If you choose to drink, it's important to be aware of how much you're drinking and how it will impact your health and fitness.
I enjoy a wine and margaritas as much as anyone, but in moderation and mindfully. Alcohol is a connector. Happy hours, family dinners, holidays, and celebrating life's milestones like birthdays and weddings are all times I usually choose to drink. I'm conscious not to drink just because it's the weekend and I "deserve" it, or because I'm stressed, or just because I'm around people who are drinking. It's easy to rely on alcohol to combat stress at work and home or as a social lubricant to be more comfortable in social settings.
Cut back on a few drinks a week and you'll restore your health, maintain a healthy weight, less bloat, a smaller and tighter waist, and enhance performance in sports and workouts. You'll also improve your mental clarity and overall drive and productivity, heighten energy, enjoy better sleep, a slower and more graceful aging process, clearer skin, and have more time to do things you love.
The Best and the Worst
There are better decisions than others when it comes to drinking and how you look and feel. If your goal is fat loss you need to be in a caloric deficit. This happens either by eating less and/or exercising more. When you choose to drink, the calories will add up from the alcoholic content (alcohol has 7 calories per gram) and the mixer (soda, juice, liquor, etc). The best options have the lowest calorie and sugar content and the worst options quickly rack up in calories and sugar.
The Best Options
- 5 oz glass of dry red or white wine: 120-150 calories
- 5 oz glass of champagne or Prosecco: 90 calories
- 1.5 oz shot of alcohol: 100 calories
- 12 oz light beer: 55-100 calories
The Worst Options
- Beer with ABV (alcohol by volume) over 5%: 150-300 calories
- Sweet dessert wine and fortified wines
- Drinks mixed with soda or fruit juices (Rum and Coke, Gin and Tonic, White Russians, Long Island Iced Tea)
- Blended frozen drinks (frozen margaritas, piña coladas, strawberry daiquiris)
Top Tips to Drinking Without Ruining Your Diet
- Limit yourself to 1-2 drinks 2 to 3 times a week
- Use low-calorie mixers like seltzer with fresh lemon or lime and herbs (mint, basil, rosemary, etc.) to add flavor without the calories. You can also order a shot on the rocks and sip slowly. Add seltzer or club soda to wine to make a low-calorie wine spritzer.
- Politely order your drink without the sweetener. Margarita with no agave, Mojito with no simple syrup, Moscow Mule with club soda and just a splash of ginger beer. It will save you hundreds of calories and prevent a hangover from all the sugar.
- Martinis can be a healthy choice, but not if you have a generous bartender. A standard size Dirty Martini or Cosmopolitan has just under 200 calories, but when served in a larger glass they can rack up 350 calories.
- Alternate each drink with water if you plan to have more than one.
- Drink mindfully and balance your indulgences. If you have alcohol at dinner, skip the bread basket and dessert.
- Eat a meal before drinking that includes protein, carbs and a little fat. For example fish or chicken, steamed asparagus squeezed with lemon, and mashed sweet potato or brown rice.
How much is too much?
According to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, "high-risk drinking is the consumption of 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. Binge drinking is the consumption within about 2 hours of 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men."
Drinking above the recommended moderate amount, more than 7 drinks per week for women and 14 drinks for men, can cause weight gain and nutrient depletion, distort your metabolism, and degrade your health.
Alcohol and Exercise
Alcohol slows recovery from workouts and causes nutrient and electroylyte depletion, especially B vitamins and Vitamin A. If you've ever tried to workout after a night of drinking, you know your performance suffers from dehydration and low energy.
Alcohol shortens total sleep time and fragments sleep. When you don't get a quality night's sleep, the body doesn't have enough time to recharge and replenish itself and repair muscles. Aim to stop drinking 4 hours before bed. Sleep deprivation and oversleeping is also linked to diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Read this to learn more how to get good sleep.
Alcohol is a depressant and slows your central nervous system and decision making. Some people will experience a chemical imbalance causing anxiety and depression. Keep it simple. When given the opportunity to drink, ask if it's going to interfere with your goals. If the decision is not in line with how you want your life to be, go out less frequently, focus on the conversation instead of the peer pressure to drink in rounds, and order an alcohol-free drink like club soda with lemon and lime, or unsweetened iced tea.
Alcohol and Weight Loss
Alcohol is empty calories with zero nutritional value. The body treats alcohol as a toxin. When you consume alcohol, they body works to break down the calories from alcohol before anything else. This lowers your ability to metabolize food and increases fat storage from additional calories. For example, if you drink 4 beers and a large pizza, the body will break down the calories from the beer and be more likely to store the calories from the pizza as fat. Drinking can cause you to overeat and trigger cravings for unhealthy foods.
Alcohol and your Liver
Unlike normal digestion, alcohol is broken down in the liver and kidneys. The liver is a fat burning organ where your hormones are processed. It's important to support a healthy liver by maintaining your weight and eating a healthy diet. Include foods with nutrients supporting natural detox like lemon, grapefruit, apple, berries, spinach, kale, beets, broccoli and parsley regularly in your diet. Limit alcohol, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed and packaged foods, and processed deli meats to give your liver and kidneys a chance to carry out their detoxification functions.
Andrews, Ryan. “All About Alcoholic Beverages.” Precision Nutrition, 12 Nov. 2015, www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-alcoholic-beverages.
“Appendix 9. Alcohol.” 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, 2015, health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-9/.
Verive, John Michael. “An Easy Way to Estimate How Many Calories Are In Craft Beer.” Beer of Tomorrow, 23 Jan. 2013, www.beeroftomorrow.com/calories-in-craft-beer/.