Drinking alcohol and the phrase fat loss diet rarely ever go together, especially when discussing the matter with a serious (or rather rigid) bodybuilder or physique-conscious individual.
A common assumption is that while one is on a diet, alcohol is completely off limits. If you enjoy the occasional drink or like to go out on the weekends and partake with family and friends, it’s just not practical to completely abstain. More so than being impractical, it creates limitations that will induce frustration and other sour feelings that will only make your diet harder than it needs to be.
Another downfall is our change in behavior when we explicitly restrict certain foods or beverages from our diet when our goal is to lose body fat. I’ve written about this a few times. I cover some of my previous issues in my meal frequency article and then later in how I eliminated binge eating.
Complete Restriction Is Bad
When we become restrictive on a diet, bad things usually follow. If you’ve gotten it into your brain that the occasional slice of pizza or a Big Mac is going to ruin your diet, you will do everything you can to avoid those foods until you break down completely.
You may last 12-16 weeks with no such food but when you finally crack, you won’t eat just one burger. You’ll likely eat two or three. Then you’ll drive to Pizza Hut and eat an entire large pizza pie. For dinner, I bet you’ll go to the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and end up at Dairy Queen for dessert.
This is where a rigid diet can make you go completely insane. As you might imagine, I don’t recommend such an approach.
The same goes for alcohol. However, if one goes on an alcoholic binge, the consequences can be much worse. I spoke with a friend last weekend who’s been doing very well moderating is alcohol intake but recently found himself waking up on the floor of a friend’s house. All he can remember from the night before is Red Bull and cheap, Russian vodka. Bad.
A Healthy Mindset for Drinking on a Diet
Because I like to drink a cold beer or have some Jack with friends every other weekend or so, I like to do it in a strategic way; an approach that is still in line with my physique goals.
First, if I decide to go out and drink, it will be one night only with at least seven days in between. I have no interest in drinking routinely as I’ve more important things to spend money on. Also, waking up with a blurry recollection of what happened the night before is never a pleasant experience. Therefore, I choose to be a moderate consumer and drink oh, so sparingly.
Second, when I do decide to go out, I’ll plan ahead and adjust my diet accordingly. So let’s say my target intake for the day is 2500 kcals. I’ll simply focus on protein, fibrous veggies and a few pieces of fruit for the day and nothing else.
This way, I can go out and still have plenty of room to drink a few cold ones, have a shot or 3 and still be in a deficit for the day with no worries. Fat loss continues and I don’t sacrifice my social life for my narcissistic physique goals.
Thirdly, I also set some rules for myself when going out. The main rule is that if I’m going to drink fairly liberally, food is off limits. Now some may see this as being super restrictive and impractical but it’s really not. It’s simply something I’ve had to do after a few bad experiences.
For most people, after 3-4 drinks, you’re feeling pretty good and indiscretion sets in. It becomes really easy to order the large batch of nachos or that greasy Reuben sandwich.
Knowing me, I can put down mounds of food in no time. In fact, in February, a friend was in town for a few days and we went out to Hooters because it’s where we always ate when I lived back in Fayetteville.
I got the all-you-can-eat wings and stopped at 42 only because they were really busy and each order was taking longer and longer. Instead of waiting anymore, we went over to a friend’s place, ate fried rice and strawberry pie for dessert.
Now this wasn’t a big deal because I was on a fairly liberal maintenance diet. I wasn’t too concerned whether or not I was in a deficit or surplus simply because I knew it’d all even out in a few days once the water dropped.
Because of my history, I say NO to eating out when I plan to drink liberally. It could literally set me back an entire week or two due to my awesome ability to inhale food like oxygen.
A Moderate Approach to Incorporating Alcohol in Your Diet
This is probably the easiest approach to follow and it’s the strategy I use every time I go out or over to a friends to drink. It never fails me and is awesome for damage control.
Like I said earlier, I set a limit on my food intake to protein, veggies and a few pieces of fruit and save enough room for alcohol later in the day.
To give an example for a male my size (5’8″,180ish pounds), on a diet I like to eat about 200-250g protein per day. That’s 800-1000 kcals. Throw a few pieces of fruit into the mix and you got an extra 200-300 kcals. Totals for the day are anywhere from 1000-1300 kcals with plenty of room for alcohol consumption.
I’ll save most of my intake for the afternoon. I’ll usually fast up until about noon and break my fast with a piece of fruit (banana or apple) and about 1/2 of my protein intake for the day.
My next meal will consist of the rest of my protein intake for the day – usually some lean chicken, beef or tuna(yack) plus some steamed cabbage, broccoli or green beans.
Then I go out for drinks and have lots of room for plenty of beer and other spirits. If I’m spending most of my time on my feet, the calorie sink is even bigger. Wo0t.
A few weeks ago, I did an informal poll on Facebook to see what my friends’ choice drinks were. I got a really nice list of beverages and I’ll share a few below so you can see which ones might be a better choice and which ones you might limit due to calorie content.
Liquid Bread (Beer)
*all based on 12 ounce servings*
Guinness Extra Stout – my favorite 176kcal
Bud Light 95kcal
Dos Equis 145kcal
Sam Adams IPA 175kcal
Sam Adams Triple Bock 340
Trappist Rochefort 8 – yum 250kcal
By The Shot
*One ounce serving*
Jack Daniels 64kcal
Jose Cuervo Tequila 64kcal
Crown Royal 69kcal
Grey Goose 69kcal
Jim Beam 69kcal
CalorieKing, CalorieCount, TheDailyPlate
Now here’s where we can get into problems. Hardly anyone likes to drink straight shots of tequila; they’d rather have a Margarita or a Daiquiri. The problem with these drinks is you can never know what the bartender is putting in them in terms of sugar content. Most of these drinks are real sweet which always equals lots of sugar. Some of them are HUGE and can end up being 500-600 kcals easily.
So, if you like to drink these, I’d say do it sparingly and limit yourself to just one depending on how much you’ve eaten earlier in the day if your goal is to maintain a deficit.
You could add some Jack Daniels to a Diet Coke or Dr. Pepper or have some Jager in a sugar-free Red Bull for a lower kcal Jager Bomb.
The last thing I want to say is always remember to be safe. Consuming alcohol can be dangerous at any time but even more so when you’ve been dieting and not had much to eat for the day. If you’re used to drinking a fair amount, you just might get drunk fairly quickly due to not having much on your stomach when you get started. I know I’m not your mother, so I’ll stop now. Just be responsible!