I’m often asked by clients, “How can I drink and not screw up my diet?”
Good question. I never say no to alcohol with my clients diets as it’s not realistic. Often, the all or nothing mindset sets people up for failure, because once they have one beer, they decide, “Oh well, I’ve already screwed up so I may as well have 10.” Which combined with the ‘drunken munchies’, means game over.
Beer, shots, margaritas; they can all be ok. Following a few rules could save you.
Q1: Your food intake for the day is 1000 kcal under your calorie needs for the day, 50 g of your calorie intake was from fat. You have three drinks, totalling 500 kcal. Do you gain or lose fat on this day?
A: You are still in a 500 calorie deficit, so you lose fat. Around 55g of it (500/9).
Q2: Your food intake for the day is exactly at maintenance calorie needs. You have eaten 100 g of fat on this day. You then consume drinks totalling 500 kcal. Do you gain or lose fat on this day?
A: You are over calorie needs by 500 kcal. You store around 55 g of the 100 g of fat you have consumed on this day (500/9), the rest is burned.
Q3: Your food intake for the day puts you in a 500 kcal deficit. However, you then go out binge drinking with the boys and consume 2000 kcal worth of drinks. Do you gain or lose fat on this day?
A: Your net calorie intake puts you in a 1500 kcal surplus. All fat consumed on this day up to a value of 1500 kcal (~166 g), will be stored. If you kept fat intake low on this day, only that amount of fat will be stored.
All good? Don’t worry if not just yet, let’s have a look at how we put this into practice.
Moderation, though hard to define, we’ll call when you drink 1-3 drinks.
The key in these situations is to reduce your food intake by an amount matching the calorie content of the alcohol you are drinking. You can look that up here. The best way to do this is to reduce your fat and carb intake, as you need the protein for satiety and the muscle sparing properties.
Example: You drink three beers
Remember, 1 g of carbs and protein contain ~4 kcal, 1 g of fat contains 9 kcal.
If the calorie total for those three beers (that’ll be carbs and alcohol) comes to 600 kcal, consider taking out 75 g of carbs (300 kcal) and ~33g of fat (~297 kcal).
What are the downsides of doing this often?
Note: I’m not suggesting anyone ‘drink’ their calories on a regular basis. I’m just saying, you don’t have to let worries about your diet spoil your social life, if alcohol is a part of it, if it’s just occasional.
Counting calories isn’t very fun when you’re in the middle of a party. If you’re drinking a lot, you’ll quickly find yourself over your calorie allowance for the day easily.
Fortunately, we can take advantage of the fact that the body has trouble storing anything but dietary fat in the short term when we go over our calorie balance for the day.
So, on days that you know you are going to drink a lot:
If you follow those few rules and keep these things infrequent, you won’t ruin your progress.
I hope you found this helpful. Questions welcomed in the comments. – Andy
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