Dieting and alcohol usually do not go hand in hand. You are either dieting and not drinking, or you are drinking and not dieting. This can make it tough for those that are social drinkers that want to lose weight. They are torn between sticking to their diets and participating in social events. That leads to the question, is there a way to do both? The answer is actually yes…
Before you get too excited, I will clarify that you cannot bong beers every weekend and expect to lose weight. Its just not how life works. You can however, follow a few rules to lessen the negative impact of alcohol and allow yourself to enjoy social events without feeling guilty (and affecting your waistline). Let’s first dive into why alcohol prevents weight-loss, and then we can talk about what we can do about it.
Why Alcohol Prevents Fat Loss
Some alcohol may be carb-less, but no alcohol is calorie-less. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, which is about 100 calories per shot on average (give or take a few calories depending on the alcohol). You go out and throw back a few, that can add up quickly. What’s worse is alcohol doesn’t allow any other calories or stored fat to be burned off until the alcohol itself is completely burned off. That means the fat in your thighs or the calories from the Taco Bell run you drunkenly ate on the way home isn’t going anywhere until the alcohol you drank is metabolized. This is the sad reality my friends. Then to keep adding fuel to this fire, usually you feel terrible the next day, which means your session at the gym (which you are likely to skip due to being hungover) will be half effort at best. Don’t get me wrong, the gym is better than no gym. But if you have enough half-assed gym sessions due to hangovers, it will start to affect your weight-loss goals. Some studies have even shown that it takes a few days to get back to 100% after a night of binge drinking. If you do that every weekend, you really only have Wednesday-Friday each week to be at your best at the gym. Thats not even 50% of the week, so over time this can really start to have a negative effect.
So What Do We Do About All Of That?
We can’t make alcohol good for us. However, we can do things that lessen the negative effects, making them less likely to affect fat loss. Here are a few rules to follow that can help decrease the impact of alcohol and allow you to still be social and not pack on the pounds:
1. Pick the Right Alcohol: Beer lovers out there, I am sorry. Beer (especially craft beer) is one of the worst things for your waistline. It is packed with carbs and doesn’t have that much alcohol, so you have to drink more to get a good buzz. Stick to non-flavored liquors or dry wines. You’ll get more bang for your calories, and you won’t be taking in the extra carbs.
2. Pick the Right Mixers: Nothing can break a diet faster than a sugary mixer. Mixers alone can add a couple hundred extra calories to your night. Not to mention the blood sugar crash they leave you with, causing you to crave more carbs to bring your blood sugar back up (its why the street meat vendors have such long lines at 2:30 am). When it comes to mixers, go with calorie free mixers like water, club soda, and diet soda.
3. Adjust your Diet: If you know you are going to be drinking that night, fill up your day with good quality proteins and good fats. It will provide you long lasting energy for the night ahead, and you are less likely to want to binge on bad food later in the night. Also try limiting your carbs the day you are going to go out. This will give you some wiggle room in case a sugary shot magically appears in front of you and you can’t say no (we’ve all been there).
4. Prevent the Hangover: The worst thing about a night of drinking is the hangover the next day. The more fun the night is, the more likely you will be stuck on the couch, only able to stomach fried carbs. Hangovers happen due to alcohol being a diuretic, which dehydrates you and depletes you of vitamins, making you feel like crap. The best way to minimize this is to prevent it. The rule of thumb is for every drink you do, drink a glass of water. This will also slow down your drinking, causing you to drink less throughout the night. Its also interesting to point out that most people continue to order drinks because they simply don’t know what to do with their hands at a bar besides holding a drink. So the benefit of water is two-fold, hydration and limiting the amount you consume. As for the vitamins that are depleted, B-Vitamins tend to be the biggest ones. Taking some B-Vitamins right before you go out and right when you come home can make a big difference in how you feel the next day. Also, a great source of B-vitamins is Kombucha Tea. This is my go-to hangover remedy that I always have on hand for the next day.
5. Get Moving: Like I mentioned above, your body won’t touch excess fat until alcohol is completely burned off. The best way to overcome this is to make sure when you drink, you move around. Dance, walk around from place to place instead of taking Uber, and stand instead of sitting at the bar. This will help you get a jump start on burning off that alcohol, so hopefully by the next day its all gone, and you are ready to burn fat again.
6. Drink the Right Amount: This one is kind of obvious. No matter what you do, binge drinking will lead to weight gain. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. When you go out, limiting it to one or two drinks can make a big difference on weight gain over time.
7. Support Your Liver: Your liver takes a beating every day, having to process everything that goes into your body. Alcohol is no exception. The more you drink, the more your liver has to work. Your liver is also responsible for fat metabolism. So if it is being overworked due to alcohol consumption, your fat loss will suffer. Do your liver a favor and make sure this hard working organ is properly supported so it can do all of its jobs (especially fat metabolism). Some of the best supplements for the liver is milk thistle, turmeric and dandelion root. One of my favorite liver supplements is LiverCare from Himalaya. Support your liver, and it will support you.
There you have it, all the ways to lessen the blow of alcohol so you can still be social without sabotaging your fat loss goals. Remember, the key for everything is moderation. The rules above work best when alcohol is drank at a minimum. I am not a believer in cutting anything completely out of your life, especially when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. It all comes down to balance and learning how to minimize the negative effects when you chose to partake in certain things.