Whether you’re trying to increase your muscle mass, burn fat or simply be healthier, improving your fitness takes time, hard work and dedication.
As the saying goes, you can’t out-train a bad diet, so if you’re shoveling vast quantities of unhealthy food into your mouth seven days a week, you likely won’t see the benefits of all your hard work in the gym.
Of course, it’s about balance, and following a strict diet simply isn’t sustainable.
However, a tricky point for many people trying to reach their fitness goals is alcohol - it’s often referred to as “empty calories” due to the fact that it provides seven calories per gram (compared to protein and carbs at four calories per gram and fat at nine) and has no other nutritional value, but we live in a world where most social engagements revolve around booze.
No one wants to give up their social life, but it’s a sad fact that if you’re drinking every day of the week, you’ll struggle to burn fat. And of course, once you’ve had a few drinks you’re more likely to crave calorific foods and less likely to want to workout the next day.
So when you’d been planning on going to the gym and your colleagues spontaneously decide a post-work trip to the pub is in order, what do you do?
For starters, don’t feel guilty if you skip the workout - one gym session is not going to make much difference in the scheme of things, so don’t panic. Relaxing, being sociable and having fun is an essential part of your mental wellbeing too.
What’s more, it’s entirely possible to enjoy drinking alcohol and still achieve your fitness goals, as Fresh Fitness Food nutritionist Robin Swinkels explains in her top tips:
Be mindful of how much you are having
For some of us, there is no such thing as ‘just a glass or two’ - if you’re drinking, you’re drinking a lot. However Swinkels argues that this needn’t be the case.
“It’s important to realise that something is not going to taste any better by having more of it,” she says. “You really do not need to finish the whole bottle.”
Choose a drink that you really enjoy regardless of calories
If you’re really craving an aperol spritz, piña colada or prosecco, don’t force yourself to have a vodka soda if you find them a bit joyless.
Yes, some drinks are lower in calories than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drink what you really want to - it’s just a case of enjoying what you want mindfully.
“Trying to quench a craving with something less than the crave will only leave you craving more, hating your diet and feeling deprived,” Swinkels explains. “It’s better to have one glass of something you really enjoy so you feel satisfied, and it’s easier to then go back to your diet the next day.”
Keep up your workouts as best you can
Although it can be tempting to skip the gym when you’re a bit hungover, it’s important to keep your energy expenditure up if you’re trying to burn fat. You might find you feel better and crave healthy foods afterwards too.
Prepare for the late-night munchies
Telling yourself you'll stop eating after nights on the booze is simply unrealistic if you're always hungry when you get home at midnight. But if you have a healthy meal or snack prepared for when you come home after drinking you’ll be less likely to grab a kebab, cheesy chips or chicken nuggets on the way home.
Of course, many of us find ourselves craving greasy foods at the end of a night out but it’s easier to change these habits than you might think - and you’ll feel miles better the next day.
Drink water in between your alcoholic drinks
It’s a classic piece of advice for good reason: “[Drinking water between alcoholic drinks] helps slow down the rate at which you finish your drink and ensures you are less likely to lose control. It also helps with the hangover!” Swinkel says.
Learn to socialise sober
It can be a daunting prospect, but it’s entirely possible to go out with your mates or colleagues when they’re all boozing, stick to soft drinks and have a good time.
“Going out and not drinking is a skill but definitely worth trying,” Swinkel says. “You’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have and how great you will feel the next day!”
If you’re worried about peer pressure or your friends giving you grief for not drinking, order a sparkling water with lime and everyone will think it’s a gin and tonic.
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