The Alcohol Regimen: Part 2 – The Guide to Physique-Friendly Heavy Drinking

We kicked off The Alcohol Regimen with a quick intro here if you missed it. 

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It was 6pm on a spring semester Thursday as I sipped my strawberry margarita; the weekend had arrived.

Our waitress passed my fajitas over the bar as I poured glass number two of slushy deliciousness from the dangerously strong $10 pitcher.

Macronutrients, Alcohol. 

Once entirely separate thoughts, they became intertwined for the first time ever.

But, I didn’t know it yet.

All I knew, in my buzzed state, was that I soon would devour my chicken and steak but leave the four tortillas to waste.

It was the first time I adjusted my diet to compensate for alcohol consumption.

In hindsight, it’s obvious.  I was housing 40 grams of sugar per glass, so I simply wasn’t hungry for carb-laden tortillas.  But at the time, I was acting on instinct rather than knowledge.

Over time, this simple decision became a strategy.  Small(er) dinners became 100% protein dinners which became an adjusted eating schedule for the whole day – setting up a guilt-free night out.

So What Should I Eat?

Remember, the law of thermodynamics is still king.  If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain fat.  Whether those calories come from protein, fat, carbs or alcohol, the law is the law.

  • 1 gram protein: 4 calories
  • 1 gram carbs: 4 calories
  • 1 gram fat: 9 calories
  • 1 gram alcohol: 7 calories

With this in mind, we can adjust our calorie and macronutrient intake for the day that we plan on drinking to set up a “reserve” for alcohol.

But first, let’s make an important distinction.

Casual Beverage vs. Heavy Drinking

There is a big difference between a glass of wine per evening and a hard night on the town.

Casual drinking, two drinks or less, has somewhere between zero and a negligible effect on your physique.  Yeah, you have to account for the 100-300 calories in your drink(s), but this is no sweat if you’ve tried counting calories before.

The negative side effects of heavy drinking – inhibited protein synthesis, excessive caloric surplus, decreased testosterone, increased cortisol and the desire to eat an entire pizza at 2am – are hardly worries of the casual drinker.

So, if you never drink heavy, you’re golden.

But, since you aren’t all Mrs. Vacanti (my mother, not wife, thank God), you want to know what to eat before a hard night out.

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5 Rules to Heavy Drinking On The Regimen

Rule #1 – Get your protein

Whatever your daily protein target may be (1g per pound bodyweight, 1g per pound LBM, etc), hit it during the day you’ll be drinking.  Here’s why:

  • Adequate protein helps prevent muscle loss
  • Protein provides the greatest satiety of any macronutrient.  You will be eating a caloric deficit during the day, so adequate protein will fend off hunger.

Rule #2 – Caloric Deficit

We will reduce carb and fat intake and consume a caloric deficit the day of the festivities.  This sets up a “reserve” for alcohol calories at night.

Ex:  Little John, a 260 pound male with 14% bodyfat has a caloric maintenance of 3500.

Little John – Maintenance Macros

    • Protein: 260g
    • Carbs: 350g
    • Fat: 120g

Our goal is Food Calories + Alcohol Calories = Maintenance.

Trying to stay below maintenance is just greedy, in my opinion.  Pick up the fat loss program the next day.

Little John – Day of Drinking Macros

    • Protein: 260g
    • Carbs:  *150g
    • Fat: *50g

Alcohol: 1400 calorie reserve  3500 – 2100 (260*4 + 150*4 + 50*9) 

Or 13 Drinkability Limes

We aren’t all heavy hitters like the big guy, so this one might be more applicable.

Ex: Lil’ Kim, a 125 pound female has a caloric maintenance of 1700. 

Lil’ Kim – Maintenance Macros

    • Protein:  115g
    • Carbs: 180g
    • Fat: 58g

Lil’ Kim – Drinking Macros

    • Protein: 115g
    • Carbs:  120g
    • Fat: 30g

Alcohol: 490 calorie reserve  1700 – 1210 = 490

Lil’ Kim earned herself four glasses of red wine.

*The carbohydrate and fat numbers I used above are not based on hard and fast rules.  How severely you restrict these macros will be based on how much you want to drink.

Rule #3 – H20

Drink lots of water on drinking days because:

  1. Drinking water helps curb the hunger your deficit may cause
  2. Heavy drinking will dehydrate you

I’m not going to quantify this because it will vary by person.  I also won’t describe your piss color because, gross.  You guys know how to stay hydrated.

Rule #4 – No Juice.  No Regular Soda.

The calories you drink while out at night will primarily come from alcohol, but you will also drink somewhere between zero and a shitload of carbs depending on your beverage of choice.

As mentioned, we will get into drink specific calorie content later in the series.

So, for now, just avoid juices and regular sodas.

aceef-cokevsdietcokegloves

Example: Let’s pretend you drink four tall rum and cokes in a night.  At two (1.5 ounce) shots a piece, that is 12 ounces of rum.

A 3:1 soda-to-liquor ratio is pretty standard.  This gives you 36 ounces of coke or 117 grams of sugar.

That is 470 more calories in rum and coke than rum and diet.

If you go out once per week, that is SEVEN POUNDS OF FAT PER YEAR.

So, say it with me… “Captain Diet.”  “Whiskey Diet.”  “Tequila Diet.”  Err.  Don’t say that.

Swap out the regular soda for diet and ditch the juices.

Caveat:  Your total macros are still king.  If you love pineapple vodka, who am I (some jokester on the internet) to say you can’t drink them.

Adjust your daily macros accordingly, and have fun.

Rule #5 – No Drunk Food

It’s 2am, 4am or 6am depending on what city you just tore up.  You don’t have a special someone to cuddle up with. You haven’t put food in your body since 8pm.  And that [ pizza / asian noodle bar / ice cream gallon ] is drawing you in.

Don’t do it.  Go home, chug some water and go to bed.

If you make the decision before you even go out – no drunk food – it will be much less tempting.

That being said, the only thing worse than binging on drunk food is binging on drunk food while drunkenly rationalizing it as beneficial to your body.

Well… I did train legs yesterday.  I know my goal is to lose bodyfat, which is why I’ve been working hard to maintain a deficit for the last two months, but an entire pizza could help me get capitalize on some gains.

“Yeah, count me in for pizza!  It’s on my bulking reg!”

Wrapping Up

Wait, so I can just follow these 5 rules and reach my goals as efficiently as I would stone cold sober?  Didn’t you mention some negative side effects of heavy drinking?

Follow my five rules and you can drink heavy while moving toward your goals.  You won’t take three steps backward every time you go out.

However, yes, there are downsides to heavy drinking besides the additional calories.  Recovery from training, changes in hormones and more.  And I will provide strategies to negate those downsides.

Still to come:

  • Simplified rules to follow if you have no interest estimating alcohol calories
  • How to optimize your training schedule around heavy drinking
  • Calorie content of various beer, wine, liquor and popular drinks
  • Hangover nutrition, calories and training

IF WE GET 10 COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE, I WILL POST PART 3 BY SATURDAY

Continued in Part 3



Comments for This Entry

  • Evan

    Panderer... Great article.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Reply to this comment

  • April

    Nice article. I don't do the heavy drinking night often, but still good to think about. Also, can't wait to see your hangover article. Greasy food has always been my answer to a hangover, and I'd love to see some other tips. Oh yeah, and Gatorade.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kyle

    I've seen this topic covered on some other sites and videos. One tip I've heard is to try to stick to higher-end liquor with the idea that it does not produce as bad of hangovers. This will hopefully allow you to get back in the gym quicker, or at least be more productive when that time comes. Any thoughts on this?

    May 30, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nicky

    very nice :) can't wait for part 3! (cause we're visiting the German inlaws over the weekend.. wurst und bier!)

    May 30, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Arjun Mani

    Great article, V! I always run into the issue of fasting (or eating very little) all day in order to account for the calories from alcohol later. This raises a difficult problem when I get home at 3am and I'm starving. I think drinking a glass of water and going to bed is easier said than done. I'm looking forward to the hangover cure though. I always lose two workout days after a So Far Gone night out.

    May 31, 2013 at 2:04 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mikkael

    Great work! Looking forward to part 3!

    June 4, 2013 at 4:17 am | Reply to this comment

  • Cagetiger

    I always lose two workout days after a So Far Gone night Great Article and kind of a forbidden topic but it really affects a lot of people I get out on Fridays and Saturdays hit the booze pretty heavy and similar to Arjun I lose a day sometimes two after because of a bad hangover and lack of motivation. I've tryed different things more water gatorade activated charcoal pills but nothing that really helps get back to my workout the next day. I have also noticed quite significant setbacks after a rough weekend. Love the content looking forward to part 3 Bud!!!!!

    June 6, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Reply to this comment

  • X

    How did you come up with the macros for the alcohol deficits? I understand 1g of alchol and you say it's not based on hard and fast rules, but how did you decide to cut 200g of carbs and 70g of fat in the first example? Thanks

    August 2, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply to this comment

    • ontheregimen

      So, we keep protein levels high because, well, amino acids and muscles, duh. WRT carbs and fat, carbohydrates are not essential to human life whereas fats are. So I drop carbs to a level that is still tolerable -- ie it won't put you in a terrible mood for your night out. For some people this is zero carbs. For some it is 0.75g per pound of bodyweight, it depends. I like to keep some fat in there both because it is essential and it provides more satiety than carbs. Maybe something like 0.2-0.3g per lb of LBM (off the cuff guess). Remember, at a high level, we are creating a deficit to allow for some guilt free drinking/snacking later on. Assuming we aren't using this strategy with great frequency, we can get away with fat/cho reduction in a pretty wide range and be just fine. That help?

      August 2, 2013 at 11:24 am | Reply to this comment

  • Colt

    Mike - I'm glad I stumbled across this page, and I'm really glad to see you addressing the "taboo" subject of heavy drinking on a fitness blog. This affects way more people than are probably willing to admit. I can't wait til you write/post the rest of the articles relating to this topic. And I also love your Little John example, as those are pretty damn close to my numbers. I might hit the sauce a little harder than Little John at times, but I still greatly appreciate the example!

    April 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kim

    Oh my God I think I love you. Great article. Love how real it is. I'm two months into a new program where I'm finally learning about counting my macros and everything and I've had a hard time figuring out what to do with my love of beer. Thank you thank you thank you.

    May 21, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Hannah

    Just started reading this (which answers my previous question on the last page I was reading of yours) and I can't stop reading your material. Thanks for the help/tips!!! I'm a 23 year old female, 133lbs, 5'6", 13-15% bf and am looking to compete in under a year so anything helps. *** Antispam disabled. Check access key in CleanTalk plugin options. Antispam service cleantalk.org. ***

    July 21, 2014 at 10:04 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ashley

    Came across you on fb. Trying to loss weight, tired of wasting my life always trying and thinking about it every day never getting anywhere. Good read!

    November 23, 2014 at 10:43 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rob

    Mike, have you written something just about Diet drinks? Like, drink them as often as you'd like? How about High Fructose Corn Syrup in said drinks; does that fall into the "minerals" category of not worrying about it because it isn't a Macro Nutrient?

    January 12, 2015 at 9:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • diana

    This article on heavy drinking.... it's like you read my mind. Thank you. I love you. I thought I was the only one trying to lose weight and still drink on the weekends. P.s. I'm really hungover.

    May 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • John Fawkes

    Great advice! One thing I'd add that's worked for me: start drinking on an empty stomach. Yeah, most people do the opposite, but it just raises their tolerance so they drink more. If you start on an empty stomach, the first one hits you harder and you drink less in total.

    May 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Reply to this comment

  • BB

    great article! greetings from Poland!

    March 31, 2016 at 9:19 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dave

    I appreciate the frank and open advice. So sick of hearing, "just dont drink alckyhol", "it killz yur gainz". This is for real people with real lives. Thanks.

    June 15, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Reply to this comment

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