The Fourth Macronutrient: Booze
How to navigate the DC bar & restaurant scene while not wrecking your fitness goals, by VIDA Registered Dietitian Addie Merletti.
Whenever I ask a new client what their biggest challenge is when it comes to nutrition, more times than not, alcohol is at least mentioned if not blamed entirely. Most people know that protein, carbohydrates and fat are all macronutrients, meaning that they carry energy in the form of calories. It’s never fun to be the bearer of this news: alcohol is the fourth one. Not the carbohydrates in beer, or the sugars in bourbon but the actual chemical compound ethanol (C2H6O). In fact, where carbohydrate and protein both carry 4 calories per gram and fat carries 9 calories per gram, alcohol carries 7! It stinks to be a Debbie Downer and tell clients how many of their calories are coming from alcohol, but it’s important to keep in mind if you want to hit all your fitness, health, performance and aesthetic goals. Here are a few of the tips I share with new and existing clients whose happy hour shenanigans seem to be preventing fat loss, lean mass gain, or both:
Anywhere you stop the cycle is a success. This is usually how it goes: you go out to dinner and have a few drinks. You want to make sure you’re hungry for the yummy dinner so you don’t eat anything before, and therefore catch a buzz relatively quickly. You’re now more likely to reach for one more piece of bread or cheese than usual, or even order dessert when you normally don’t. After dinner, you go to the bar and have some more booze calories and dance your heart out. Fast forward a few hours and you’re ravenous for some jumbo slice. Then you fall asleep, possibly with said jumbo slice crust still in your hand. You wake up in the morning feeling like your mouth is drier than the Sahara Desert and think “you know what sounds so much better than that workout? A bagel.” Back to the original sentence, if you can pause this cycle anywhere along the way, you will be making an improvement! The following are a few ways to hit pause:
- Don’t show up hungry. You’ll catch that quick buzz and lose all your “no thank you on the 3rd brie bite” inhibitions. Allowing ourselves to get too hungry in general leads to poor choices and over eating.
- Order a “tall” or alternate with water. This will slow the pace of the alcohol calories and prevent hangovers. Ordering a “tall” will be the same amount of liquor and double the amount of water/soda water which will make your drink last longer.
- Drink water before bed. When you go home (or wherever your night ends), make yourself take down at least 12 ounces. Ideally you started this before you left the bar, but that one last drink at home is never worth it.
- Re-hydrate after you dehydrate. If you do end up feeling like not-a-million-dollars in the morning, try something like a Nuun tablet dissolved in water to save yourself the sugar of Gatorade. Unless you need the extra carbohydrates of course!
- Finally, is this a “worth it” drink? Ask yourself this at dinner on weeknights when you are considering ordering another glass of wine, or as you get up to pour another one at home. If it’s a special occasion or an amazing experience, go for it. If not, maybe save those booze calories for next time 🙂