Dieting in College without Counting, Part 3: Drinking
By Ari Snaevarsson, Features Editor
Now that we have gone over the actual set-up of this method of dieting, we can begin to discuss some of the other important aspects. What follows is a guide Daniel, owner of VnFit Training and Nutrition Coaching, and I have come up with to help you appropriately fit drinking into your college dieting experience.
Does drinking make you fat?
I often hear people say they would be much better about their diet if it were not for their counterproductive weekend antics, namely drinking. The underlying assumption is of course that alcohol consumption makes you fat or, at the very least, thwarts your dieting efforts. Is there any truth to this?
Well, to some degree, but as with all things that does not mean it has no place in an efficient diet. Let us briefly examine some of alcohol’s effects on dieting and then go over how to go about including it appropriately, while still enjoying yourself.
Some of the more obvious reasons alcohol may inhibit fat loss:
-Alcoholic beverages tend to be low in nutritional value (limited micronutrient profiles)
-There are seven calories per gram of alcohol (contrasted to the four calories per gram of carbohydrate and protein and nine per gram of fat)
-Drinking lowers inhibitions, making it harder to practice self-control
-Drinking tends to increase appetite
-Other ingredients in our drinks add calories (like sugary lemonade mixes and the sugars naturally found in beer and wine)
Some of the less intuitive reasons:
-Alcohol can threaten the integrity of major body organs associated with digesting, absorbing, and processing nutrients (not to mention helping you not die)
-Alcohol’s byproduct, acetate, is quite literally a poison, so our bodies prioritize getting it out of our system over mobilizing and oxidizing fat
-This also means we prioritize alcohol metabolism over building and repairing muscle, along with any other metabolic process involved in fat loss
-In short, you would be quite correct in referring to alcohol as having “empty calories,” an often misguided term
By now, it appears that drinking is pretty counterproductive to dieting. But this is not always the case; keep in mind our overarching theme of flexibility. Telling someone interested in losing some weight they can no longer drink, or must limit their drinking to some absurdly small number, is a losing battle I am not interested in fighting.
So how do we incorporate drinking into our dieting efforts?
To answer this, I will go over six tips and tricks worth implementing so that we can go about dieting without viewing something so prominent in campus life through an all-or-nothing lens. These will be listed in order of greatest to least importance.
- Limit drinking to the weekends
As common of a phenomenon as Thursday drinking might be on college campuses across the country, it is going to be increasingly difficult to lose fat when all of those negative effects of drinking we discussed are happening three times a week.
- Eat light on days you drink
Sticking to mainly lean proteins and veggies is a great way of keeping caloric intake down to offset the increase in calories that drinking brings. This is not always feasible, considering the prevalence of eating out on the weekends, but simply employing some mindfulness about what goes into your body on these days will go a long way.
- Pick your poison
All alcoholic beverages were not created equal. Sticking with mixed drinks, using diet sodas or other calorie-free beverages, is going to be your best bet. Not only will you derive the obvious benefits in regard to our earlier discussion, but you will effectively combat hangover symptoms and space out your drinks more. If you are going to be drinking beer or wine, do not drink them in the quantities you would with the former option.
- Avoid lifting the day after you drink
Remember that alcohol metabolism is a priority to your body, and so things like muscle protein synthesis and recovery get pushed to the backburner. Alcohol may even actively work against those processes, through its effects on testosterone and the like. If at all possible, avoid lifting on the day you drink as well.
If this list were more concerned with health than body composition, this would be listed much higher. Regardless, enough cannot be said about the importance of staying hydrated when drinking. This, again, mitigates the severity of hangover symptoms (by counteracting alcohol’s diuretic properties) and all the other negative effects discussed earlier.
With these simple tips and tricks, fitting drinking into your diet really should not be too difficult. In the next article, we will start off our discussion on the role of mentality in dieting, an aspect the importance of which I believe is monumental.