There are a few things that can be really hard to give up when you are trying to reach health and fitness goals or just ward off the extra pounds. Sugar is a great example because it is in EVERYTHING, but that is a subject for a different blog (or series of blogs).
Let’s talk about ALCOHOL. Many of us have a hard time giving it up for varying reasons.
Maybe, for you, drinking is a social thing. It’s pretty common for people to get together for drinks. Or, it could be that it’s a hobby. Many people study the art of brewing good beer, making good wine, or even distilling good spirits.
I don’t know what your reason is but I am not sure it really matters. I’m not here to analyze why you enjoy having a few drinks or to judge you in any way for it. I’m also NOT here to advocate drinking in any way and I am specifically not referring to alcoholism in this blog. I’m referring to moderate social drinking and what it means for your health and fitness goals, specifically while following a program like 90/10 Nutrition.
You might be asking questions like these that I hear all the time:
“Do I have to give up beer to lose weight? I like to go have a cold one with friends after work a few nights a week. Is that going to keep me from reaching my goals?”
“I can’t imagine giving up my glass of red wine with dinner. Plus, I have heard it’s healthy to have some red wine, right?”
“What about something like a gin and tonic? That’s not too bad, right?”
BOTTOM LINE: I believe you CAN reach your goals (even if it is to have a six pack…the ab kind…not the beer kind) and still have a few drinks, but you are going to need to follow a few guidelines. The 90/10 guidelines will work for most people. If you have goals of super low body fat and you want to see your abs, you might want to go a little more strict than these guidelines. Check out the guidelines below and then my tips for making it work.
ALCOHOL AND THE 90/10 GUIDELINES
If you have been following 90/10 and you know the system, you probably know that beer, wine, and hard liquor are on the YELLOW TIER. The rules for the yellow tier are simple:
⇒Eat NO MORE THAN 10% of your DAILY intake from foods found on the yellow tier.
For most people that means somewhere around 150-200 calories. That means you can have SOME alcohol every day IF everything else you eat during the day is green tier. In fact, there are many people doing 90/10 that do exactly that. They eat all of their food from green tier foods and they have a glass of wine in the evening as their “10%”.
ALCOHOL PRO TIPS
Wait. Pro? That’s not what I mean. Ha!
Let’s talk about some tips if you decide to have a drink or two.
1. No "Rollover Minutes"
The days of rollover minutes are long gone and this certainly isn’t an unlimited plan! So, don’t think that if you can have 1 drink per day then you can “save it up” and have 7 on the weekend. Of course, it’s not like I will come to your house and slap you on the hand if you do (although people have asked me to do that), but I recommend keeping within your DAILY 90/10 limit and not falling into the trap of thinking that you can save it up for later. It just doesn’t work like that.
With that said, I do believe in occasional planned “treats” where you go beyond your 10% or even have a red tier item. If you want to do that once in a while, that’s up to you, but don’t “save it up” every week.
2. Adjust the Carb-o-retor
If you follow 90/10, you know our system doesn’t specify how many grams of carbs, fat, and protein you should eat on a daily basis. However, since I am giving “pro tips”, I’ll go ahead and step into that arena for a second here.
If you are going to have a drink or two, try sticking with more proteins and veggies and staying away from breads, pastas, and other foods that are primarily carbohydrate. The alcohol acts like a carbohydrate but with 7 calories per gram rather than 4 calories per gram. In other words, it is likely going to affect your blood sugar and insulin response. Adding additional simple carbohydrates along with that isn’t against the 90/10 rules if they are green tier, but you’ll have less chance of fat storage if you don’t combine alcohol and other carbs too much.
3. No Buzz Lightbeer
FACT: There are more nutrients and antioxidants in darker, richer beers than there are in watery, lighter beers.
Now, if you don’t like darker craft beers and you would rather have 2 light beers than 1 dark beer, you can do that and still meet the guidelines. If you choose the darker beer, you’ll probably end up with similar or less calories and you’ll get more nutrients.
4. No Complaints, Just Wines
Wine is probably the healthiest of all of the alcoholic choices you can make. NOTE: I did not say that it is for sure HEALTHY. There are a lot of studies out there about the health benefits or risk of alcohol in general. A quick Google search can bring you a convincing study promoting the idea of drinking a glass of red wine every day for your health as well as another study linking wine to health problems.
Wine is still the healthiest of the choices because of the high level of antioxidants. Red wine has the most antioxidants but white wine still has some. Just stay in your 10%!
5. Don't Syrup Any Trouble
Definitely stay away from the sugary drinks made with syrups and flavorings! Margaritas made with syrup mix (see below for a healthy recipe) and other frozen drinks made with sugary syrups are just adding simple, RED TIER carbs to your drink. If you are going to have a drink as part of your yellow tier 10%, you need to know what’s in it and these sugary options aren’t going to cut it.
Healthier Margarita Recipe
⇒1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
⇒1/2 cup water
⇒2 tablespoons honey
⇒1/8 teaspoon pure orange extract
⇒2-3 ounces Tequila
Add all ingredients to a shaker cup or cocktail shaker and shake until well mixed. Strain into cocktail or margarita glass and enjoy.
6. Can The Soda
This one is similar to the last tip. You have to watch the mixers. Vodka, rum, and whiskey may be yellow tier, but when they are mixed with soda (diet or regular), it becomes a red tier drink. Don’t do it! Stick with club soda or water as a mixer if you are drinking hard liquor. Feel free to add some fresh lime or lemon juice (they almost always have fresh slices at a bar).
By the way, if you have a problem with soda in general, check out THIS BLOG.
7. Just Add Sweat
If you burn extra calories, you can add 10% of those to your yellow tier allowance as well. So, if you do a good workout and burn 500 calories, you could add another 50 calories to your allowance. Some choose to allow MORE of their workout calories to count toward the yellow tier. I think that is fine once in a while but, if it becomes a habit, you can easily overdo the alcohol.
So, with 90/10 Nutrition, you can choose to have a glass of wine or so (red is best), a beer or so (dark is best), or a mixed drink or two (no sugary mixers or regular/diet soda). Try to be active that day to burn some more calories, don’t “save up” alcohol calories, and limit your carbs on an evening when you plan to have a few.
Did I miss anything? Put your tips or questions in the comments below.