Tatiana Britton, BS Health Promotion, ACE CPT, NASM FNS
If you ask 20 different fitness coaches the same question of “Do you think your clients can still reach their health and fitness goals while drinking alcohol?” you can bet that each one will have their own opinion on it, for a variety of reasons. I’ll start by answering that question myself and telling you that as a fitness coach I never tell my clients to completely restrict their alcohol intake in order to receive their desired results. Keep in mind, my average client is not preparing for a bodybuilding competition show, where then my answer would be completely different.
When it comes to working with the clients I do now, I believe lifestyle behavior change reaps the most consistent results as opposed to restrictive diet behavior. For example, if a person goes from eating 3,000 calories mainly consisting of fast food and sugary items, they typically will not be successful in cutting those foods out cold turkey and turning to a 2,000-calorie diet mainly consisting of fruits veggies and whole foods. It’s not to go without saying that some individuals can have success with quitting lifestyle habits cold turkey, but the average human being will struggle with it. I also believe in practicing what I preach, and I enjoy a glass of Cabernet from time to time! With that all being said, I wanted to share some information and advice on how you can achieve your health and fitness goals while being a human being who enjoys alcohol!
Moderation is KEY.
Drinking alcohol regularly throughout the week and at high amounts WILL eventually catch up to you. There is a substantial different on the repercussion resulting from binge drinking and from moderate alcohol consumption. A general reference, from alcohol.org, is that women should limit their alcohol intake to one per day while men should limit theirs to two per day. It’s important to know that not all drinks are equal. This isn’t saying a woman can have one whole bottle of wine as her “one drink” for the day.
A single serving of liquor is 1.5 ounces, beer is 12 ounces and wine is 5 ounces. Alcohol is very calorically dense (7 calories per gram) which can lead to a high caloric consumption without people even realizing it. Most individuals in social drinking settings are not limiting themselves to this small of an amount, so they will most likely suffer from a hangover and their performance (whether in the gym or just regular day-to-day) will suffer the next day. Knowing the safe and appropriate amounts of alcohol consumption go a long way in terms of longevity and meeting particular fitness and weight goals.
Not only is moderate consumption important, but so is the drink of choice.
Some drinks are much higher in calories and sugar than others. If you can opt for the vodka water or vodka soda versus the daquiri, that’s the better route to take. However, if you are going out for a drink and you are wanting to enjoy ONE drink, there’s no point spending your calories on something that you are not enjoying even the slightest. So, don’t feel guilty for choosing the daquiri but limit yourself and avoid making it a regular outing.
Listed below are alcoholic beverages that are the better options in terms of sugar and caloric intake:
-Vodka Seltzer or Vodka Water with Lime/Lemon
-Moscow Mule SKIP the syrup
-Scotch on the Rocks
-Silver Tequila on the Rocks with Lime/Lemon
-Dry Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon
Track your food and alcohol intake for 2-4 weeks.
This is a good tip for anyone, but particularly those who are regular drinkers. When you accurately track your food and alcohol intake you will probably surprise yourself when you see how many calories you are taking in and how many you are taking in solely from alcohol. This can create awareness and mindfulness when consuming alcohol. Sometimes it comes down to not knowing how much is truly being consumed and when that awareness is created, healthier choices can be made in the future.
Can you socialize sober?
As I mentioned, I am not a fitness coach who believes in telling my clients who are currently consuming alcohol to just outright stop. I will, however, suggest they limit their outings that are largely social drinking. If you are someone who finds that the majority of the binge drinking you engage is is in social situations, I recommend learning to go to events sober or events that do not have alcohol available If the temptation is not there, then you will be sipping on water all night and have nothing to worry about! The best option is always going to be no alcohol at all.
Continue hitting those workouts HARD!
We all know that one person who drinks frequently, busts butt in the gym and still maintains their figure. We probably all hate that person, but mainly because we are wondering HOW?! Now, I’m not saying binge drinking will not catch up to this person, but their gym efforts typically outweigh their alcohol consumption. If you are regularly drinking, you must be realistic with yourself and start increasing the frequency that you are attending the gym and the duration of each session. You will benefit from resistance training AND cardiovascular exercise in your regimen. It also goes without saying, if you are drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and working out and you’re mad that you’re not seeing results… get real with yourself and CUT DOWN THE ALCOHOL. Training will not cover up regular unhealthy nutrition.
We all want to look and feel our best and we don’t have to be miserable doing so. You can still occasionally indulge and enjoy a drink at social events. Your performance in your workouts can and will suffer if you are over-consuming alcohol but you don’t have to let it get to that point. It truly comes down to being mindful, aware and moderate with your alcoholic beverage decisions. So, the next time you reach for an alcoholic drink, remember why you are desiring it, ask yourself if you really want it and then make sure to drink the safe and appropriate amount! Cheers!