Many people think that in order to look the way they want or improve their appearance they need to cut out all of their favorite things.
This includes foods and drinks.
There is a misconception that in order to make progress with your fitness/nutrition goals that it must be this super tough process and it ends up becoming who can be more miserable.
This is probably why people dread the thought of having to diet or “get in shape”.
I also think it stems from people seeing people like bodybuilders and then they think that this what they need to do to improve their appearance.
However, having competed in bodybuilding myself, that type of diet is just not for most people, and it doesn’t need to be.
All of this can add unnecessary stress for yourself.
With clients and myself my goal is to make fitness/nutrition apart of their lifestyle, as this is the only way it will be sustainable in the long run.
A common trend I see among clients and just talking to people is that going out on the weekends whether that be for food or drinks tends to hurt their progress.
The cool thing about this is that there are things we can do leading up and during that can help us stay on track.
The goal is to limit the poor choices when going out.
In saying that, this doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want when you want and still make progress.
In order to make progress you must make some sacrifices.
“You don’t get what you want. You get what you sacrifice for.” – Ed Latimore.
So in this blog I want to go over ways that you can still go out and enjoy yourself while staying on track.
No matter what, energy balance is still the most important factor when it comes to manipulating your body weight. Read this article here on energy balance or listen to this podcast here.
However, here is a brief summary.
Reaching your goals comes down to getting in the proper energy balance:
Calories In < Calories Out = Fat Loss.
Calories In = Calories Out = Weight Maintenance.
Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain.
Something like drinking only causes you to gain body fat if it’s kicking you out of a calorie deficit or neutral energy balance. So yes, you can absolutely enjoy some drinks while improving your body composition. It’s all about moderation.
So if whatever you do on your night out kicks you out of the desired energy balance then it will hurt your progress.
For example (this is a highly simplified version of this), if your energy balance (maintain weight) is around 2400-2600 calories on average and your meal/drinks you have when you go out plus what you ate earlier in the day put you at 2800 calories, then you are in a positive energy balance.
Now in saying that, your body doesnt just work on a 24 hour cycle. Meaning just because you are in a positive energy balance for one day, doesn’t mean you will just start gaining bodyfat.
With clients looking to lose body fat I like to look at their weekly average, instead of just one day.
This leads me to number one.
Eat less earlier in the week.
As I just mentioned above, its better to look at your weekly average calories per day rather than just one day.
This gives us a better idea of what’s going on over time.
So if you know you have a party or a date night coming up, you can just eat a little less throughout the week.
For example, say you are losing body fat at around 2,000 calories per day.
2,000 x 7 (days per week) = 14,000 calories.
You could look at decreasing your calories for the week to 1,800 per day.
1,800 x 6= 10,800 calories.
From there you would subtract 10,800 from 14,000. This equals = 3,200 that you freed up to use on the day you are going out.
200 calories per day is about a cup of rice, so even if you don’t track your calories you can look at decreasing around that much food at one meal per day. You also don’t have to take the 200 calories away from one meal during the week. You can take it away from 2 meals or 3 meals, so you don’t notice that much of a difference.
The only thing to look out for here is how you respond to going a little lower calorie during the week.
I have seen clients see great success with this, but I have also seen clients overeat on one day because they were super hungry from eating less during the week. So just be aware of that.
Just make sure you take food away from your fats or carbs. Keep your protein intake the same.
Which leads me to my next tip
Hit your protein intake for the day.
For altering your body weight the biggest nutritional difference maker is overall calorie intake.
The second most important is adequate protein intake. Make an effort to eat most (if not all) of your protein before drinking.
Protein uses the most energy to absorb and digest and it also foes a great job of keeping people feeling full.
Not to mention it helps you recover from training as well as builds and maintains lean body mass.
Here are some good sources of lean protein:
- Chicken Breast
- Lean Steak Cuts
- Turkey Breast
- Ground Turkey
- Pork Tenderloin
- Low-Fat & Non-Fat Dairy
- Egg Whites
Quick sources when on the go:
- Greek yogurt (my favorite is the oikos triple zero)
- Tuna packets
- Beef Jerky
- Deli meats (turkey, chicken)
- Whey Protein
If you are looking to maximize muscle growth, it may be a good idea to have protein every few hours when you are drinking.
Eat a meal of protein + high fiber carbs before drinking.
As my coach Jeremiah Bair says ” The enemy here isn’t alcohol itself. The enemy is drunk you who wants to eat an absurd amount of Taco Bell at 2am.”
By eating a meal with protein and higher fiber carbs you can keep yourself feeling fuller longer, which will help you eat less later.
The tricky thing with alcohol is that it does lower your inhibitions so you are more likely to say “f it” when you get a little tipsy or drunk.
As Jeremiah likes to put this, eating filling foods earlier and before you drink can be considered “damage control”.
Fasting before drinking is not recommended because then you are more likely to get more drunk/tipsy which then lowers your inhibition’s even more and makes it more likely you will eat a ton of calories later.
Examples of higher fiber carbs:
If you’re planning to drink, save up calories from throughout the day.
Just like with saving calories up throughout the week, saving calories earlier in the day can be a viable strategy.
I would look at decreasing from carbohydrates and fats, keep protein the same. So what this means is if you are going out later in the night, its probably not a good idea to just wing it all day and have a “cheat meal” earlier in the day.
Its usually not one meal that hurts us, its the summation of all the meals combined that hurts people.
Seek out activity the day of.
Physical inactivity is positively associated with adiposity and is proposed to be a source of overconsumption and appetite dysregulation. In a study, sedentary people ate the same amount as those who were physically active (Hopkins et al., 2016).
So by making sure you stay active throughout the day you kill two birds with one stone:
- Better appetite regulation, which can lead to less food being eaten throughout the day.
- You use more energy when you are active.
Both of these can give you more wiggle room when drinking.
Some ways to increase activity levels:
- Walk and talk on the phone
- Play a sport
- Walk 30-60 minutes day
- Household chores like cleaning
- Park further away
- Take the stairs
- Stand instead of sit when you can
All of these can add up over time.
I have online clients track their steps via a Fitbit, iWatch, or phone.
Your calories can add up fast from drinking without you really even realizing it, this is why drinking alcohol can hurt progress.
The best thing to do is get liquor with diet soda or water. By switching to diet soda, you’re saving yourself around 100 calories per drink. A beer is also around 100 calories, but you can drink A LOT more beer… so stick with liquor when you can.
The big issue with alcohol is that the calories you use for drinking are calories that could have been used for whole foods to help reduce hunger and recover from training. This could leave you with some nutrient deficiencies and extra hunger, which as we know hunger and craving increase the longer you diet and the more weight you lose
Another thing alcohol does is negatively impact your sleep. In past articles I have gone over what happens the day after you get a poor night sleep. So to combat I would suggest drinking as far away from sleep as possible.
BE AWARE: Alcohol may increase appetite and lower inhibitions, this and the high caloric content of alcoholic drinks can lead to overconsumption of calories. Alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks from time to time) does NOT seem to effect recovery and fat loss (as long as calories are equated for). However, regular high consumption of alcohol may negatively effect fat loss and recovery/performance.
If you need more structure and guidance on how to manage this, fill out the coaching application here and lets get to work!
Hopkins, M., & Blundell, J. E. (2016). Energy balance, body composition, sedentariness and appetite regulation: pathways to obesity. Clinical science (London, England : 1979), 130(18), 1615–1628. https://doi.org/10.1042/CS20160006