As you read this, you may think to yourself, “Damn, it feels like he’s talking directly to me.”
That’s probably because I am.
Before I dive in, I’d just like to say that what I’m going to be talking about here is not alcoholism. That subject is well beyond my expertise, and I have no authority to speak on it.
What I’m going to be talking about is social drinking. The kind of drinking that I, and most of my peers, engage in.
Yes, I drink too. Shocker.
I’m not trying to sit up on my high horse and urge you not to drink. That’s not my place, and frankly, it’s not my intent. At the risk of sounding too preachy, my hope with this blog is to give you the reality check that you probably need.
In actuality, this article isn’t even really about drinking. It’s about self-awareness.
Maybe you can go out with friends and have a few beers without getting totally housed. Maybe you can go to a show or a football game and enjoy yourself and still wake up the next morning at a reasonable time without feeling like you got hit by a bus.
But maybe you can’t.
If you’re happy with your current lifestyle and you’re able to progress in your career and relationships and fitness goals while getting occasionally slammed, then by all means keep doing your thing. But if you’ve been trying to lose weight for quite some time and you keep telling yourself that you’re serious about your health...yet you get wasted every Friday and Saturday night and stumble your way to the taco truck at 2 AM, wake up the next day at noon, and sit on your ass doing nothing the rest of the weekend...then I’m talking to you.
First, let’s get all the obvious stuff out of the way.
Alcohol has calories. Lots of them. And not the good kind. They’re empty calories. Alcohol provides no nutritional value.
A 12-ounce beer has about 150 calories. A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 125 calories. A 1.5-ounce shot of liquor has about 100 calories. Think back to last weekend and add that up.
For reference, the best way to lose weight in a healthy manner is to operate at a minor caloric deficit for an extended period of time while consistently working out (burning more calories than consuming). A minor caloric deficit is approximately 150-200 calories less per day than your typical diet, assuming that you’re consuming sufficient calories already (which is another subject).
So if you keep telling yourself that the beer or two you drink with dinner every night is no big deal…
Disrupts sleep patterns
Impairs protein synthesis
Increases cortisol levels
Inhibits absorption of essential nutrients such as amino acids and B vitamins
That’s all bad stuff, but the real issue with alcohol is the subsequent decision making.
Let me paint a picture for you:
It’s Friday, and you’ve busted your ass all week in the gym and stuck to your diet 100%. You hit every set, every rep, and even managed to say no to those donuts that someone brought to the office this morning.
You’re feeling great. You’ve got momentum on your side, and you’re finally starting to feel like you’re making solid progress. All is right in the world!
But then your boy texts you and invites you to go out tonight. It sounds like a good time, so you’re in. No biggie right? You’ve got to go home and get ready after work, so you decide to skip the gym. After all, you’ve worked out the past four days straight. You’ve earned a day off, right?
Later that night, you get to the bar and have a few drinks. And then a few more. And then a few more. You’re feeling good, but then the hunger sets in. Suddenly, the only thing that will keep you satisfied is a big ass slice of pizza. Or three. You devour that cheesy goodness like the fat kid who ate all the cake in Matilda.
Afterward, you get an Uber back home (because you’re a responsible adult) and pass out on the couch. Successful night.
The next day, you wake up around noon feeling like crap. From moment you sit up and put your feet on the floor, you know there’s absolutely no way you’re making it to the gym. In fact, there’s only one thing that can cure this piercing headache- Whataburger.
After a hearty meal and an afternoon power nap, you meet up with your friends for dinner (and a few drinks obvs.) One drink leads to two, two to three...which leads to you back at the same bar from the night before.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Next thing you know, it’s Sunday night and you’re still recovering from the weekend's shenanigans. You realize you haven’t done anything productive since Friday afternoon. You haven’t worked out since Thursday. The only thing you’ve eaten that even resembles a vegetable is the lettuce from the 6 tacos you knocked down Saturday night. Essentially, you lost half of your week.
I know this cycle all too well because I was trapped in it for years (sorry mom). In college, I worked my ass off for 4 days, only to throw it all away the next 3. And just like you were once able to eat McDonald’s before every football game in high school and feel great on the field (still don’t understand how we did that), you can get away with doing this stuff for a while. But eventually it catches up to you.
If you want to take your health seriously and truly get in shape, you have to recognize that 4 days out of the week isn’t going to cut it. This is truly a lifestyle.
I’m not trying to be the No Fun Police, and I’m certainly not telling you to get sober, but I am telling you to get real. Be honest with yourself. If you’re constantly struggling with weight loss or muscle building or just health in general, the first place to look is your daily and weekly habits. If alcohol is a factor, then address it.
I didn’t really understand how detrimental drinking can be until I started training others. Too often, I had people grinding in the gym and eating clean all week only to find out that they fell off the wagon over the weekend. To further investigate this issue, I ran a little experiment of my own.
I had all of my clients weigh in two times per week- once on Monday and once on Thursday.
I did this (and still do) so that they can clearly see how their weekly habits influence their progress. Time and time again, I’ve seen people drop 2, 3, 4, 5 pounds from Monday to Thursday. Over the weekend however, they often remain stagnant or even gain a few pounds back. That ultimately leads to a net loss for the week which is great, but I want to bring attention to the fact that sticking to the program only half of the week gets you only half of the results.
Like I said, fitness is a lifestyle. Your personal health should be priority number one because it ultimately determines your effectiveness in all other aspects of life. It determines your productivity at work and even the way you treat your family. You have to put yourself first.
Again, I’m not telling you going out and having a few drinks with friends is the end of the world. And if you can manage your alcohol properly, you can absolutely, 100%, certainly still make great progress with your fitness goals. I’m just telling you to be self-aware.
Ok, enough preaching. Here are a few tips to help you manage your drinking from a dude who is obsessed with fitness but also enjoys a few brews with his boys from time-to-time:
1. LIMIT ALCOHOL TO THE WEEKENDS
I treat my alcohol exactly like my cheat meals- save it for the weekend. Kill that drink you’re having with dinner and the mid-week happy hours. Stay dialed in throughout the week when you have the most control of your schedule.
2. DON’T KEEP ALCOHOL IN THE HOUSE
Again, I treat this just like my cheat meals- out of sight, out of mind. It’s so much easier to avoid temptation when it’s not staring you in the face every time you open the fridge. By making it more inconvenient to drink, you’ll be less inclined to do so.
3. ENCOURAGE FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO DO NON-DRINKING ACTIVITIES
There’s more to life than bars and clubs. Get outside. Change up the routine. Break patterns.
Thank you guys for bearing with me. This is an issue that I’ve noticed affects a lot of people, and I hope you’re able to take something from it. Now go get out there and take back your weekends!