Wooh! It’s Friday! You worked hard all week at the office, crushed it in the gym, and suffered through the salad buffet. Time to enjoy the weekend, right?
I’ve seen this mentality with many of my coaching clients before, and I’ve fallen prey to it myself.
The problem is, being “good” all week can be easily undone with happy hour and a night of drinking. If fat loss is your goal, the weekend can completely derail your efforts. Why is this?
The first rule of fat loss is, you must be in a caloric deficit. This means eating less calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight and muscle/fat composition.
If you consume 500 calories less than your body needs for maintenance all week, you’ve created a 2,500 calorie deficit. That’s awesome. You’d be well on your way to weight loss.
But, if you go out Friday and order nachos and beer, you could be in trouble. A plate of loaded nachos is about 500-600 calories per serving (if you’re nice and split it with three friends). Add in 3-4 beers at 195 calories per pint, and your deficit isn’t looking so good anymore.
(For those of you who weren’t counting, that’s 600+780=1380 calories, cutting your hard work during the week in half).
And, if you go out Saturday, too, you’re actually looking at 2760 calories, which is above and beyond the deficit you worked hard to create during the workweek.
No wonder so many people get frustrated when trying to lose weight! You end up in this cycle of eating healthy during the week and essentially wiping out your hard work on the weekend. This gets you nowhere, fast.
How do you avoid this vicious cycle and finally reveal your six-pack abs?
Well, you’re going to have to take a hard look at what you truly want. No great achievement comes without some sacrifice. But with a few simple tricks, you can still enjoy your weekends without undoing all your hard work.
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FIRST STEP: MINDSET
Time for some tough love.
You may need to change your mindset about going out. Yes, you worked hard all week, but you’re not a dog. You don’t need to “earn” food treats.
Exercising Monday through Thursday is not an excuse to go crazy when Friday happy hour rolls around.
For another thing, define your purpose for going out on the town. It’s probably to catch up with your friends and blow off some steam, right? Getting white girl wasted is not necessary to do those things. Focus on the conversation, and actually interacting with your friends while you’re out, instead of which craft beer or cocktail to order next.
Avoid self-sabotage and the “fuck it” mentality. The weekend is not an excuse to ruin your hard work, it’s an opportunity to recover from that hard work.
SECOND: TAKE CONTROL
The reason we go off the rails on the weekend is because we lack structure. The workweek offers a set schedule and a routine that keeps us on track. The weekends can be a bit of a free-for-all.
Time to take control and gain back your weekends!
Have a general framework in place: this is when I get to relax, this is when I am going to get shit done, and this is when I’m going to meet up with friends to have fun. It doesn’t have to be as rigid as during the week, but these guardrails will keep you in check.
And remember, just because it’s Friday/Saturday doesn’t mean your standards should go out the window.
Choose bars and restaurants where you can order a meal that’s in line with your goals. Your friends might even be glad you suggested a new restaurant because it’s fun to change things up.
Okay, here we get into the nitty-gritty… the practical steps that you can put into action to avoid the weekend rollercoaster.
Exercise before you go out! And not because it burns calories so that you “earn” more drinks at the bar. Why, then?
Because exercise increases your insulin sensitivity and depletes muscle glycogen. In layman’s terms, this means your body is more primed to fill your muscles with the carbohydrates you eat after you workout than it is to store those carbs as body fat.
Not to mention, getting your pump on before you go out literally pumps up your muscles, so you look stronger at the bar. Finish your workout with a couple sets of pushups and bicep curls next Friday. You’re welcome, guys.
FOURTH: WHAT TO EAT
Eat before you go out drinking. But don’t just devour anything – go low carb and low fat. Stick to protein and veggies here. Because alcohol changes the way your body processes other macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat), it’s important to fill up on lower calorie, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables.
Alcohol is a poison, so when you start drinking, your body’s first priority is to metabolize that alcohol and rid the poison from your system. This is partly why you have to pee like crazy once you “break the seal” – your hormones signal your body to get the alcohol OUT the fastest way possible.
Alcohol also changes the pathways through which fats and carbs are metabolized. Without going into any science-speak, this means fats/carbs in your happy hour meal are more likely to be stored as body fat in the presence of alcohol.
So, stick to protein and veggies. A lean steak with broccoli, or chicken and stir fried peppers would be an awesome choice before a night on the town.
Okay, it’s good to eat before going out to drink. But what if you’re going out to dinner?
Since the number one rule of fat loss is creating a caloric deficit, and “fun” foods and adult beverages are calorie bombs, the best way to maintain your deficit is to enjoy these things in moderation.
Split a meal with a friend or ask the waiter for a to-go box before the food is served. That way, you can automatically box up half of it before you dig in. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water (really, in a one to one ratio, not two or three beers to every glass of water). This not only saves calories, but also keeps you hydrated so you don’t hate your life the next morning.
FIFTH: WHAT TO DRINK
Chose the “best” adult beverages for weight loss, those that are lowest in calories. Red wine and clear spirits top the list. Next would be other kinds of liquor, like whiskey. Then light beer (can’t believe I just typed that), followed by craft beer, which is higher in taste… I mean, calories. At the bottom of the list is white wine and pre-mixed cocktails or frozen drinks, since those are all very high in sugar.
Another thing to note is to be careful with your mixers. Regular soda and juices are high in sugar and calories, which will tank your diet and leave you hungover. Sticking to soda water, tonic, diet soda, and cranberry juice is best. Drinking top shelf liquor on the rocks with maybe a slice of lemon, lime, or orange would be even better.
SIXTH: REST AND RECOVERY
Do not underestimate the power of sleep. Lack of sleep increases the stress hormone cortisol, which virtually shuts off your body’s ability to lose fat.
The later you stay out, the more you will drink and eat things that don’t align with your weight loss goals. Have a curfew for yourself. It sounds “lame,” but your future self will thank you for getting to bed at a somewhat decent hour. And, as Ted Moseby says, “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.”
Create accountability. Tell your friends you want to go out and have fun, but you’d like to keep it chill and enjoy their company, rather than a headache in the morning. If some asshole calls you a loser for not bonging beer and taking shots to the face, remember that they’re the asshole, and you probably shouldn’t be friends with them anyway.
EIGHTH: PLAN AHEAD
Create even more accountability. Make plans to meet a friend for an early (ish) workout the next day. This will ensure that you keep your drinks to a reasonable amount and get to bed at a decent hour… because no one wants to exercise with a hangover. And no one wants to let down a friend they’re supposed to meet.
NINTH: PACE YOURSELF
One of my favorite weekend activities is brunch, but that means the alcohol starts flowing as early as 10 or 11 a.m. and can result in drinking all day.
I’m just being honest when I say that you CANNOT lose weight if you drink all day. I wish you could, but I didn’t make these rules.
If your weekend includes day-drinking at brunch, call it quits at a certain time, and make it a priority to hydrate, rest, and eat something healthy the rest of the day.
You likely won’t want to exercise, but a nice, long walk after brunch would be a great way to continue enjoying your friends’ company while allowing your system to recover.
TEN: DAMAGE CONTROL
Okay, let’s say you read all of the above and tried to implement some of the strategies, but you overdid it anyway. What kind of damage control can you do?
Your first priority should be recovery. Sleep it off. Your body repairs itself while you sleep, so this is crucial to getting back to baseline.
Drink as much water as possible, and find a way to include electrolytes (coconut water, electrolyte tablets like Nu’un, or Gatorade are some options). Take a multivitamin or B-complex to replenish nutrients.
As tempting as a greasy breakfast might sound, eat something with a ton of protein and greens at your first opportunity. This will start your day off with a “win” that gets you back on track, instead of drawing out the “fuck it” mentality that likely got you in trouble in the first place.
On that same note, don’t try to “make up for” the night before with penance exercise. You stressed your system enough already… adding an intense workout into the mix only creates more stress. Good alternatives are a long walk, a mellow hike, a jog or bike ride at low intensity, simple full body movement, or yoga/stretching. Treat it as an active recovery day.
Take this opportunity to reflect on the fun times you had, but also what you could’ve done better, and make a plan that will help you stick to your goals next weekend.
WEEKEND GAME PLAN
If you are serious about losing weight, but still want to have fun on the weekends, you’re going to have to create boundaries that set yourself up for success.
Your game plan should include:
- Exercising before you hit the bar.
- Eating a high-protein dinner with vegetables.
- Alternating alcoholic drinks with water, and choosing beverages that are lower in calories and sugar.
- Creating accountability by letting your friends know you’re not down to rage all night, and setting up an activity for the morning so you have a commitment to keep.
Know your priorities. If you truly want to look and feel your best, you’ll have to make some sacrifices. But you can have fun and enjoy your weekend with this framework to guide you.