With summer just starting and the fourth of July right around the corner, it can be easy to forget your health goals entirely. I know my instinct is to “live it up” on the weekends. I want to go to every bbq, every pool party, every mom’s get-together… and forget about my health goals entirely. But I know if I do that, I’ll not only feel like crap, but I’ll have to live with the heavily weighing regret of knowing I could have done better.
Negative Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol isn't all bad but it does have some negative components that are worth pointing out. Unfortunately, it's basically void of any nutrients despite being packed with calories, a whopping 7 calories per gram. Because of this, it’s often referred to as the fourth macronutrient considering it has a different energy value than protein, fat, and carbs. (Protein is 4 calories per gram, fat is 9 calories per gram, and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram.)
Additionally, we know alcohol decreases muscle growth, can cause dehydration, destroys sleep (even if you seemingly “pass out” and sleep deeply), and stimulates insulin production – all of which lead to weight gain. And perhaps worst of all, it can cause us to make a string of other decisions which may negatively affect our health goals.
Positive Effects of Alcohol
Despite the seemingly endless list of reasons to not drink alcohol, there are a couple, albeit small, benefits of drinking a little here and there. For starters, a single glass can reduce stress. We know stress can wreak more havoc on a body than just about anything, including leading to unwanted weight gain or inability to lose weight. Having just a single drink may be just what you need to relax and unwind. In our opinion, that benefit alone outweighs any negative effects. Secondly, it can make for a good time and there's nothing wrong with that. (Hence why I'm writing this blog about how to enjoy it responsibly and "healthily".)
Throughout the years, my version of “live it up” has changed (as have I). Regardless, I still enjoy letting loose and making the most of every occasion, especially the 4th of July because it shares the same weekend as my birthday. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me enjoy the weekend while also letting loose and enjoying my favorite alcoholic beverages.
Try these 8 tips anytime you know you’re going to be drinking more than a glass or two of alcohol to help you keep your health goals on track.
01: Ensure Your Nutrition Foundation is Set
We know that what you eat can contribute upwards of 80-90% of your body goals so if you’re following a solid nutrition strategy leading up to your weekend, then the occasional drink or even weekend “living it up” isn’t going to completely derail your progress.
If you haven’t already and you’re ready to get that solid foundation in place, check out our Pretty Healthy Metabolism course (coming Sept 1st!).
02: Eat Protein and Fat First
If you start drinking when you’re already famished, you’re likely to fill up on empty calories and leave your body nutrient deprived. By eating protein and fat prior to starting your drink, you’re allowing your body the opportunity to feel satiated and leaving less room to drink your calories. Additionally, you’ll be less likely to reach for any and all snacks that may present themselves as your day goes on.
Getting your macros in, and in the right quantities is so essential, even when alcohol is involved. That’s why we recommend checking out our macro calculator to find out what your macro targets are.
03: Alternate Alcohol with Water
Since alcohol is dehydrating, it can be helpful to rotate your alcoholic beverages with something you know will hydrate your body. In addition to hydrating your body, this can help you drink less alcohol in the first place and potentially prevent a hangover. Don’t forget to add minerals to your water to ensure you’re actually hydrating and not just flushing your system.
04: Stop Drinking too Late
Ideally, it’s best to stop drinking several hours prior to bed; however, that’s not always possible. So aim to stop at least two hours before your head hits the pillow. Now is the time to switch to water and bask in the feeling of lightheadedness you’ve already achieved.
05: Take Activated Charcoal Before Drinking
Activated charcoal binds to toxins and removes them from the body. By taking it in advance, you could potentially be preventing a hangover before it starts. In fact, this is still one of the top remedies, if not THE top remedy, to remove poison from the body, including alcohol poisoning. Or if you’re like me, take it after you drink because you forget to beforehand… hey, whatever works! Although, it is best to take it beforehand for the best results.
06: Choose Your Drink Wisely
There are a few alcohols that are "healthier" than the others. Clear liquors like tequila and vodka are going to have fewer calories and hangover-causing qualities than most other liquors. Red wine has quite a bit of antioxidants. And hard kombucha offers some positive health benefits due to the fermentation process. Organic and low sugar options are always your best bet when possible. We get our wine from Dry Farm Wines as their entire collection is all about no added sugars or sulfites, and doesn’t go above 12% alcohol. Our favorite hard kombucha is Flying Embers as it’s fermented down to 0 sugar. Also, there are other great options like Bellissima Prosecco.
07: Bring Your Own Drinks
When you pack your own alcohol, you can always have a healthier option on hand and still relax and enjoy the experience. We went to a friend’s one-year-old’s birthday party recently and I was so glad I brought some cans of Flying Ember with me. Everyone knows kid's birthday parties are really for the adults and at this one, the only drinking option available was Bud Light. Since I don’t enjoy commercial beers and didn’t want the extra calories, I was grateful I could still drink with our friends and enjoy the party without regrets.
08: Limit Yourself to Four Drinks
This one certainly varies from person to person but ultimately, we recommend no more than four drinks per person in a day. You should be able to enjoy the day with a good buzz from four drinks that are paced as needed. If you need more than that to get the buzz you’re looking for, you may need to reevaluate how much you consume regularly.
As with everything, take these tips and make them your own. In the end, as long as you have a solid nutrition foundation in place, you should be able to responsibly indulge with alcoholic beverages from time to time and still work towards your health goals.
Enjoy the coming holiday weekend!