How to "Drink Healthy" When You're Trying to Stay Fit
When you saw the title of this post, did you give it the side eye, or were you intrigued? Is there REALLY such a thing as drinking healthy? I mean, I love a great cocktail or glass of wine from time to time, I won't hide that, AND let me be very honest with you. Nothing about drinking is healthy. BUT, if you choose to have a drink or cocktail, and you're worried about if it will derail your health and fitness goals, the least I can do is provide you a little knowledge (and solace, because, hey, we are human) into the science of alcohol on your system, and give you some options to take advantage of when you're out at the bar or at dinner with friends.
THE BASICS ABOUT ALCOHOL AND YOUR BODY
I want to remind you, I'm no dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor. I DO like to make sure that you're getting good info that you can use and do something with. Okay, here's the long and short of it. A percentage of the alcohol you drink gets absorbed into your blood stream immediately (about 20%). The rest goes to your small intestine, gets absorbed into your bloodstream and then metabolizes (breaks down) in your liver at about one ounce every 90 minutes. Easy enough, right? So, if you drink a lot at one time (more than one ounce in a 90 minute window), the excess just sits in your bloodstream, waiting to get metabolized by your liver (Hello, Ms. Drunkington! LOL).
Now, listen closely. I don't care who told you tequila and wine were "good for you because they were made from agave and grapes". Alcohol has zero nutritional value. It does act as fuel for your body, BUT by your body using it as fuel, what do you think it's doing with the food that you ate that you were supposed to be using as fuel? Yep, you guessed it. It stores it as fat. In addition to that, alcohol is highly dehydrating, and we all know what dehydration can do to your body over time. Alcohol can affect your hormones, which can make it harder to build muscle and lose weight, and it can also affect your sleep patterns. Remember those long nights out? Yeah, I know you do.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S A RAINBOW (a little one)
I know I've probably rained all over your parade with all the things wrong with drinking. There is, however a small silver lining to drinking alcohol in moderation. About red wine; the rumors are true. The Mayo Clinic gives the skinny on a chemical in the skin of the grapes that make red wine called reservatrol that may have healthy heart benefits. You can read more about that HERE. Also, listen, give yourself some grace. You are human. Whatever someone's reasons for not drinking alcohol, there are reasons that someone does drink it. You just get to be wise about your drinking. Drinking to drunkenness just doesn't feel good (yes, I've been there before), and it does nothing for your life in the long run except fry a few brain cells and, perhaps, have you forgetting what happened after that last drink.
NOW TO THE GOOD STUFF
I know you've been waiting for this part. What the heck is okay to drink while you're trying to watch your waistline? I'm going to give you a list of drinks that I feel are "best to worst".
#1 Red Wine.
It has 130 calories and about 5-6g carbs. But it's got that healthy antioxidant factor, so you're good to go with a glass.
Yes, the agave helps with the lower carb and sugar content, and at around 150 calories and 5 carbs, why not? Mix it with club soda and lime to bring out the flavor.
Or brandy, or scotch, or cognac. This happens to be my list of choice, because I love a good whiskey. Outside of that, these "brown drinks" have a lot of antioxidants, low calories, and zero carbs.
I enjoy a good vodka, too (who am I kidding, I can enjoy and appreciate a good drink). Keep it simple with the mixers, though. Use club soda and a lime or even an orange for a citrus effect. At less than 2 grams of carbs and less than 70 calories, all you'll do is load it with sugar by adding extra fillers.
SECOND TIER OPTIONS
Further down the scale on the list of alcohols, that I'd probably say yes to, but be careful of the calories and carbs are "light" beer and white wine.
They are between 100-150 calories and have about 5 grams of carbs, but they don't have near as many health benefits to make them worth keeping in your fridge on a regular. If you're a beer drinker, be careful. Light beers can make you feel like you're not drinking anything, which leads you to drinking A LOT.
THE LAST STRING OPTIONS
A beer drinker can drink a lot of beer. Because it's made of grain, it makes it easy to consume a lot at a time. If you must, remember your WHY for your fitness journey, and drink with strict moderation. Or don't drink. It's totally your choice.
Any cocktails with mixers/sugars/sodas
While they can be tasty, mixed cocktails are loaded with sugar. It can be sodas, mixers, syrups, and sugar. This culprit WILL derail your fitness goals. So if you happen to go on vacation, consider the amount of Mai Tai's and frozen piña coladas you plan on consuming. Avoiding mixers as much as possible will save you a TON of calories.
If you decide that you still want to drink, cool. There are some cardinal rules that I would suggest you take heed to. First, eat before you begin drinking. This fills you up and allows the alcohol something else to soak into, and it won't stay in your bloodstream as long (your liver thanks you). Also, make sure to drink water all throughout the evening; before, after each drink, and after you're done drinking. Because alcohol is dehydrating, you'll want to make sure that you hydrate yourself ahead of time. Most important rule of all, always set yourself up for success by eating a healthy, nutritious diet full of leafy greens, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.