Every year, starting the day after my birthday, I like to set a challenge for myself. This year I took a two month fast from alcohol.
I’m not a heavy drinker, but I am a regular drinker. It’s hard not to be when you play in a country band. Busch Light is often the only thing promoters provide for dinner, and country fans aren’t quite sure how to say “thank-you” if they can’t buy you a beer or shots.
As a personal trainer, Jiu Jitsu athlete and health-minded individual, I was curious to see what life without liquor would be like, so between January 10 and March 17, I didn’t drink a drop.
What I discovered came as a surprise, even for me.
Starting Weight: 203 at 18% body fat. (166.5 pounds lean mass, 36.5 pounds fat.)
Ending Weight: 195 at 16% body fat. (164 pounds lean mass, 31 pounds fat.)
As expected, I lost weight, but it wasn’t all fat. While I lost 5.5 pounds of fat, I lost 2.5 pounds of lean mass. My estimate is that through the fast, I eliminated about 9000 empty calories over two months, and this is probably on the low side.
I’ve read that alcohol, even in small amounts, severely disrupts sleep, and it’s true. I slept better than I had in years after eliminating alcohol.
There was no official scientific method that I followed for gauging inflammation, but about a month into my fast, I noticed I didn’t have my standard aches and pains. As a Jiu Jitsu practitioner who averages about ten hours of training per week, it’s rare not to have achy joints, but my joint pain almost completely disappeared during the second month of the fast. I literally felt better than I had in years.
This improvement came as the biggest surprise to me. During my alcohol fast, I had two major mental revelations. The first was discovering a new way of thinking about music theory, a subject I’ve struggled with for over 30 years. The thought was so revolutionary to me that I wrote and published a book on it called Intuitive Theory.
The second, lesser revelation (but still major to me) was regarding the music video for a song I wrote more than two years ago. The song will likely be the next single I release, and I’ve debated ideas for its music video since the day I wrote it. During my fast, I finally developed a concept I know will make waves.
As a skeptic, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of these improvements were due to the placebo effect, so on March 17, even though (and let’s be honest, partially BECAUSE) St. Patrick’s Day was cancelled due to Covid-19, I allowed alcohol back into my diet.
Once again, my drinking was in relatively small doses. I rarely allowed myself to drink more than two beers in a night.
Here’s what’s happened in the month since I began drinking again.
My weight is right back up to 203 and 18% body fat. (At least I’m consistent.)
My sleep has been trash. On a night that I drink even one beer, it’s not uncommon for me to wake up at 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning and not be able to fall back asleep.
I didn’t notice a difference right away, but the last week has been the achiest I’ve felt all year.
This one is hard to gauge, but I was averaging about one major mental revelation per month without alcohol. I haven’t had a single one since I started drinking again.
All said and done, I’ve started another fast, this time for three months. I’m an all-or-nothing type of person. Saying I’m going to “drink less” won’t show any measurable results for me. I need hard and fast rules to stick to or I’ll backslide as soon as I’m tempted.
I don’t see myself giving up alcohol for good. I’ve got too many friends in the craft beer industry I need to support. That said, I can see these fasts becoming a regular occurrence in my life.
What I’ll Do Different This Time
My goal for the next two months is to lose fat mass and maintain, if not build my lean mass. To do this, I’ll need to replace the calories I lose from not drinking with calories from lean protein and healthy fats.
I’ll report back in in two months with my results.
Tips for trying this yourself
Le Croix is a great substitute for beer. It certainly doesn’t taste as good but it fills the craving for something cold and bubbly. Best of all it’s cheap and it has no caffeine, calories, or artificial flavors.
Change the habits to lead to your drinking. I’m most tempted to drink when I’m sitting at home watching TV. If I’m not watching TV, I’m not tempted. If you can’t hang out with friends at the bar and not drink, find somewhere else to hang out with friends.
Create Barriers for yourself. It’s hard to drink when there’s no beer in the fridge or when you tell your friends to kick you in the nuts if they see you drink a single drop.
Have you given up alcohol and noticed differences? If so, share your experience in the comments below.