If you’re anything like us, you’re probably still drinking a bit too much at times and wondering how you can trim down without having to sacrifice your favorite thing in the world, wine.
Here are five straightforward and easy-to-follow tips on how you can enjoy your drinking life and not totally sabotage your health and fitness goals.
1) Prepare yourself beforehand! Mind your meals before drinking.
Before we delve into a strategic eating plan before going out for drinks with your friends (or by yourself, no judging here) it’s good to break down the science of calories in alcohol a bit first.
Food is made of three primary macronutrients, which all possess calories in varying amounts:
Proteins, which have 4 calories per gram,
Carbohydrates, which also have 4 calories per gram,
Fat, which has 9 calories per gram
Alcohol contains calories but is not a part of any of these categories, and thus it’s usually considered a fourth macronutrient. It possesses a bit fewer calories than fat, with 7 calories per gram. Weight gain from drinking isn’t a direct response from alcohol being stored as fat—but rather alcohol makes it much more likely that the fat you ingested beforehand will be stored in the body. The reason for this is that your body when confronted with metabolizing fat and alcohol, it will prioritize the alcohol—and the neglected fat then gets absorbed by the body.
The strategic way to counter this would be to eat healthy meals before you drink. Stick to protein-dense foods and high-fiber vegetables that will not only keep you full for longer and prevent late night drunk munchies, but less fat in the body means fewer chances of your body absorbing it.
2) Choosing alcohol strategically – Stick to drinks with lower calories.
Now that you made healthy choices for your pre-drinking meals, continue with the good choices when selecting your beverages. The range of calories in alcoholic drinks varies considerably from spirits, wine, and mixed drinks. The more complicated the drink, the more calories it’s likely to contain.
Firstly, stay away from mixed drinks that possess fruit juices, sugar syrups or liqueurs, which are full of carbohydrates. You’re not in college anymore anyway. To cut back massively on these extra carbohydrates, go for straight spirits—such as vodka, gin, rum, etc., that are mixed with zero or low-calorie mixers such as soda water. Dry wines have significantly fewer calories than sweeter wines, and white wine has a bit less than red. If you want to be more specific, think about choosing Old World wines from Europe that tend to be lower in alcohol. Big rich and fruity red wines such as California Cabernet or Merlot will likely have the most calories, as will anything that has been manipulated to make sweet, such as Moscato or White Zinfandel.
It can be tricky to count calories with beer, since there are so many different styles and serving sizes, and calories can vary significantly due to the malt to hops ratio and how long it is fermented. Generally, the richer the beer, the more calories, with IPAs and stouts at the top of the list rounding out to near 200 calories for a 12oz bottle. Light beers such as Michelob, Corona, and Miller’s stay relatively low around 55 calories, and typically don’t contain added sugar. If you’re a beer drinker, try to limit the bold, large format, craft brews to just one, and round it out with something a bit lighter afterward.
3) Drunk eating. Don’t do it.
This is a very obvious fact but one of the hardest to abide by since your ability to control yourself is diminished as intoxication sets in. It’s hard to argue with the more inebriated version of yourself, but try to make an effort. Those calories are going to be turned straight into body fat. If you get home and you absolutely need nourishment, have a small amount of fiber-rich food such as whole grain cereal. Make sure to drink a ton of water at this time to help process the alcohol to make the morning a bit easier.
4) Watch yourself the next day…you’re not out of the woods yet.
If you had a long night of libations, you’ll probably feel a bit worse for wear the next day. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it’s making you dehydrated, which exacerbates the feelings of hunger. To cope with a large amount of alcohol ingested prior, the body seeks out and desires what will provide it with the most energy—fat, which is the richest source of energy from the macronutrient family. Greasy food definitely helps with some stomach pains you may have as well, but it’s best to avoid a meal you might otherwise avoid just in an attempt to make yourself feel better. Instead, cereal grains or oatmeal which is high in fiber will keep you full longer, and even a smart portion size before bed will help you feel less hungry the next day. Furthermore, before bed make sure to drink lots of water to help rehydrate your body faster.
5) Practice calorie counting and moderation.
The best and probably most obvious way to keep your weight and health goals a top priority is the bit of advice you probably don’t want to or need to hear. Moderation. The more empty calories you consume with alcohol, the more likely you’ll be transforming it into fat. 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. However, you can categorize your drinking into two types of days, a casual drinking day, which would be a typical weeknight with maybe a glass of wine or two. Think of those days in the same ways you may be counting and tracking a calorie limit. More serious drinking days should be limited (naturally) to a few times a month at most. For these days, make sure to follow the previous advice of excluding carbohydrates, fats, and sugars in your diet beforehand, which will then help prevent storing it as extra fat.
And there you have it, five simple tips to keeping your health goals without going sober! Let yourself enjoy life, but a balance of healthy eating, regular exercise, and responsible drinking (or at least more-responsible drinking) is completely possible.