If you look at most health or weight-loss sites, one of the first thing they tell you to do is cut out all alcohol. Hmmm. To that I have to say, "thanks, but...no, thanks". I am firm believer in balance, and I think that there is no benefit to being extreme or depriving yourself of, well, a glass of sanity.
That said, if you're looking to stay in shape and live a healthy life, 3 sugar-laden cosmopolitans 3 times a week will really not do you any favors. Besides the sugar and calories, alcohol does slow your recovery from workouts and leaves you dehydrated which is bad for your skin and your overall well-being.
Here are a few tips, then, for including alcohol in your healthy lifestyle. If one too many sips leaves you dancing like a maniac and burning calories without even realizing it - all the better!
1. Ideally, stick to red wine. With the fewest number of calories and the highest potential benefits (anti-oxidants and heart-healthy resveratrol), red wine is the #1 healthies alcoholic drink. If it was good enough for Zeus, it's good enough for me!
2. Beware of Mixers and Chasers. Unless you're a true baller (read: freak of nature) and can drink vodka, tequila, or rum out of a cup straight-up, you are going to need a mixer or a chaser. Avoid margarita mixes, syrups, and colas. Instead, choose to have your poison of choice mixed with club soda and sprinkled with a dash of lime. Delicious, healthy(er), clean. Tequila shots with lime as a chaser are also great since they have limited liquid and limited sugar. I also happen to think they're incredible sexy.. but maybe that's just me.
3. Alternate with Water. This keeps you from getting dehydrated which means that you won't be hungover and you are more likely to be able to get a good workout in the next day.
4. Make it Count. One of the biggest mistakes people make with alcohol and health is not being able to practice moderation. The truth is that alcohol has calories and those calories can add up quickly. In my opinion, two drinks on a night where I'm going out to a bar or a club is much more enjoyable than a beer with my dinner two nights in a row. If the opposite is true for you that's fine, but be conscious of how much you're drinking and how much you're enjoying the experience. Just because you have the option to drink, doesn't mean you have to!
5. Avoid Popular Matching Foods. If friends are going out for pizza and beer, there is no shame in having a salad before you go and just enjoying the beer with friends. Bar food is so often fried, greasy, and unhealthy that it is much worse for you than the alcohol is. Yes, they're a good and tasty combination, but to feel guilt-free about your indulgence you can take a preemptive approach and fill up on healthy snacks before.
6. Move it! If you do make the choice to drink, enjoy the experience. Get up and dance, go mingle around the room, or create some sort of activity. If possible, avoid just sitting, drinking, and going to bed. Moving around helps the alcohol metabolize faster and will make a huge difference in how you feel the morning after.
Yet again, it comes down to balance and education. Don't cut alcohol out of your life completely, but do your research and know how to make the best decisions for you, your body, your workout plan, your health, and your happiness.
What's your favorite way to enjoy a drink guilt-free?