I like Coke Zero and Jack) in whatever quantities you want, and don’t feel guilty.

Q. What about drinking beer?

If you want to drink mostly beer then employ the first two strategies above. But bear in mind that you will store all dietary fat consumed on this day.

Q. So are you saying I can drink zero-carb alcoholic drinks on my rest days and it’s no problem?

Alcohol has calories. When you start drinking, you start eating into the calorie deficit that we have created. The more you drink, the less fat you burn, and when the alcohol calories push you over maintenance calories for the day, you’ll start storing the dietary fat you ate on this day. So no. Best case, it’ll halt your diet.

If you follow those few rules and keep it to one a week you won’t ruin your diet or hard-earned body.


Drinking in moderation a few times a week

Q. Can I have a large glass of wine or beer with a meal a few times a week?

Any amount of alcohol will blunt lipolysis (fat burning). In a mixed diet with alcohol, total calorie intake is what matters. If you want to drink on a regular basis (more than once a week) then you will need to make other adjustments in your diet.

Q. Training day or rest day?

Rest day is preferred as the other macros can be adjusted easier without negative effects.

Q. Why not a training day?

On a training day we eat a calorie surplus making the likelihood of the fat eaten on this day being stored, high. Adding alcohol calories to the mix will just make this fat storage inevitable as it will push us even more over budget.

Q. So can I just reduce my carbs then on the training day? What “negative effects”?

I have made reference to drinking beer on a training day before. This is actually a little misleading as a long-term strategy.

If we take away some carbs to make up for the alcohol calories (7kCal per gram) then (simply put) we’re taking away part of the body’s ability to recover, replenish glycogen and build muscle, which is the main purpose of the surplus calorie training day. We don’t really want to do this, thus ideally alcohol will be avoided on a training day.

Q. So what adjustments should I make on rest days?

We don’t want to decrease our protein as this is necessary for maintaining muscle mass.

We don’t want to reduce our vegetable intake as it slows the digestion of the protein, which is good for maintaining muscle mass. Also the fibre in it helps us to defecate, which can become a problem on low carb diets. This is a good reason not to reduce fruit consumption too much either as fruit contains fibre.

Thus this leaves us with the option to reduce starchy carb intake (which may be very low already for those on a diet), fruit intake, or fat intake in proportion to the calories in the drinks.

Q. How many calories in ‘x’ and how does this equate with the simplified rules?

I do not want to encourage you to drink on a regular basis (read: more than once a week), because it starts messing with the macro balance and makes you more likely to do something stupid (i.e. eat a lot of snacks at the bar). -Trust me on this, I see it a lot.

This then is the only thing I will say further on the issue: You will need to maintain your calorie balance by decreasing the macros from those three sources mentioned above (fruit, fat intake or the starchy carbs for the day).

Don’t ask me for calculations or substitution rules.

Q. Ok just one, please? If my rest day fat intake is ~60 grams, and I intend to have 2 glasses of wine with dinner, how do change the fat intake to make up for it?

Fair question.

So you’re using my simplified rules. They make your life easier but they make that fat figure a conservative estimate. There’s little point using those simple rules to then get painful about calculating how many grams of fat equals one or two glasses of wine in calories. (Sure, do that if you want, but I’m not going to do the maths for you.)

What we can do which is much simpler is to reduce the consumption of the “fatty meat”  on this day. So let’s say for example I have asked you on your rest day to eat 500g of the meat consumed on this day as coming from the “fattier” category. To reduce the fat consumption on this day without counting then just halve the fatty meat consumption (250g) and eat the rest from a very lean source (i.e. Chicken breast, grilled but smothered with cracked pepper and BBQ sauce).

Does that equal 2 glasses of wine? I don’t know, or care really. – I want you to relax about things, and pick up the broad brush strokes rather than worry about the fine details of the  diet. It’s a good rule of thumb though.

Q. What about beer?

Absolutely possible, but I want you to educate yourself. Blanket rules won’t work here.

- Beer on a Training day: You can use some of the carbs from the beer to replenish glycogen stores. So you can replace some of your rice for the beer carbs, but you will store all of your consumed fat on this day. So if you do it, keep the fat very low (even lower than normal) on this day.

- Beer on a Rest day: You will need to make the alterations to your macros mentioned above.

Q. So when altering things do I just adjust for the beer carbs?

No, you need to take into account the alcohol calories also.

I had previously recommended that people take 20g out of the rice-cooker earlier in the day for every beer you want to drink in the evening. (Look up your favorite beer here.) However looking at little more closely than that, it is a guideline that needs to be taken with caution: As a very general guide, 500ml of beer is about 20g of carbs and has 250 calories.

20g of carbs is 80kCal, which means that there are 170 empty calories here. It should be easy to see that drinking beer will reduce your calorie deficit significantly if it is a rest day (you will have to adjust the other macro nutrients) and if it is a training day then it will push you well over maintenance and make you store all the dietary fat.

Q. From what meals would it be best to skip the carbs from?

-Training day: Keep the carbs in the post-workout meal as much as possible. Take away from the others.

- Rest day: Any meal is fine, though your carbs will probably be low anyway so you may have to adjust fat calories too.

Q. I like to drink vodka shots, 3-4 doubles a night. Is this ok?

There’s ~64kCal in a 1oz shot.

So 3-4 doubles is 384-512kCal. Combine that with one regular soda, (conservative estimate 200kCal) and it has cost you 1lb of fat not lost a week. (It doesn’t always quite work out this way but: 1lb of fat is about 3500kCal. 3500kCal/7 days is ~500 a day.)

Unfortunately you’re not going to be able to drink every day in the same way or it’ll screw things up. Yes we could subtract calories from the training day but then you’d risk not recovering properly because of the reduced carbs replaced by the nutritionally empty alcohol calories. -For this reason I wouldn’t recommend it.

Yes we could have a rule that you make the meat you eat on rest-days very lean so that your fat numbers for the day come down by ~30g which is 270kCal. But then you’re stuck eating boring chicken.

Fat isn’t going to be burned on the training day as we’re in a calorie surplus.

You could drink more on your rest day but if you do, you eat into the nice calorie deficit that we created on the rest days which is the time when we burn the body fat.

Those are the trade-offs.

**********************

If you would like to understand the science behind this further so that you can plan your mischief a little more cleverly then I highly recommend this article over at Leangains.com.

Note: I’m not suggesting anyone ‘drink’ their calories on a regular basis. I’m just saying, you don’t have to let worries about your diet spoil your social life.

I hope you found this helpful and the update cleared things up.

Andy MorganThe Alcohol Guide

135 Comments on “The Alcohol Guide”

  1. Simon

    Excellent article Andy, I’m a Geordie and we are probably just as bad as Scots if not worse haha! I’ve had good results with leangains in the past. I’m going to start the morning protocol as I train at around 5.30am with BCAAs either side of the workout. My eating window is around 12-8pm. I have my macros for training and non training days. I’m a weekend warrior drinking wise. I’m just struggling with where exactly to pinch the calories from, do I need to adjust only on the day I drink or could I lower other days to suit? It sounds to me like I’m best off eating only protein on a Saturday to cater for Saturday nights. Also, with me training early am and my eating window starting at 12.00, does this class as a higher carb training day…or should I eat more carbs the day before to stock up for the early morning workout? Does this make sense? One answer from you could save me a few weeks of wasting my time. Cheers.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Dieting into great shape while still getting hammered over the weekends, consistently every weekend is difficult, as you can wipe out an entire week’s deficit very easily by doing that. Sacrificing carbs or fats is only a short term solution, as it will lead to recovery issues. It is what it is, you probably want to curtail things for now.

  2. bob

    Hello :)
    I have a couple of questions on behalf of a friend.

    1) at a festival – say, 4 nights of crazy high drinking – will it put you back all your progress over the past few months?
    2) if you just didnt eat for the 3 /4 days and only drank alcohol would you avoid gaining weight
    [Lastly, your opinions on drugs and weight loss?]
    Thanks,
    _
    Bob

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Bob.
      1. Depends on how much progress your friend made over the last few months. You can gain a lot of water, but there are physical limits to the actual amount of fat one can gain in a few days. And if you’re drinking hard, you will simply not have the stomach for it.
      2. Probably. You’d lose muscle though. Not a practical suggestion.
      3. Stupid. If you don’t lose it in a sustainable way, you won’t maintain it.

      I’d highly encourage your ‘friend’ to stop thinking in extremes/ black & white. A little reading is all that is required to clear up the confusion here. Between this post and the post, The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance – #2 Macros, Fibre & Alcohol, I have anyone covered that wants to put the effort in.

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  4. Jase

    Hi Andy,

    Just a quick question on drinking on training days.
    As per the rules I would keep fat low and eat my my protein for the day. I’ve also seen on Martins site that he says to keep carbs from veggies and trace amounts in protein sources only. My question is, is getting the carbs from non starch veggies going to be enough for recovery? And would it be OK to include some fruits on these days? Possibly banana just post workout, but then keep rest of the days meals low carb?

    Cheers Mate,

    Jase

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jase, I believe you’ve missed the point. Within the context of Martin’s article (i.e. referring to a heavy drinking situation, where calorie intake from alcohol will be large) the job you’re trying to do on this day is to minimise fat storage, minimise risk of muscle catabolism, yet still drink your face off. You compromise recovery on this one day.

      You want to keep your calorie intake for the day as low as possible. Protein intake is essential, veggies (leafy ones have very low calorie density) and are thus a good choice for satiety, and that is important so that you don’t find yourself at the kebab shop at 2am.

  5. Alain

    Why will all far be stored with beer as opposed to other beverages? is there no way to change this?

  6. Cody

    Andy, great stuff here.

    Question: Is it alright to eat lean protein while drinking? Say there is an event in which there is drinking is done early in the day(making it difficult to eat all the day’s protein before). As long as its something lean like chicken breast or casein, eating during/after drinking(while intoxicated) should not be a problem, right?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Right Cory. Refer to the nutritional hierarchy of importance pyramid. Timing is there in 4th.
      Did someone tell you that you can’t/shouldn’t eat after having had a drink?

      1. Cody

        You did mention that alcohol is our body’s priority fuel over fat and glycogen, but I was not sure if that also applied to protein as well.

        If not, then great. I don’t have to fear food(as long as its lean protein) while drinking.

        Cheers.

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  9. Walky

    Hi Andy,

    Amazing article, thank you for the clarity.

    Please let me know if I’m intruding here with this information but another thing I wanted to point out (and this may be dependent on where in the world you are) for everyone is that if folks can find a beer with no carbohydrates (there is one in Australia) then it could simply be considered amongst the ‘better’ choices to make if you prefer a beer (like myself) over a spirit or dry wine. Obviously the overall caloric intake still has to be considered in a surplus but no carbs is still no carbs if you like a beer and I’m sure if Australia manufactures one, the rest of the world would be doing something very similar. Just a thought for carbohydrate conscious individuals on a training day calorie surplus.

    Love the site Andy, one of my favourite references buddy and truly appreciate the time you’ve spent putting it together for us.

    1. Andy Morgan

      No carb beer eh? Thanks for the suggestion Walky. Actually taste like beer should though?

      1. Walky

        To be honest mate it gets poor reviews across the board from most local enthusiasts but I enjoy all kinds of beer and this one is no exception (it’s no Asahi or Sapporo though!).

        Perhaps it’s just me being grateful that I can enjoy a beer without having to calculate the carbohydrate macros and only account for alcoholic calories. Sometimes I’ve found it’s just a mental hurdle with carbohydrates despite calorie deficits being undoubtedly effective, add to that the metabolic pathways with alcohol and fat storage being less efficient than carbohydrate metabolism.

        Cheers again Andy, love your site mate.

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  11. Mitch

    #5 says: “Drinking can push you over your calorie budget for the day. This causes some, or all of the dietary fat you ate for this day to be stored as body-fat, depending on how much over your maintenance calories you drank.”

    On the “depending on how much over maintenance” you drank: Let’s say the only thing you ingested on a drinking day was 4 tablespoons of olive oil or ~56 grams of fat (476 Calories). Then you drank a bottle of wine ~650 calories. So your total caloric intake was 1,126 calories in that day. Let’s further assume your maintenance level is 1,800 calories. How much, if any, of that would be stored as fat? It seems to me, none. This make sense?

    1. Andy Morgan

      None, you would lose fat because you are under maintenance. You missed the key word OVER in my point 5.

  12. Richard Gibbs

    Hey Andy, just saw a mistake wasn’t sure whether to read you or email you to let you know but since you updated the page

    “When I checked the mirror last night, I could have sworn my abs look harder than the week before (see above picture taken yesterday), and no it wasn’t due to dehydration.”

    There is no picture above and there was before I think?

    Feel free to delete comment after :p

  13. Alex

    My protein macros on rest days is 160g. Would the safest thing to do be to eat ONLY this protein amount (along with veggies for fibre) and leave it at that — zero carbs, zero fats — and assume the alcohol will up the calorie count for the day?

    Basically, since these rest/drinking days are a waste for fat-loss, there’s no point eating macros other than protein and alcohol, right?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Alex, everything I have to say on the topic is said above in the article or linked to bud. You’re asking me to give a black and white answer when the real one is gray.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Try and keep to your feeding window regarding food if you can within the rules states above. If that falls into the period that you are drinking then so be it.

  14. tehlolcat

    What about drinking in moderation? I can in terms of calories squeeze in a glass or two of red wine on rest days, knowing rougly how much that reduce my deficient for the day (not much). But you wrote “Any amount of alcohol will blunt lipolysis (fat burning).” So being tipsy is just as bad for lipolysis as being drunk as a M.F? Might as well have two-tree glasses while I’m at it, in case I already screwed up my fatburn that day…?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Put in simpler terms: The amount of alcohol you drink in calories, will reduce the fat burned for the day by that number of calories when in a deficit.

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  16. joe

    I’m trying to gain more muscle mass and beer slows the metabolism and I eat like a pig after. I gain muscle and a lil fat. How do I get a six pack again and stay ripped all still eating and drinking to maintain my mass?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Not quite sure I understand the question Joe. Everything I have to say on alcohol is above. Everything I have to say about dieting is written in the ~100 articles on the site. Maintenance is just finding a calorie balance when you have dieted into the position you want to be in.
      Beer does not slow the metabolism.

  17. Mitch

    Great blog on alcohol here. Been using the rules for once a week hard drinking every time I have the odd weekend out! I.e last night. I was wondering though;

    What about on hangover day? I know I find it hard to not eat some of my favourite crisps or snack on some food that maybe not for my macros! How does this effect you?

    You say all body fat will be stored for the drinking day, what about the day after? Is the bodyfat stored or because the alcohol has already been consumed will it not have the same effect?

    Cheers!

    1. Andy Morgan

      What about on hangover day? I know I find it hard to not eat some of my favourite crisps or snack on some food that maybe not for my macros! How does this effect you?
      Man up. You already drank enough to get hungover, don’t then piss into the wind as well.

  18. redletterDaye

    This really cleared up my unanswered questions from the LeanGains alcohol guide. Thank you!

  19. Rodrigo

    Hi! I’m skinny 22 year old man and I do workout 5 days a week with a proper diet and isopure 0carb.
    Can I drink one or two beers per week?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Why would you not be able to drink one or two beers a week?
      Why do you train 5 days a week?
      And why do you buy expensive zero carb protein powder?
      Seems you just need to back up a little and follow the guide Rodrigo. Start here.

  20. Santiago Aparicio

    Andy, (for the one night a week hard drinking case), do i have to wait a bit for my body to digest my last meal?, (lets say 3 hours), or can i drink while eating. im asking this because i want to know if there is any advantage if i drink when the digestive process is over vs during the process.

  21. Yossif

    One other important aspect you should make a note of: Alcohol does affect how well you rebuild muscle and messes up your ability to lift. The article you mentioned from Leangains says that somewhere in the process of muscle regeneration can potentially get screwed up from alcohol intake (excessive amounts at least). Personally, I’ve tried getting drunk one night and attempted to lift the next day: Nope. My body just would not work like I wanted it to. I don’t know the exact mechanism of what the alcohol messed up (Muscle glycogen perhaps?) but I never drink the night before training. Otherwise, great article.

    1. Yossif

      Oh and also: when trying to cut, just get off regular alcohol intake. I was trying to drop some weight during a point when I drank every week or so. I stopped drinking any vodka for a month and noticed about a 10lb difference. I’ve seen it in other people as well. It’s just plain smart to abstain every so often for general health.

  22. josh

    Hello,
    Just wanted to point out an error for you

    “It doesn’t always quite work out this way but: 1lb of fat is about 3500kCal. 3500kCal/7 days is ~700 a day.)”

    3500/7 ~500 a day

    not a big deal just trying to help

  23. Pieter Maaren

    Hey Andy,

    I’ve got a question for you regarding alcohol consumption. Next week i’m gonna go on a skiing-trip to france with a few collegestudents! What drinking/eating strategy would you apply for this, since it’s gonna be a active week on the slopes, so my TDEE would be higher as usual.. Alcohol consumption will primarly consist of beers/shots. Should i try to keep below maintenance everyday or do 2 24hr fasts during the outward/inward journey (since i’m sitting for 16 hrs in a bus, tip from Brad Pilon)

    I hope that you have a strategy for me to apply

    Your article is very helpful btw, but i don’t know how to apply these rules since i’m gonna be active whole week

    Pieter Maaren

  24. Nick

    Will this also apply to people on a slow bulk? If not, what will your recommendation be for rest and training days?

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  26. vega

    If i drink 9 beers every friday and workout 5 times a week how bad will it affect me? will i gain weight instead of losing? vise versa, this is including me eating healthy as well.

  27. Jason

    So if I read this correctly, if you will be drinking ad nauseum, try to stay very low-fat and keep it to spirits with mixers, if possible? I’m going on an ice fishing weekend and will be consuming copious amounts of booze. But I can control the food choices to limit the damage. Hit my protein, eat shit tons of broccoli, keep all else low, and stick to the same window?

    This will be a true test of will power. The more I drink the less I have…………….

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  31. Luke

    Hi Andy,

    If I ate a high fat/protein breakfast at say 10am containing approx 1/3 maintenance kcals and didn’t go out until 7pm would that meal have burnt off by then? Leaving nothing in my system whilst I drink to turn to fat, could I then drink as much alcohol as I want provided I eat nothing else until next day when its all burnt off?

    Thanks,
    Luke

  32. Gavin

    I’d appreciate any help you can give me on my following question Andy.

    For New Year, I’m going to be at a music festival for 3 days (you know the usual drinking and eating shit with college mates). When I come back should I just get back on the horse as usual (in terms of IF and LG) or is there anything I can do to minimise the bad effects?

    I know its a tough one…

    Thanks in advance mate.

  33. Peter uit het Broek

    Hey Andy,

    First of all, my compliments for your site! GREAT info, which influenced my life and fitness :)
    I wanted to sketch a situation. Saturdaynight, i have planned a night out with my friends. Which means heavy drinking. Of course, i understand this night will halter my progress, but i want to keep the damage minimal. My current situation is that i am on a 2000 kcal cut, and saturday is a training day. During my trainingdays i am still in a caloriedeficit, since i am a beginner, but still eating approx 2300 kcal

    My plan is this. Train at 1 o’clock. After that, a meal with veggies, lean smoked chicken, whey, etc. I am trying to hit 750-1000 kcal, primarily protein. Before our drinking, we planned a dinner with the boys. Again, i wil try to keep my fats, as low as possible, and focus on protein. After that, we’re going out. I will be drinking Beer. Do you think this is a good overall plan, or would you say, to skip training, and make it into a restday?

    Much appreciation,

    Peter – Amsterdam

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  36. Anthony E

    what about cardio on a drinking night… do it before breaking the fast as to create a larger calorie deficit?

  37. Patrick

    When you say “Keep that [moderate to hard drinking] day very low fat”, does that mean I should skip the fish oil too? Say I have a few drinks on workout a day my understanding would be that it would be stored as body fat and won’t help me with fat loss anyway, right?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Skipping fish oil on one day is not likely to be detrimental. Whether you choose to skip it depends on how exacting you wish to be about the whole thing.

  38. Jonathan

    Great site, I’ve found it very helpful since I started Leangains about a month ago. I have a few questions on cardio and dealing with alcohol and general extra “going out” calories I would like to be answered, if possible. For the sake of background info: I’m about 150lbs, 10% (not verified, just a guess) BF, and cutting, trying around +10%/-35%: Lifting every 3rd day (sometimes 4th).
    1a) Having read what’s you’ve said about cardio, it seems, not considering the time cost, that some cardio before the first meal on “rest” days IS optimal for fat loss. So if I have the time for up to a 45 minute jog before my first meal on rest days, would something like a fasted fun that burns 400-700 calories be optimal?(obviously I don’t want to lose muscle). If so, how many additional calories (if any) do I need to add to my -30-40% maintenance to prevent myself from being too low? While I have the time, for the sake of cardiovascular fitness and speeding up slightly my cut, I would consider doing cardio.
    1b) In extension, if it’s a rest day and I expect to have, say, 400-800 calories of either a) just alcohol or b) a mix of alcohol and other foods when I’m out for the evening, but I want to keep my -30-40% calorie target, is running before my first meal to burn off approximately the number of calories I expect to consume a viable solution? X2.5 protein, zero starchy carbs, a bunch of fibrous carbs, and 30-40g of fat already puts me at my calorie quota on rest days, so I can’t really substitute anything for the alcohol except for a couple hundred calories of fibrious carbs, assuming I should be counting these calories in the first place (see last question below). I have made increasingly strong efforts (substituting bourbon for beer, drinking more soda water and diet soda) to reduce my alcohol consumption, but numerous dates and social functions, etc, make it hard to not have a bunch of drinks 2-3 times a week. Wondering the ideal (if any) way to cope with this and still maintain a strong cut.

    2) On both rest and training days, I may eat 1-2 bags of frozen broccoli are at 125 kcal a bag or brussel sprouts, which are, according to the label, 250 kcal. You’ve mentioned, for simplification purposes, that these carbs don’t need to be counted, but I should be counting the calories for these green veggies, right? 250 kcal is 1/5 of my rest day quota, so definitely not a trivial amount.

    Thank you again for your time and input.

      1. Jonathan

        Sure.
        1a) Not worrying about time cost, on resting days what duration of cardio pre-1st meal would be optimal for a cut and how much, if any, of these additional calories burned should be made up for to prevent muscle loss?
        b) If i want to drink and/or eat a bunch (400-800) calories on rest days and maintain a strong cut, can I do cardio before my first meal to make up for these calories?

        2) how do I count green veggie calories? Should I count them all, count none of them, or count all NON-fiber calories?

        Thank you.

        1. Andy Morgan

          1a) None. It’s not about time. I wrote about this here.
          b) Overall calorie balance is the most important thing. How you do that is irrelevant.

          2) I write about this in detail for clients and won’t repeat here, but basically ignore then and keep the quantity you consume roughly consistent and you’re fine. -Adjust the other things in your diet.

          1. Jonathan

            Thanks Andy. I did read that but must have misunderstood part of it. I’m at 9-10% BF or a little less and thought SOME fasted cardio on rest days would, besides giving me cardiovascular benefits, either 1) burn a couple hundred extra calories of fat for me and 2) also give me a “buffer” so I can eat a little more junk/alcohol in the evening.

            It’s good to know the “buffer” part works at least – (ex. I ran about 35 minutes before my first meal today because I expect to have about 500 kcal of drinks this evening and still want to keep my overall calories at -35%).

            Thanks again, your stuff is really helpful.

  39. Ivan

    Hey Andy , On the Leangains Page it says to calculate .3x bodyweight in kg for fat and 1.5x bw in kg for carbs (that comes out to about 20g of fat and a little over a 100 grams of carbs. My question was since you have a gap of 100 carbs , lets say i limited the amount of fat to less than 20g like im supposed to and used the 100 grams of carbs for beer? can we do that? or does that have to go to food.

  40. Brian

    Hey I have a question in regards to fasting and dealing with the hangover… is there any advice? I’m not talking about a blindly bad hangover where the light hurts, more like trying to cure a mild/moderate hangover (which I have right now sigh). It seems like the only real strategy for me when it comes to curing hangovers is to “wait it out” or break the fast with something small to eat. Does anyone have any further advice?

    1. Andy Morgan

      There’s loads out there, but it goes totally against the simplified rules where I get people to relax about counting every single thing exactly. So I can’t recommend any.

      1. Jeb

        Andy,
        Excellent guide. I love that you provide such detailed information to allow us to look forward to meeting our goals to receive a nice reward like this at the end of the week.

        MyFitnessPal.com is probably the best largest database of nutrition information I’ve ever had. Definitely the best around IMO.

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  42. JoeV

    Hi Andy,
    Looking forward to hearing from you in a few weeks. Ive got a quick question which i think i know the answer to but if you could confirm it would be much appreciated.
    I plan on drinking roughly 350ml vodka at 660cals (according to the web). Its a training day, I know to eat lean meat (tuna today). Should i cut out starchy carbs entirely pre workout to try and compensate for some of the extra calories i’ll be consuming later?

    Thanks,
    JoeV

      1. JoeV

        Yer just did some maths, but when i looked at the amount in a glass it is a LOT! Ill drink no way near that.

  43. Lloyd

    Hey

    So if I’m drinking on a training day, I should still go for calories above maintenance?

    This is what I’m thinking. Train around 12pm fasted (with BCAA). Have a very heavy meal of high carbs and high protein post workout. Then eat a protein and veggie meal around 6-7pm. Start drinking at 9pm. Sound good? If not, what would you suggest?

    Cheers

  44. Dick Talens

    Andy, say you have a conference or a few back-to-back days with drinking events (3 in my case). Is there a lighter protocol, where you still want to remain about the same amount of calories, but not to the point of getting drunk? Could I, hypothetically, substitute fat calories for alcohol calories on rest days and carb calories on training days?

  45. Zak C

    I understand how you are saying to drink your calories from carbs on a training day. However, say that the drinking on training days will be a regular thing rather than just a few days out of the month. In this situation, would it be smart to take the calories from alcohol (7 calories a gram?) and restrict carbs further in order to prevent weight gain? Or is the idea that since fat is already pretty low, then it does not matter as much? Additionally, this is in the context of a cut, so there is only a 10 percent surplus of calories.

    Finally, and I hate to overload you with questions, but would you think that replacing too many carbohydrates with alcohol would negatively affect leptin levels and such, since carbohydrates affect lepin much more than other sources of calories?
    Thanks a ton.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Alcohol has calories but no nutritional value.
      That aside, it’s a poison. A few days a month, yes we can be clever and use a few tricks to avoid screwing things up. Wanting to fit alcohol in as a regular thing is not going to work well for your body and I’m not going to do the math for you to encourage it. Sorry Zak.

      1. Plist

        What would you constitute a “regular” thing. I for instance workout M-W-F, and tend to go out drinking on Friday. I rest on Saturday or have maybe 1 or 2 beers. Is this considered too regular? Am I severely hurting myself by doing this, even if I adjust my macros for those two days to compensate?

        1. Andy Morgan

          2 beers is what percent in terms of your total calorie intake for the week? Thus when you have that answer, you know how much it will be affected.

  46. Diego

    You said that you wouldn’t drink without eating anything like, right after a fast ’cause it would burn muscle. Could you explain more about it? Is it bad to drink alchohol in a fasted state?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Sorry I just meant that I wouldn’t only drink alcohol on one day and not consume my protein as that would rick muscle catabolism when lean.

  47. Van

    Andy,

    Great article. If planning to drink and adjusting to fit macros accordingly, what happens if I am planning to drink outside of the 8 hour feasting window?

    I usually eat from Noon-8PM, however what if I drink until 10PM or later? Should I fast for 16 hours from the time of my last drink, or just continue the next day as I usually would? I remember reading in another article you indicated that consistency is key – so I’m assuming that as long as I’m not screwing up my 8 hour window and drinking every other day, I should be okay to continue as normal the next day …

    -Van

    1. Andy Morgan

      Yes mate. Consistency is key. So keep everything the same and ignore the fact that you went outside of your usual window. A few days a month eating/drinking outside the window will not upset the ghrelin hormone pattern, but where the limit is I don’t know.

  48. Matt

    Hi Andy,
    I’ve got an extended Christmas trip coming up. I’ll probably be partying (drinking!) from Wednesday evening, when I fly to Hong Kong, until Sunday, when I fly home. You said you went to a festival for 4 days and drank for 3 of them? My question is: how the hell did you get all your macros in at a festival?
    The foods there must have been pretty bad for you surely? Also, how do I hit macros whilst travelling and staying in a hotel etc? Final question: if I’m drinking for 4 days, whilst not training, should I eat like it’s a rest day for all 4 days or eat high protein every day and alternate low carb/high carb/low carb/ high carb…all whole keeping fats low obviously.
    Thanks for your help buddy and keep up the excellent work! Matt

    1. Andy Morgan

      Festival: Matt essentially what I did was stay as low fat low carb as I could, and just eat the meat I could find (not really low fat though). The rest was just alcohol (not official advice :) ). The main point is, it’s just a few days out of 365.

      Hotel: By counting things using the simplified rules for a few weeks and being strict with yourself it’s possible to get quite good at eyeballing things. Obviously this has it’s limits with restaurant food though, at which point you can just stick to the high-carb/low-fat training days, low-carb/higher fat rest days approach.

      Finally: In that situation probably just eat your protein and low everything else and just drink. :) -again, just a way to limit damage.

      1. jimjonesbiz

        Just want to say this is the best no bullshit advice regarding nutrition and drinking I’ve ever read. Too bad other nutrition gurus haven’t been more upfront like this. We all gotta party some time.

  49. Ivan

    Andy,
    I think there is an error on the site. Im not sure if my measurments are not correct but isnt 500ml = 1 pint ? So 5 pints would be 2365ml? I think there has to be a mistake somewhere especially since you said you can drink 15 to 20 pints and your macros would be fine! I think I would die from alcohol poisioning haha :)

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  51. Andy

    If my workout days call for 250g of carbs and rest days call for 50g of carbs…if I drink a light beer (as an example) that has 99 calories and 3.5g of carbs or Guinness 17g carbs per pint. Are there no smoke and mirrors and 10 of those beers I’d count as 35g (170 for Guinness) of my carb intake or is there something I’m missing? Thanks

    1. Andy Morgan

      Alcohol has calories.
      Alcohol is burned preferentially as energy as when it is poison. (The metabolic byproducts are.)
      Alcohol cannot be turned into fat, (Lipogenesis) or rather it is very difficult for this to happen.

      So when we put these three things together what do we get? Well the alcohol will push your calories higher for the day. If you go over maintenance you will store those extra calories because the dietary fat you consumed for the day will not be burned.

      This problem is more pronounced on a rest-day because dietary fat it higher. It is less of a problem on a training day because dietary fat is very low.

      Any day you are planning of getting smashed like this you’re best bet is to keep fat low for the day.
      -Hope that cleared things up.

  52. Dick Talens

    Andy — Question (which might have just happened). Say I do this plan but completely fuck up and consume +1000 calories extra from food + alcohol (not horrible macros… got a lot more protein). Diet has been perfect 6 days/every week except for this. Should I continue tomorrow as normal, or fast and then just take in one meal at the end of my feeding peirod?

    1. Andy Morgan

      If it was protein and alcohol mostly, and didn’t eat a lot of fat, then you shouldn’t have too much of an issue. Just continue the next day as normal and all will be fine in a few days.

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  55. CarneAsadaBrito

    Awesome article. Made for a great supplemental article to Martin’s on the same subject. BTW, been losing BF rapidly while maintaining strength thanks in big part to your suggestion to stick w/RPT. The pullups are coming along w/the weight loss as well.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Michal that’s a good question, but the answer might not help you.

      The reason is the right number of carbs depends on many number of things:
      Height, Age, Weight, BF%, training regime, not to mention perhaps the most important – your goals.

      I’m currently on a slow bulk after a cut down to my current condition. Let’s just say, I could drink a good 15-20 pints and macro-nutritionally be fine.

  56. Matt

    Hi Andy, great site! Just a quick question: say on a rest day, I eat a big bowl of veg and loads of chicken for lunch. I then go out and drink copeious amounts of spirits and diet drinks. If I have not hit my daily macro for protein, would you advise to eat the rest of it in casein form ( cottage cheese, shake etc) AFTER drinking alcohol? Or is eating protein after drinking a bad thing? Thanks for your help! Matt

    1. Andy Morgan

      Yes do that. Lean protein sources though. A grilled chicken breast or casein protein would be good. Alcohol will put your over calories for the day, but alcohol and protein will cause minimal de novo lipogenesis (conversion to bodyfat) as there is no efficient metabolic pathway for this.

  57. uncleconnolly

    I noticed in a post you had cake for post workout – do you have sugar as carbs for post work-out, and not before?

    Do you count sugar at all on a training day? Or is it just counted as carbs regardless of if its sugar not?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Usually have rice post-workout as it’s better nutritionally. – The cake was a special occasion.

      Sugar is carbs. From a purely-fat loss stand point you can count it as and substitute for the same way.

      I had a box of choco-flakes post-workout yesterday cause I forgot to put the rice-cooker on. (I counted the carbs in it, had low-fat milk. -No problem! :))

  58. uncleconnolly

    Had a question regarding calorie free sweetener / calorie-free soda – what is your stance on these products? I find they are a nice way of having something ‘sweet’ although 1. I’m not sure if they are counter-productive to my fat loss efforts / digestive tract and 2. They seem to give me further sugar cravings. Are they allowed at all in my quest to get lean?

    1. Andy Morgan

      My stance is anything in moderation. I don’t drink them as habit, but they are useful tools for:
      1. Making my Starbucks taste good on a non-training day.
      2. Mixing with whiskey on a non-training day.
      If they give you further sugar cravings then best to stop.
      See my stance on alcohol here: http://wp.me/p1H4CG-c6

  59. uncleconnolly

    Hi there Andy,

    Firstly would like to say thank you so much for the plan you put together for me as well as responding so quickly to any query or issue I may have. To have an immediate response within 24 hours is so helpful and motivating for me.

    I had a question about regarding cardio – can I do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach? ie. 30 minutes of jogging / running? Does it really ‘burn’ muscle? Is it a ‘very’ poor time investment?

    Thanks

    James

  60. Shaque

    Andy, I really like drinking fruit juices, are these okay? i.e Apple juice, Pineapple Juice, etc

    1. Andy Morgan

      Yeah fruit juices are good. They’ll contain a lot of carbs, so drink them on your training-days rather than rest-days, and remember to adjust your carbs in other meals accordingly.

  61. Keith

    Awesome article, exactly what I needed to know. Thanks a bundle….now I am off to get pissed guilt free.

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