One of the most detrimental parts of going on a diet is the feeling that you can’t attend social events for the fear that you won’t be able to join in. Drinking is one of those, but you most definitely can enjoy a few drinks and continue to lose weight.
So here goes…
Part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle is going out and enjoying yourself. That’s a fact. If you cut out things you enjoy, any diet you go on isn’t going to last – you’re going to continually yearn for the diet to be over. This isn’t a very sustainable mindset and you aren’t going to get very good results.
Even more so is that a good diet should include lifestyle changes that you feel you could keep up indefinitely rather than something you do for 6, 8, 12 or however many weeks.
When people go on diets, they sometimes start to become more reclusive and avoid certain events because they think that they will ruin their weight loss progress…
Not going out.
…all common things that come to mind when going on a diet.
It’s not uncommon for people to bring up excuses when invited to birthday parties, work celebrations or nights out.
“Sorry, I’m on a diet”.
People either don’t trust themselves or think that consuming anything “tasty” is gonna ruin their diet, alcohol included.
It’s important to remember though that socialising is an important human activity. Like I mentioned earlier, avoiding things is only going to make it harder and make you wish the diet was over. Part of losing weight and becoming healthier is growing a healthy mind as well. Abstaining from social activities and becoming more reclusive is not healthy at all.
The quick and simple answer here is, NO.
Losing weight depends on consuming (eating and drinking) less calories than you need.
Consuming more calories than you need will make you fat, whether they come from food or drink.
The problem with alcoholic drinks is that you usually don’t just have one drink, and the calories can add up very quickly.
A 250ml (large) glass of wine has around 230 Calories in it. Just this one glass can equate to 15-20% of your daily calories.
Considering this, it’s easy to see how just a couple of glasses of wine can negate any calorie deficit you were in and stop fat loss.
This doesn’t mean that alcohol makes you fat though – being pushed over your calorie limit will make you fat. This can be for any reason, including eating too much or moving too little.
I wanted to highlight that point because blaming getting fat on the alcohol victimises it unnecessarily. You can most definitely not get fat (and even lose weight) while continuing to drink alcoholic drinks. This includes in the run-up to your wedding!
So in this article I’d like to go over the best and worst drinks you can drink for fat loss, plus how you can include practically any drink in your meal plan.
First of all though, I’d like to mention a few ways that drinking alcohol can indirectly affect your weight. These are really important ‘cos they can more than double the extra calorie intake while drinking.
One of the main reasons people drink alcohol (for lowering inhibitions) can also be a big negative for weight loss. When we drink, we make choices much more freely and have much less resistance to pressure from both others and our internal voice.
This leads to eating and drinking way more than we initially planned.
How often when drinking have the words “Ohh, just one more” been so easy to accept?
Extra and unplanned food intake, especially on the way home from a night out at the kebab shop can also add a HUGE amount of calories to your daily intake. I’m talking 1000+!
This applies more when drinking to excess, so not so applicable after just a few drinks, however poorer food choices are often made on the day after heavy drinking. You wake up hungry, lazy and without the desire to make anything “healthy” .
If you’ve stayed out late drinking, this can also wreack havoc with your following day. Not only will you be tired, move less and expend less energy, but tiredness makes you hungrier so you’ll feel like eating more too!
So the above three things are very important to consider when drinking as you often end up consuming many more calories than you expected from just the alcohol!
Let’s assume that you are trying to lose weight for your wedding and for your size, 1,600 Calories are required for you to be in a calorie deficit and be losing fat.
You have a night out planned tonight with your friends – nothing fancy…just a meal and a few drinks at Weatherspoons.
You start the day well and have a couple of low calorie meals for breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast: 400 Calories.
Lunch: 400 Calories.
You then have a small mid-afternoon snack as you know you are going out in the evening and you need to keep your energy going up until then.
Snack: 200 Calories.
Running total: 1000 Calories.
You arrive on your night out…
You’re on a diet so go straight to the section of the menu entitled Salads & Pastas – You’ve seen that classics such as burger and chips contain a massive 1,200 Calories!
You choose a simple Chicken Caesar salad that contains a little under 500 Calories – great 🙂
With your meal you have a glass of red wine +230 Calories.
Running total: 1,730.
You’re not gonna go crazy tonight so you have just another 3 glasses of wine after your meal – another 690 Calories.
Running total: 2,420.
Your night ends and you arrive home.
You feel a bit peckish before bed and you can’t resist making some cheese on toast – just one slice as you’re on a diet! Besides, you deserve it as you were good with your meal earlier!
Before bed cheese on toast snack: 210 Calories.
Final total 2,630
Congratulations, you’ve just gone 1,030 Calories over your daily allowance. And this was a quiet night out. You were good with your meal, you didn’t go overboard with the drinking and you didn’t stop by for a kebab on the way home. This could have been easily 2000+ Calories over your daily allowance for weight loss.
The above highlights the potential issues with “going out for a drink”, and so far in the article I have highlighted the potential problems:
How can we get around these issues?
There are three solutions to this:
This is the obvious one. You don’t even need to drink – you can go out and enjoy yourself without touching alcohol. That’s not what the title of this article promised though, so let’s move onto number two…
This is the exciting bit of the article where I explain how you can drink more and get more bang for your buck – more drinks for fewer calories.
I’ve discussed wine already in my example. The following are some more popular drinks and the calories they contain.
For reference, a UK single shot is 25ml and cocktail calorie content may vary with strength and method of preparation.
|125ml glass of wine||115|
|250ml glass of wine||230|
|Pint of lager||190|
|Pint of cider||220|
|Rum and Coke||138|
|Vodka & Orange||170|
|Gin & Tonic||120|
|Sex on the beach||280|
Quick tips to assess calorie content of your drink:
So as you can see above, most drinks have roughly between 150 and 300 calories. This can quickly add up when you have more than one drink.
|3 pints of lager||570|
|3 glasses of wine||690|
|3 Sex on the beach cocktails||840|
So now the exciting bit…
Vodka & Soda: 55 Calories
A 25ml shot of vodka, 200ml of soda water and a slice of lime for this simple low calorie drink.
Also, Vodka and Tonic. Make sure the tonic water is the diet version otherwise it will add a few more calories to the drink.
Rum & Diet Coke: 55 Calories
A 25ml shot of rum topped up with diet coke or coke zero. A slice of lime and ice adds a cool zesty flavour.
Whiskey & Diet Coke – 55 Calories
A 25ml shot of whiskey, a few cubes of ice and diet coke. JD and diet coke is a great option.
Screwdriver cocktail (Vodka & Orange) – 80 Calories
A 25ml shot of vodka, 50ml of orange juice and topped up with diet orange fizzy drink/soda.
Midori & Diet Lemonade – 80 Calories
A 35ml shot of this melon liqueur with diet lemonade and lots of ice.
Gin & Tonic – 65 Calories
25ml of gin + low-calorie tonic water and you get this classic low-calorie drink. Don’t forget to add lime!
Add about 35 Calories for 200ml of standard tonic water.
Tequila & Soda – 55 Calories
Mix 25ml of white or sliver tequila with soda water or diet lemonade. Add a tiny bit of lime juice, a sprig of mint and you have a low-calorie diet drink.
Bloody Mary – 130 Calories
Mix 50ml of vodka with 100ml of tomato juice, lemon juice, worcester sauce, tabasco suace, salt and some pepper. Don’t forget lots of ice!
To reduce the calories to 75, reduce the vodka content to 25ml.
Skinny Moscow Mule – 100 Calories
35ml of Vodka, with diet ginger beer and a teaspoonful of sugar. Add mint and ice to finish.
This is the half skinny version. If you want to reduce the calories further, leave out the sugar and use less vodka.
Skinny Mojito with reduced sugar – 130 Calories
Pound together 50ml of white rum, mint leaves, lime quarters and a teaspoon of sugar. Add some crushed ice and finish off with some soda water.
You may notice that there is a pattern with most of these drinks – they are a mix of a distilled drink (vodka, whiskey, rum etc…) and a diet mixer (Coke, lemonade, tonic water etc…).
If you wanna be creative, you can combine any combination of spirit and diet mixer to create your preferred diet alcoholic drink.
Obviously, even if you do consume lower calorie drinks like the ones above, they still need to fit into your calorie allowance if they are not going to affect your diet.
The best way to do this is to consume fewer calories in the form of carbs on the day or days leading up to your event.
If it’s regular drinking that you want to allow (going out with friends on the weekend), then your calories on each day of the week can be reduced a little bit to allow for more on the weekend.
If it’s a one-off event that you plan to drink at, you can reduce your calories further on the day of the event, and possibly do a little more exercise. This will build you up a larger allowance. If you’re in a calorie deficit and losing weight, you can also “pause” your diet for the day and eat at maintenance calories (where you don’t lose or gain weight), and this will give you further extra calories to play with. This won’t ruin your diet. You just won’t lose any weight on that day in exchange for a little more drinking allowance and enjoyment.
The higher then calorie drinks you want to drink, the more you’ll have to allow for, or fewer drinks you’ll have for your allowance.
As I mentioned before, the potential to eat a lot more when you’re drinking is a big threat to your diet.
Drinking often comes with a lot of eating and it becomes easier to give in once you’re under the influence of alcohol.
The best tactic to avoid these extra calories is to plan beforehand. Make sure you know where you’re gonna go and if a meal is planned, check menus online at home.
Then tell yourself that you’re not going to stray from this plan.
Also don’t give into social pressure. If all you’re friends are going to the kebab shop after drinking, it doesn’t mean you have to eat too. You’ll be happy you resisted in the morning!
Another tip I can give you is move around more when you’re out! If you’re going out to dance, make the most of it. You’ll burn more calories and your night’s intake will have less affect on your diet.
This applies more to heavy drinking more than a quiet night out, but the effect of your drinking on the following day starts with how you feel when you wake up. You want to avoid any negative effects of the alcohol as much as possible.
Three major effects of alcohol on the body are dehydration, depletion of electrolytes and B vitamins (which affect your energy level).
The easy way to solve this is to have a pre-bedtime ritual where you consume water (preferably with electrolytes), plus take a B vitamin complex.
To reduce the effects of dehydration further, you should also be drinking water between alcoholic drinks.
The planning rule goes for food and movement on the following day as well.
Plan or pre-make a meal so that you don’t just end up eating anything and everything! If it’s a night out where you’ve slept in and missed breakfast, consider fasting until lunch. This will save you calories and potentially also compensate for anything you over-consumed the night before.
Regarding movement, you may feel lethargic the following day after drinking. Just be aware that you may want to sit down and watch TV all day. In cases like this, it’s good to take a planned walk to keep active. Take your phone and listen to a good podcast or some music to keep yourself occupied.
One final point to be aware of is the way you measure your fat loss progress. If you use the scales only, then you could get some false readings after drinking. Alcohol plays around a lot with water retention so you may weigh heavier after drinking a lot, however it’s most likely not fat gain.
In summary, you can absolutely drink, go out and have a social life and continue losing weight. As with anything that’s not essential in your diet, you’re gonna have to make allowances for it though. However, consuming lower calorie drinks gives you a lot more leeway and gives you a lot less chance of going over your calorie limit.
Always be aware of the extra temptation of eating junk food after drinking heavily. This is often much more damaging to your diet than the alcohol itself.