By Flow Trainer, Mackennon Klink, BS, CSCS, PN1
Confession time: the summer in Seattle is amazing. We’re lucky to have so many wonderful ways to enjoy warm days: soaking up the sun at Alki beach or Golden Gardens, spending happy hour on roof top bars, paddle boarding, outdoor BBQ’s, or hiking and more.
If you’re like me, you’ll spend a lot of time outside grilling and having a few cold ones with friends. However, one or two drinks can turn into 5+, along with eating like crap. Too many nights like this, and you wreck your diet and/or physique. But it’s summer! Is it possible to have my cake and eat it too??? While it’s possible, it does require some planning, discipline and sacrifice.
I firmly believe fitness should improve your life, not consume it, and it’s helpful to have some guidelines set to walk that tightrope.
Quick Facts About Alcohol
- Alcohol is a toxin, a depressant and possesses addictive qualities that may lead to future problems.
- Upon consuming, your body’s top priority is to eliminate the alcoholic toxin ASAP. This means, your fat burning metabolism is inhibited, cortisol levels (stress hormone) increase and caloric intake goes up.
Here’s a quick comparison to the other macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats):
Protein – 4 calories per gram
Carbs – 4 calories per gram
Alcohol – 7 calories per gram
Fats – 9 calories per gram
For reference, here’s the alcoholic content of a standard drink serving:
- 12 ounces beer = 153 calories and 13.9 grams alcohol
- 12 ounces light beer = 103 calories and 11 grams alcohol
- 5 ounces wine (red) = 125 calories and 15.6 grams alcohol
- 5 ounces wine (white) = 121 calories and 15.1 grams alcohol
- 3 ounces sake = 117 calories and 14.1 grams alcohol
- 1 1/2 ounces liquor (80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol) = 97 calories and 14 grams alcohol
An experiment to try: track your alcohol drinks (and munchie foods) when you go out. Why? It can be shocking to see how quickly the calories add up. Developing awareness is necessary for any successful diet, regardless of what plan you follow.
Again, I firmly believe that fitness should improve your life, not consume it. Here are my seven essential summertime tips to preserving your summer physique while hanging out with friends, eating burgers, and enjoying some drinks (no judgement here!).
1. Preparation ~ To preserve your physique requires some discipline, planning and foresight. You don’t need to make dramatic shifts. Stick to small changes. For example, instead of ordering a 12inch sub, get a 6inch sub. If you know you are going to a BBQ on Saturday, then dial back your calories and eat clean throughout the week. Your diet is the sum of all its parts, meaning you should be looking at the whole week, not individual foods or days. If you are going to have a cheat day, then prepare for that cheat day by restricting caloric intake leading up to said cheat day.
2. Crush your protein ~ If you are going to meet one macronutrient need, it should be protein. Protein will keep you feeling full longer than those chips or other carb-centric foods. This will help offset the decreased protein synthesis, testosterone level, and increased cortisol levels that accompany alcohol intake. Aim to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Remember, focus on making small changes, such as eating a chicken breast instead of that burger, or a leaner cut of steak. Snack on cherries/fruits instead of chips.
3. Reduce caloric intake the day before ~ In all likelihood, that social gathering will be your cheat day. Therefore, aim to cut back calories the day before. Focus on eating more veggies and lean proteins the day before. By cutting back calories the day before, you will limit the damage being done later. This does require some planning and discipline, but you got this.
4. Pick your (alcohol) Battles ~ Now that you are at the party, let’s discuss drink selection. As shown above, beer is a terrible choice when you’re focusing on preserving your physique/diet. Beers are like chips; rarely do we have just one (sorry, inner frat boy speaking). Beers will have more calories than liquors, and some micro-brews, (i.e., Fremont Summer Ale and Big Sky Summer Honey) are both higher in calories and alcohol grams, respectfully 200 and 154 calories. You can have your beer, but it will always be dose dependent.
In general, clear liquors are a better option. Clear liquors are usually lower in calories; however avoid calorie filled cocktails. Small change: look to add club soda or diet soda into your cocktails (i.e. order a vodka with club soda instead of vodka tonic.) This will help reduce calorie intake. Also, if you can handle it, try having your drink on the rocks.
Regardless of your alcoholic choice, monitor and pace yourself there, champ.
5. Limit/eliminate the munchie foods ~ Of all the tips, this one is the most difficult. Once those beer munchies kick in, it’s very tempting to order that extra-large pizza or stop by taco bell. Remember, alcohol is a toxin, and your body’s primary focus is to remove the toxins ASAP. Any post-drink foods won’t be metabolized until after toxins are gone. Generally speaking, it takes one hour for your body to metabolize one alcoholic drink. Any late night foods consumed will not be metabolized until the alcohol is gone. You can have fun, but you cannot have it all. #sorrynotsorry
6. Working out the Day of ~ Aim for the maximum amount of time after working out before drinking. By doing so, this will maximize protein synthesis and testosterone levels while keeping cortisol levels low to maximal your gains. Alcohol will inhibit both your recovery and gains, so try to keep them as far apart as possible. As always, consume 2 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates and proteins after your workout to maximize gains.
7. Recovery ~ A little prevention goes along ways in reducing your hangover. Before heading to bed, drink 1-2 glasses of water. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Upon waking up, make sure you get plenty of fluids (water and/or sports drinks) into your system and some light food. These small details will help you in the morning. As you get older, your hangovers will increase exponentially, so it’s best to start practicing to limiting your hangover. If you do choose to workout that day after, take it easy.
Again, these tips require some foresight, planning and discipline on your part. As with any diet or workout program, it’s within your power and abilities to hold yourself accountable to achieve your goals. These tips may be difficult at first, but with some practice you may be able to have your cake and eat it too.
I have faith in your abilities: do you?
Do you have any tips on preserving your physique while drinking? Drop a comment below!
Bach, E. (Director). (n.d.). How to Get Drunk Without Destroying Your Physique This Weekend [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/bachperformance/