Short answer: yes.
It is possible, but there are obviously restrictions and stipulations that come along with this luxury.
Now alcohol isn’t part of the nutritional spectrum, but it’s become such a huge part of our lives and culture that I believe it really should be considered a factor.
Alcohol isn’t just another liquid we consume, it’s viewed as an occasion. We use it to celebrate, to let loose, unwind, and even simply just to bond and spend time with our loved ones.
However, because we see it as an occasion, it’s important not to forget that alcohol has calories.
You will gain weight from it, plain and simple. Of course it goes without saying that it can also be highly addictive, which is why it’s important to always monitor your intake.
Whenever someone begins training with me and we look at where we can begin to make lifestyle changes, we often end up having the discussion about alcohol and how it can fit in your plan. To be frank, barely any clients are willing to give it up completely, and this is something I fully support. Restrictions like this will make your nutritional plan impossible to stick to.
What we do discuss however, is the amount of calories people are consuming from their liquids. People often forget there’s just as many calories in your drinks as there are in your foods!
Alcohol contains empty calories.
This means that there isn’t any nutritional value that comes along side these calories. They don’t benefit the body in any way. There’s no protein or vitamins, your body simply takes the calories in and then uses them up again (or not as the case may be).
One of the immediate effects of alcohol is the fact that it lessens the production of the hormone in the body which absorbs water. This is why we experience that horrible dry mouth sensation from dehydration. Moreover, the hangover sweats can dehydrate you even more. It’s important to understand how alcohol affects your body personally, and replenish that water as soon as possible!
My advice is to drink as much water as you can before you go to sleep. This might feel odd to you, and it’s often the last thing you want to do after a night out, but keeping yourself hydrated will mean a speedier recovery and will begin to flush out any toxins straight away.
Alcohol also causes food cravings, which is why some of us will always find ourselves in a kebab shop after a few drinks. If you’re one of these people try and plan ahead: get food ready for when you get in so you can comfortably turn down any cheesy chips knowing you have something waiting back home in your fridge. Dinner leftovers, a fibre bar, anything to avoid making things worse with a greasy takeaway (which lets be honest, is usually disappointing anyway)!
Alcohol can affect many hormones and processes in the body. Firstly, your protein synthesis levels will be stunted, which basically means it will slow the speed at which you build muscle.
Another thing that takes a hit is your testosterone levels. So guys, when you’re out drinking, your testosterone could be lowered by anywhere between 10-20% for 12 hours. Of course, occasionally this is no big deal, but over a prolonged period of time this could mean a lower sex drive, visibly looking less lean, and generally reducing the quality of your gym performance.
So what do I recommend drinking if you’re going for a big Friday night?
More specifically, white spirits. I’m talking your gins and your vodkas, as these have the lowest calorie count. Generally, one shot of vodka=100 calories which is about 7 kcals per gram. If you’re someone who is tracking their calories and/or macros it can be broken down fairly easily. Your drink can be tracked as carbs (4 kcals per gram) or fats (9 kcals per gram). Using this formula you can take this amount off of you carb or fat allowance, or a mixture of both if you are confident with the maths.
The other thing to consider is your mixer. Switching from a vodka-coke to a vodka-diet coke will save you hundreds of calories per glass.
Using a calorie-free mixer and a single spirit such as gin or vodka, as I’ve mentioned, will be so much easier to monitor than swigging back fruity, sugary, calorific cocktails. You’ll be able to drink twice as much of the low-cal drinks with half the guilt!
Another thing to consider if you’re tracking and are wanting to go on a night out is planning ahead.
Make sure your day is made up of meals with slightly smaller portions and save those extra cals for your drinks later!
Another very simple recommendation I would make is to drink distilled spirits, your body processes them much easier, and they tend to alleviate some of the hang-over symptoms too!
There’s a contagious mentality when you’re out drinking that I like to call “the f*** it approach,” which essentially means all plans go out the window. Now I totally understand, it’s just one night after all, but from my experience, the harder you fall off the horse, the harder it is to get back on. A bigger knock back is likely to keep you off plan for a few extra days.
I suppose the last thing to say is: don’t take any of this too seriously.
The reason so many people will fail at a diet or fitness plan is because they go too harsh with themselves and then crash hard.
Your life shouldn’t revolve around fitness, fitness should revolve around your life.
I’ve had to remind myself of this a few times.
If going out and enjoying a drink at the weekends is something that makes you happy, find a way to do it that works for you and your goals. Know your priorities. Make gains and also memories.
(Just a small reminder, never ever go to the gym still drunk. It’s a danger to you and the others around you, even if it does seem like a good idea to just sweat it out, it’s not worth the risk. In fact, don’t go on a hang over either, let your body recover and replenish it with the nutrients it needs first, or the stress will do a lot more damage than good.)