Ahh, alcohol. For most of us, drinking is a part of life. It’s the one thing in this world that makes people more interesting, social events more fun, and gets more people laid.
Although drinking alcohol can actually be healthy, it can also cause a lot of damage (and yes, I also mean that in a literal way).
You see, it’s very easy to abuse alcohol. That’s a proven fact that most of us know first-hand. There is a way, though, to get your drinks in once or twice a week without having to put on the excess weight.
Most people would just blatantly tell you to avoid alcohol. “If you don’t want to gain weight, then ditch the drinks” they said.
Here’s my take on that: sure you can eliminate alcohol from your diet for the rest of your life and call it a day, but the thing is — unless you’re 100% sober — attempting to eliminate alcohol completely will just set you up for failure. The same goes with trying to avoid your favorite foods. Think about the last time you stopped eating all your favorite foods just to lose weight. How did that go?
Eliminating things from your diet isn’t the answer, and that includes alcohol.
If you like your martini, bloody mary, beer, or (my personal favorite) cider, there’s a better solution.
Yes, you can also take the “drink moderately” approach, but let’s be real here. Life happens and there are times when we simply have to, you know, drink.
Instead, what you want is a viable long-term plan that you can integrate with your current lifestyle. Kudos to Dick Talens from Lifehacker and Andy Morgan from RippedBody.jp as the tips below are basically a more simplified (hybrid) version of their own alcohol-drinking guides.
Now before you go on and read the rest of this article, there’s a prerequisite — you need to know your daily calorie and macro targets first. If you don’t know what your numbers are, give this a quick read.
How to Eliminate (or Minimize) the Damage
Step 1: Figure out the days that you’ll be drinking.
Let’s say you have friends in town this week and plan on going to the bars on Friday night. You’ll mark that day in your calendar as either a “casual”/”drink moderately” drinking day or a “free” drinking day.
Casual drinking days are days when you won’t have more than a few drinks. Having a glass or two of wine for dinner with your spouse, for example, would fit in this category.
On these days, you’ll log the drinks on your calorie tracking app, and call it a day. That’s it. As long as you hit your macros for that day and stay within your calorie limit even after the alcoholic drinks, you have nothing else to worry about.
On the other hand, we have free drinking days where you’re basically going all-out. These are days when you won’t be tracking anything on your calorie tracking app because, well, you’re too busy partying.
For free drinking days, you’ll proceed to Step #2.
Just like how you should plan the days you eat out, doing the same with your drinking days can make a substantial difference in your progress. This allows us to plan accordingly and prepare for what’s to come. One of the main reasons why people fail with their diets is simply because of the lack of planning. What we’re doing here is basically making alcohol consumption part of the plan.
You see, the problem isn’t alcohol. Alcohol has calories, yes, but alcohol itself doesn’t make you fat. The culprit is the overconsumption of calories in conjunction with drinking alcohol, which is why it’s important to plan out your drinking days ahead of time.
Step 2: Keep your fat and carb intake low throughout your drinking day.
If possible, keep your consumption of carbs/fats to almost nothing. This will keep your numbers down throughout the day, which will then help prevent fat storage.
Step 3 (Option 1): Eat mainly protein-dense foods and green veggies.
On the day of drinking, you’ll mainly eat protein-dense foods such as red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, low-fat cottage cheese, protein powder, etc. On top of that, you’ll eat an unlimited amount of veggies with it.
- Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning that it keeps you fuller for a longer period of time. Eating mostly protein-dense foods will help to keep your cravings in check throughout the day.
- Eating protein throughout the day will make you less likely to blow your diet when you drink. In other words, it should alleviate the munchies.
- Veggies, meanwhile, are high in fiber and low in caloric content. Again, this helps to keep you full throughout the day while keeping your calories down.
Step 3 (Option 2): Fast throughout the day.
The other approach you can take is to implement intermittent fasting (read this for a primer if you are unfamiliar with IF).
Basically, the way this would work is simple: you won’t eat (or drink anything that has calories) for most of the day up until the time you start drinking. Right before you start drinking is when you’ll have your first meal. Your goal with this meal is to eat as much protein as possible coming from the same lean sources as mentioned in Option 1.
By fasting throughout the day, you’ll accomplish two things: 1) you’ll “save” your calories for later and 2) you’ll end up getting drunk faster, which then means there’s a slight chance that you’ll end up drinking less. Less alcohol consumption = less calories.
Side-note: this is more advanced than Option 1, so do this only if you have some experience with intermittent fasting.
Other random tips:
- Good choices of alcohol, calorie-wise, that are better than others: dry wine, vodka, tequila, rum, scotch, and whiskey.
- Drink the above alcohol straight or with zero-calorie mixers like diet soda.
- Limit your alcohol consumption to one or two nights a week because let’s be honest, the more you drink, the more empty calories you’re consuming. This won’t help with your fat loss.
Here’s the best part about all this — if you apply the above protocol every time you drink, and your diet is on-point for the rest of the week, you won’t gain any fat whatsoever. In fact, if you manage to stay on a calorie deficit throughout the week even with one night of heavy drinking, you’ll actually end up losing fat. Awesome, huh?
Oh, and one last thing.
I’m not advocating that you drink on a regular basis. This is merely a guide on how to drink alcohol without letting it ruin your a) social life and b) fat loss progress.
Further reading on alcohol and fitness:
- How to Drink Without Messing Up Your Weight Loss by Lifehacker
- The Alcohol Guide by RippedBody
- The Truth About Alcohol, Fat Loss and Muscle Growth by Leangains