In the spirit of Friday and taking a night off here and there, no matter what your goals are, I’ve decided to put together a few tips to help you drink without packing on pounds of fat or losing the muscle you’ve worked so hard to pack on. It will help with hangovers too, so you’ll be able to get the most out of your tomorrow. As my dad likes to say, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”
(If you want a more advanced look into how alcohol affects you check out this article.)
1: Avoid the sugary mix drinks! They’re packed full of carbohydrate calories from sugar, which when added to the calories already in the alcohol (7 per gram), make for one mean fat making machine. And the sugar rush will spike your insulin levels, resulting in those calories being put straight into fat storage. They’ll also accelerate alcohol absorbtion. Alcohol itself does have calories, but those calories aren’t carbs. Gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey have 0 carbs in them—and as it turns out less than 5% of the calories from alcohol contribute to fat storage. The main fat disadvantage of the alcohol is that it can decrease your metabolism temporarily by up to 73%! Adding in sugar when your metabolism is working so terribly really isn’t the best idea.
2: When putting your drink together throw in an extra slice of lime/lemon/orange. One of the big downsides of drinking is that it saps the vitamins and minerals from your body. Slices of citrus fruits are full of vitamin C and other key micronutrients. Plus, they’ll take the bite out of your sugar-free drinks. Ask the bartender to throw an extra two or three slices in.
3. This might sound a little fancy, but try and get some glutamine into your system. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body, and you can buy it at most health food stores. A better way to go about it though is to get it from food. Your body can break down the protein in milk and other dairy products with protein in them, like whey protein and cheese, into glutamine. This will keep your body in an anabolic state while out and about and when sleeping afterwards, which will prevent you from losing muscle.
4. Focus on getting as much protein as you can. Having a protein heavy meal will slow the breakdown of the carbohydrates in the alcohol, resulting in less of an insulin spike and thus less fat storage. It will also keep your muscles well fed throughout the night so that they don’t break down. Having a protein heavy meal right before bed is important too, as it will help prevent your body from going into a catabolic muscle dissolving state while you sleep off the drunk. And, if you haven’t already guessed, a protein rich meal right after you wake up is important too.
5. Drink way more water than you think you need to. Your body filters alcohol out through your kidneys using water. The more you drink, the more water your kidneys use. Unless you’re drinking a lot of water you’re going to end up dehydrated. Drinking water throughout the night is great. Try and throw back 16-20oz before bed, and keep a full glass next to your bed so that when you wake up you can refill. If you’re like me and you have the controversial habit of mixing caffeine with alcohol (coffee with tequila, for me) you need to further increase your water intake, as the caffeine is a diuretic too.
6. Use fats to your advantage. Alcohol lowers testosterone production and essential fatty acids (EFAs) increase it. Adding some EFAs (olive oil, flax oil, etc) to your pre-drink meal will not only help maintain healthy levels of hormone secretions, it will also slow the absorption of alcohol into your system, letting you drink for longer and dodge a hangover.
7. Know your limit. Going past 5 drinks is generally considered bad—and if you’re Asian or a woman that number gets significantly lower. I know that five might not seem like a lot, and this post is about how to go out and let loose, not go out and be a party pooper, so drink what you need to, just keep your personal limit in mind. Going buckwild and passing out will prevent you from having the all important pre-bed meal and water—not to mention the party fouls.
8. If you’re trying to avoid a hangover, avoid congeners. Stay away from drinks packed full of chemicals, like red wine and brandy. If you stick to the pure drinks, like vodka and gin, you’ll be taking in less congeners, which will help reduce the hangover. As a rule of thumb, the darker the alcohol (not the mixer) is the more congeners it will have. Vodka is about as pure as it gets, second only to pure ethanol.
9. Have fun. Go wild. And no, this isn’t a corny way to end the post by reminding you that if you go out you should enjoy it. That’s why I didn’t put it at the end. Research has shown that happy drunks have less hangover symptoms the morning after. If you’re an angry or depressive drunk, not only will you be a nightmare to be around, the next day you’ll likely be pretty miserable too.
10. Be active. Sitting on a couch and pounding back beers is a great way to take in 1000 calories and burn 0. Being active while you’re drunk will both help you burn calories and also help prevent your metabolism from dropping. If you can get a sweat going you’ll also get the bonus of sweating out any extra salts you might be taking in, which will prevent you from feeling bloated. People often pair beer with pizza, and like to have salty guilty pleasure foods to finish off a night. Salt increases water retention. If you break a sweat all that extra salt will start coming out through your pores, leaving less in your body to absorb extra water. If breaking a sweat would ruin your fancy hairdo while you’re out partying, you might find that it helps to go for a run in the morning.
11. Take a multivitamin. Adding some citrus to your drinks helps, but chances are you still aren’t making up for the micronutrient deficit that the alcohol will leave you with. Before bed take a simple daily vitamin along with your water.
12. Sleep long and hard. Drinking makes it easier to fall asleep, but it also reduces the quality of sleep that you get. You’ll need to sleep longer than normal to feel refreshed the next day. The longer you sleep the more time you give your body to recover. Remember to keep a glass or three of water next to your bed though, as you may wake up thirsty and want to go back to sleep after a gulp of water.
Here’s a list of common drinks and their calorie counts, so you know what you’re getting into:
Tequila (1 ounce): 70 calories
Vodka: 56 calories
Gin, rum, whiskey: 64 calories
Red Wine (175ml): 119 calories
Bud Light (pint): 227 calories
Guinness: 210 calories
Stella Artois: 256 calories
Cider (dry): 204 calories
White Wine: 116 calories
Gin & Tonic: 120 calories
Rum & Coke: 129 calories