How to Stay Fit but Not Give Up Drinking

I drink a lot of wine. And beer. And cocktails. I probably drink more than most people — it comes with the territory of writing about booze and teaching wine classes for a living; but when it comes to the calories in alcohol, we’re all in it together. Drinking alcohol, whether for work or for play, can certainly take a toll on your waistline. Regular booze drinkers like me need to compensate for those empty calories somehow, and fitting that gym time into my daily work/drinking schedule can be a struggle at times. But don’t get too worried just yet — there are plenty of ways to keep your waistline in check while still (regularly) enjoying happy hour. Here’s how I do it:

Morning Gym Session

I know what you’re thinking — wake up even earlier than I already have to? No way. However, survey says that it can take as little as three weeks for a change to become a habit. If you can suffer through those first 21 days of waking up early, hitting the gym before work might actually become an essential part of your day. Getting a workout in before your day has started not only releases endorphins to make you feel happier throughout the day — it also frees up your evening hours to be happier as well.

Lunchtime Session

OK, so you really can’t make the whole a.m. gym routine a habit. Fear not — this is why lunch hours exist! While it’s personally harder for me to motivate myself to work out in the afternoon, those of you who are extremely anti-morning might find this a lot easier. Keep a spare set of sneakers and gym clothes in your car or at your office (mine literally sit in a drawer on a bookshelf full of booze.) And for those days where you hit the gym before work? Treat yo’self during that lunch break with some online shopping or a walk through the park– cocktail optional or not.

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Healthy Lunch and Snacks

While I’m all about a boozy lunch, the key here is moderation. If you know you’re going to be hitting the bar after work, keep your calories light and nutritional throughout the day. Eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch with easy, healthy snacks in between (bananas, almonds, etc.). Stick with water during the day to earn that booze at night. Not only will your calories be in check, your hydration will be as well. No post-work plans? Go for that beer at lunch. The key is moderation, not deprivation.

Make It a Team Effort

Most of us consume our post-work beverages at happy hour with our coworkers. We get out at the same time, work with that same annoying colleague, and generally need to vent about the same issues. If we’re going to drink together, why not counteract those calories together? Set up a specific place and time in your office, even if only for 15 minutes, to squat it out, plank, or downward dog it together. Don’t have a solid chunk of time to spare? Make a pact to do 20 squats or a one-minute plank together on the hour. Little changes can produce big results without feeling as time consuming.

Lighten Up That Happy Hour

Many craft beers and handmade cocktails can really rack up the points. Not only should you watch the calories of the alcohol itself, but beware of sugary mixers, juices, and garnishes. A glass of sparkling wine clocks in at a low 85 to 100 calories per serving, making it a calorically safe choice whether you’re celebrating something or not (if anything, your waistline will be). A one-ounce serving of most liquors (scotch, bourbon, gin, and vodka) contains even fewer calories, a mere 65 to 85 per serving. Can’t drink that liquor straight? Choose a calorie-free mixer such as diet soda, seltzer, or diet tonic. And remember– avoid all things frozen.

Skip the Happy Hour Food, Not the Happy Hour Itself

One of the biggest waistline killers at happy hour is not necessarily the booze, but the food we eat while we consume our drinks. Not only are the options generally fried, cheesy, and covered in grease, it’s also the way we respond to these foods when drinking. According to a study that Munchies reported, which measured how women respond to food before and after drinking, “the hypothalamus, which controls metabolism, was more responsive to the food smells after the women were intravenously dosed with booze.” Men’s Health reports that a study done at Purdue University revealed that alcohol enhances the way we taste salt and fat, making that grandiose plate of nachos taste even more fabulous than usual.

And If All Else Fails…

Incorporate that booze into your workout. NO, we aren’t advocating drunken late-night gym sessions that end with you falling off of the StairMaster. Rather, put those bottles to use. Grab a wine bottle in each hand and do some overhead tricep extensions, lunge across the room with that Tito’s magnum in hand, or do some weighted squats while holding your favorite 12-pack. We recommend doing this in the privacy of your own home– your friendly local bartender might be a bit weirded out.