Bottom’s up! It’s that time of year…cocktails, parties, cocktail parties. Some are pumped – YES, an excuse to be tipsy at work and not get fired (I’m talking about at a work-sponsored holiday party where booze is being served – don’t go to work drunk, please), others straight up dread this time of year because of what the extra alcohol calories means for their waistline. Yes, you can say no to a drink. No, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Family time is hard, guys. And you CAN drink alcohol and stay fit.
Honestly, every time I see a new diet plan that bans alcohol, or a nutrition professional (or non-professional – there’s a lot of those out there) claiming you have to cut alcohol out of your life to lose weight or even to maintain a healthy one, I cringe. Sorry I party, but it’s just not realistic for many of us. (I can’t believe I just said that and I kind of want to punch myself in the face, but I’m going to leave it in.)
Family time is hard, guys.
What happens when you decide you’re not eating cheese for all of 2017? YOU EAT CHEESE. ON LIKE, DAY 5. And you eat so much you can’t poop for a week. We’re human, yawl. We want what we like and we really want what we can’t have.
“Screw it, I’m going to happy hour and I’m eating all the chips and queso and having 14 margaritas.” No. Guys. It really doesn’t have to be like that. Not only do I know that drinking alcohol can be a part of a healthy lifestyle, but I also know you can drink alcohol on occasion and still lose weight. You just have to do it strategically, and that is why I made a definitive guide to drinking alcohol and staying fit.
Here’s what we know about alcohol and how it affects our weight.
- Alcohol has calories and eating more calories than our body can burn up causes weight gain. Now, calories are stupid to focus on, but they do exist, but it is something to be aware of since alcohol consumption can go overboard.
- Alcohol is metabolized a little differently than carbohydrates, fat and protein. Our bodies prefer to use alcohol as energy first, because alcohol contains acetate, which is toxic. So it’s nearly impossible to be burning fat while drinking alcohol…
- However! It’s also really difficult to actually store alcohol as fat. The only way you really store fat as a result of drinking alcohol is by going through the drive-thru and eating a bunch of garbage.
- Because our bodies make clearing the alcohol in our system a #1 priority, all other normal metabolic processes are put on the back burner – including blood sugar regulation. Because blood sugar regulation is key to fat loss and a healthy metabolism, frequent and irresponsible alcohol consumption can really screw with weight and body goals.
- Here’s the nutritional breakdown of beer, wine and liquor:
12 ounce beer = 140-220 (depending on lite or heavy) / 10-30g carbohydrate
5 ounce glass of wine = 80-120 calories / 5-11g carbohydrate
1 ounce of liquor = 65-90 calories / 0g carbohydrate
Yeah so let’s take a look at that “liquor” category. Low in calories, 0 g carbs. I like that.
I recommend clear liquors like high-quality vodka, gin and tequila over dark liquors like whiskey because they’re purer forms of alcohol and you’ll notice a huge difference in the way you feel the next day if you make the switch. I can’t emphasize avoiding a hangover enough, because truly, being hungover is so often what drives eating the stuff you wouldn’t normally eat.
Since we’re already being really judgy about which alcohols are cool to drink and which aren’t, let’s rank them in order of “best choice” to “worst choice”, basing it off of sugar content and toxins present. This is my opinion, and it can vary based on what specific brand of beer, wine, etc you’re drinking, but I’m pretty well versed in this category and I’ve done A TON of research because, you know, it’s a subject near and dear to my heart.
Vodka, Tequila, Gin > Dark Spirits > Dry Champagne > Dry White Wine > Dry Red Wine > Sweet White or Red Wine, Sweet Champagnes > Beer > Sugary Cocktails
Beer is so variable depending on what you’re drinking, of course, but it’s never going to be your best choice. It’s often high in calories and carbs, and many people experience a worse hangover with beer because of the gluten, yeast and mold toxins that are present. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying beer when you want one, but when trying to lose weight, steer clear.
You can drink alcohol and stay fit – here’s how. Cheers!
- Don’t get wasted. It’s how you end up in Taco Bell’s drive thru. And you’re also way more likely to eat like garbage the next day when you feel like crap.
- Choose vodka, gin or tequila with seltzer, sparkling water or regular water. Flavor with a squeeze of lemon and lime, cucumber, berries, or add bitters or fresh herbs. Side note: bitters are great for digestion, and they taste a lot better than you think!
- No juice or soda mixers…or anything sweet! Yes, this includes the beloved vodka cranberry – depending on the size, it’ll have 15-20 grams of sugar per cocktail. And the same goes for tonic water, Sprite, Coke or just about any other mixer you can get at a bar.
- Talk to your bartender. If you’re getting a specialty cocktail, ask the bartender to leave the simple syrup or agave out or at least ask them to use “half the amount”. Guess what? I’m a bartender, and it’s not an annoying thing to ask.
- Eat at least 30 g of protein beforehand or while you’re having drinks. This is a good-sized chicken breast, 8 oz fish or a 6 oz steak. Stick to 10-20 g fat to stabilize blood sugar, and eat lots of vegetables.
- Swap drinks for food. Don’t starve yourself, of course, but if you know you’re going to have 2 drinks, make up for it somewhere else in your diet during the day. Eliminate a typical serving of starchy carbohydrates, like rice or fruit, and a serving of fat.
- Focus on protein and veggies through the day. Yes, I’m mentioning protein again. If you know you’re going to have drinks later, focus on eating a lot of it during the day. Protein preserves muscle mass and keeps us full, so it’s not something you want to eliminate for the sake of cocktail calories. Same with non-starchy veggies. Try to swap your “drinks” with starchy carbs and fats.
- Know how to order a margarita. Margaritas could go on my ‘worst choice’ and ‘best choice’ list depending on how it’s made. Make sure it’s made fresh and not something that came from a bottle. “Sweet and sour mix” is not ok. Ask your bartender to make you a classic marg with fresh lime, tequila and a little Grand Marnier. The Grand Marnier will sweeten the cocktail without having to add agave.
- Water, water, water. Have a glass of water between every drink. It’ll prevent you from getting too tipsy, and it’ll curb your hangover. TRUST ME. This is really my not-so-secret weapon.
- Put the wine away. Hey, there are worst choices. Us ladies love the wine, though, so I challenge you to switch it up because wine does contain sugar. If you do drink it, drink dry varieties, or just come to the dark side with me and get yourself an Milagro silver on the rocks with loads of lime. Way better choice!