If you’re trying to lose weight and wondering if you can still go out and party with your pals to enjoy a few drinks the answer is YES.
Whilst it’s very possible to drink alcohol and still lose weight you need to take the right approach for it to work. Drinking alcohol can easily lead to weight gain if you over-consume and fall into a calorie surplus.
In fact, drinking alcohol can increase your likelihood of weight gain in 4 ways:
- Alcohol contains nearly twice as many calories as protein or carbs do and is far less satiating (alcohol contains 7 calories per gram whilst protein and carbs contain 4 calories per gram).
- Booze is well known to lower inhibitions which makes eating calorie dense foods like donner kebabs, fries, bacon double cheese burgers, and pizzas highly likely!
- Sleep is negatively impacted by alcohol consumption which spikes hunger levels the next day leading to more calories consumed.
- Feeling hungover tends to result in the consumption of high calorie foods to pick up sagging energy levels and alleviate feelings of tiredness - again increasing the likelihood of overconsuming calories.
If you choose to go out for drinks with friends be smart about it –here are some of my top tips:
- Drink plenty of water the day of the event to ensure you are well hydrated.
- Hit the gym or take an extra long walk to make space for some of the incoming calories.
- Create a calorie gap for the incoming alcoholic calories to slide into by reducing your calorie intake – you can do this on the day you are going out or any other day of the week!
- Eat some quality protein and fibrous veggies before heading out to squash hunger.
- Manage your intake by choosing bottled beer instead of pints, single measures over doubles, and deciding upon the number of drinks you will have for the night and sticking to it. Remember less = better and failing to plan = planning to fail!
- Choose lower calorie drinks such as clears spirit with low calorie mixers.
- Drink 1 glass of water for every 1-2 alcoholic drinks consumed.
- Use low calorie mixers like slimline tonic water, club soda and diet coke.
- Dance! Throwing some shapes on the dance floor is a fun way to burn off some of the incoming calories!
I'd like to expand upon the concept of creating a calorie gap which you can later fill in with alcohol calories when you go out.
From a dietary standpoint there are basically 2 ways you can do this:
- Skip a meal or two before you go out.
- Eat very few calories the day before (or any other day of the week).
When successfully executed both of these tactics allow you to drink calories from alcohol and still lose weight (or at least not gain any weight - depending upon how much you drink).
Heres an example of how it looks in practice:
SKIP A MEAL or two
Lets say that in order to lose weight you need to consume 1500 calories per day. 1500 x 7 days = a weekly caloric target of 10500.
Obviously, eating 1500 calories per day PLUS an additional 1000 calories from alcohol and food during your Saturday night out is going to ruin your weight loss progress because your total calorie intake for the week will end up 1000 calories higher than planned - 11500.
If you plan on consuming around 1000 calories from alcohol and food on your Saturday night out you can stay on track by simply reducing your intake by 1000 calories in the hours before you go out.
As an example you could skip breakfast and lunch, eat 500 calories at dinner and then 1000 calories during the evening to create the same daily target calorie intake of 1500.
These numbers are completely arbitrary but I think you get the point.
EAT LESS ON ANOTHER DAY
You don't have to burn more calories than consume EVERYDAY to lose weight, you can lose weight by creating a weekly (or even monthly) deficit instead - if you prefer.
Looking at your energy balance over 7 days instead of just 1 provides you with the flexibility to consume lots of extra calories on certain days of the week providing you make space for them be eating much less on 1 or 2 other days.
Using the same example of you needing to consume 1500 calories "per day" to lose weight we can simply create an equal weekly total calorie intake of 10,500 calories (1500 x 7) by consuming 1500 calories on 5 days, 500 calories on 1 day and then 2500 calories during your Saturday night out.
Put more simply you can eat normally for 5 days, very little on 1 day and indulge yourself on the other!
WHAT TO DRINK?
Choosing drinks which contain fewer calories is obviously a smart move to minimise your total calorie intake during a night out with friends, here's a quick guide to low, medium and high calorie drink options:
LOW CALORIE DRINKS
Clear spirits contain the least calories - just be sure to mix them with calorie free/low calorie mixers like club soda, diet coke and slimline tonic.
- Tequila with club soda and fresh lime = 96 calories
- Vodka and diet coke = 97 calories
- Gin and slimeline tonic = 98 calories
MEDIUM CALORIE DRINKS
- Jack Daniels = 75 calories per shot
- Small glass of red wine (125 ml) = 90 calories
- Coors Light 330ml Bottle = 106 calories
- Heineken 330ml Bottle = 110 Calories
HIGH CALORIE DRINKS
- Cocktails – e.g. Pina Colada = 170 calories
- Beer –e.g. Heineken 500ml can = 200 calories
- Alcopops – e.g. 275ml bottle WKD Blue = 228 calories
- Cider - e.g. Magners Irish Cider 568ml (pint) = 239 calories
- Stella Artois = 256 calories per pint
If you plan on (or simply end up) eating fast food on your way home steer towards some of the following choices to limit the number of calories consumed:
THE KEBAB SHOP
The chicken shish kebab is your best option- it provides you with lean protein from the chicken breast, carbs from the pitta bread and even a few micronutrients from the mini salad you'll find inside!
If you go easy on the garlic mayonnaise and avoid any fries you probably won’t be eating any more than 400/500 calories.
Steer away from the big Mac, fries and milkshake and opt for a grilled chicken wrap like the Garlic Mayo Chicken One which contains around 345 kcal, and a decent serving of protein (about 25g).
At 1150 calories you are best off avoiding the BACON KING™ at all costs! Other high calorie options include the WHOPPER® Sandwich which contains 660 calories.
Lower calorie options include:
- Bacon Cheeseburger Deluxe = 290 cals
- Whopper Jr. Sandwich with cheese = 310 calories.
- BK VEGGIE® Burger without mayo = 310 calories and 22g protein.
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich without mayonnaise = 370 calories and 36g protein!
You can find all of the nutrition facts for Burger King HERE if you are interested.
Unless you are going to make the unlikely choice of a chicken breast salad (137 calories) here are your best options for subs:
- Turkey Breast 6 inch sub = 270 cals
- Chicken Breast 6 inch sub = 306 cals
- Chicken Tikka 6 inch sub = 310 cals
See more SubWay nutrition facts HERE.
It’s hard to keep your calories down and protein up when eating pizza but if you do find yourself at dominoes or some other pizza place choose thin and crispy pizzas over deep pan or stuffed crust options and keep in mind that 3 slices of a large pizza typically provides 500 calories or more, and there’s no way you are only eating 3 slices after a few drinks!
So long as you take a sensible approach to what and how much you drink and eat during a night out there’s no reason to completely avoid drinks with friends, if you make the right choices you can still make progress towards your weight loss goal.
I hope this guide has given you some practical tips to make your dieting phase more enjoyable, sustainable and effective.