The big problem with alcohol is that it’s high in calories: a whopping seven calories per gram. That’s almost twice the energy found in essential macronutrients like protein or carbohydrates, which both have four calories per gram. This high caloric content, along with confusion about portion size can leave you with a 500- 1,000 calorie headache the next morning.
What’s more, women have a higher risk of injury when they drink compared to men, found research in the journal Addiction. One drunken injury and your training could be sidelined for weeks.
I’m not here to tell you to become a teetotaler – life’s way too short for that. However, you could be making five key mistakes when you’re enjoying drinks with your friends. Here’s how to maintain your sociability while you prevent weight gain and take the edge off those hangovers.
1. Going Frozen
Margaritas anyone? How about a couple of strawberry daiquiris? These drinks taste delicious, but you might be left feeling sour about the repercussions of frequent indulging. Depending on the establishment, frozen drinks can cost you anywhere from 250-400 calories per glass and come with a huge dose of sugar.
The solution: Make your own light and refreshing version
Replace sugar with stevia, squeeze ripe limes for a fresh twist and finish off your cocktail with one fluid-ounce of tequila. Pour the drink over ice or blend it with crushed ice cubes. And don’t be shy about asking the barman to use sweetener instead of sugar. You can even bring your own. All of these tips will keep your calories low and enjoyment high.
2. Mixing it up
Specialty cocktail-style drinks typically contain a mix of high-calorie liquors combined with high-sugar fruit juice or soda. Remember, it’s not just the alcohol, which already contains hundreds of calories, but the additional additives that can lead to unwanted pounds. Excess sugar and carbs, not a lack of physical activity, are behind the surge in obesity, found research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and cocktails are rife with both these gut-busting ingredients.
The solution: Keep your drink simple
When you’re at the bar, order vodka with club soda and a hint of freshly squeezed lime-juice for a perfect low-calorie option. You can make your drink even sweeter by adding a spritz of low-sugar cranberry juice or a carbonated zero calorie fruit drink.
3. Sipping for Antioxidants
How many times have you been told to drink wine because it’s good for you? Its health benefits supposedly come in the form of antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage. However, though a glass of red wine is packed with these beneficial molecules, a small 6oz glass can carry up to 175 calories.
The solution: Swap red for green
Swap the wine for green tea. It’s the perfect low-calorie drink packed with phytonutrients (plant chemicals) and antioxidants, even when cold. Plus, you’ll also get a nice dose of epigallocatechin gallate, also known as EGCG, which promotes good cardiovascular and metabolic health, found research in the Journal of American College Nutrition. You can make a cocktail by mixing a dash of gin, lime juice and citrus syrup, a cold green tea mixer and lime wedges. Or you can mix it with rum, mint leaves and a dash of lime juice.
4. Skipping dinner
Alcohol is initially absorbed through the stomach lining and small intestine. By eating before drinking, you’ll physically fill your stomach and slow the absorption of alcohol by the body, found a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Although this old adage won’t prevent you from getting drunk, it might delay your feelings of drunkenness.
The solution: Eat before drinking
If you’re meeting friends for happy hour, be sure to check out the menu for items like hummus, guacamole, mixed nuts or edamame. These items contain healthy fats, which have been shown to slow digestion and boost your overall health. So if you’re going to overeat because of your lowered inhibitions and self control, make sure you’ve got some healthy foods at arm’s reach.
5. Forgetting water
We all love a fun night out with friends, but no one’s a fan of the morning-after headache. The combination of dehydration and toxic byproducts from a night of alcoholic drinks can result in an earth-shattering hangover, which could keep you stuck in bed and away from the gym. When your body is dehydrated, it’s less able to eliminate these toxic compounds, found research in the scarily-named journal Clinical Liver Disease. The simple solution is to alternate drinks in a novel way.
The solution: Go one-for-one
Upgrade the trick of ordering a drink and glass of water at the same time. Pour, or order, your water in a medium sized tumbler glass and neck it in one sip. This will not only keep you hydrated, it will also help your drink last longer and you’ll feel fuller and less likely to drink more. So slam down the water, but nurse the good stuff.
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