if I must drink, what may I drink?
January 12, 2007 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Trying to stay healthy this year, eat right and get to the gym 5-6 days per week. But, if I must drink, what may I drink?

As part of my a New Year's resolution to be healthier and fitter, I have decided to go on a strict exercise regime, watch my portion sizes at mealtime and cut back on my alocohol intake. I am going to limit my "goin' out drinkin'" to once every couple of weeks, but I'm curious if there's any type of drink that I'm better off going with over any others.

Over the past couple of years I developed a tasted for Belgian Ales. Wonderful stuff, but killers in terms of calories and overall feeling bloated.

If I want to go out once per month and have a few (4-5) drinks with friends, am I better off: (1) drinking one type of hard stuff (Vodka Martinis) and not mixing (2) sticking to wine or (3) does any of it even matter anyway, thats it's all just empty calories and whether it's Everclear or Chimay, it all needs to be worked off the next day or two?
posted by Tommy Gnosis to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, it's all empty calories.

But if you're looking for a way to rationalize your drinking as being "good for you", red wine seems to be the way to go. There is strong evidence that it contains anti-aging compounds.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2007

I haven't studied the calorie counts and all of that, but I used to work in the fashion industry in NYC. Went to a lot of designer parties where there were lots of models and generally beautiful thin people. Many of these parties had a common theme of offering 2 types of bars. One was a vodka martini bar. The other was a Vitamin Water bar. There were no other options. If that tells you anything.

Good luck.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2007

Best answer: First off, I'd personally have those 4-5 drinks over two nights out during the month, rather than one (as you write in your last paragraph) -- spread the calories and alcohol out a little more, rather than hitting your system with all of it in one go. Beyond that, I'm certainly of the camp that if you're otherwise exercising steadily and consistently eating well, you should treat yourself to what you really like -- so my vote's for the Chimay, if that's what you'd enjoy the most! (Though as mentioned above, there do seem to be additional health benefits to red wine, so that's worth considering too.)

Also, just as a note about exercising: if you're going to the gym 5-6 days a week, be sure to skip days between weight training -- as I understand it, it helps to build the muscle better.
posted by scody at 1:29 PM on January 12, 2007

If you practice the moderation that you're planning, you should drink whatever you want. Not depriving yourself when you've already agreed to compromise will help you keep your resolve the rest of those two weeks.

Think about it-- 13 days of sacrifice are going to well outweigh one night of drinking Chimay. You won't make noticeably more progress totally abstaining than you will drinking what you want one night out of 14. Seriously.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:32 PM on January 12, 2007

be sure to skip days between weight training

I'm sure scody means "be sure to skip days between training the same muscles."

You can certainly do upper body one day, the lower body the next.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2007

Best answer: A diet beverage mixed with a shot of any liqour is always good. Its pretty low cal and low carb, no fat of course. :) Stay away from juices, sodas, and any kind of dairy. Here is a list I cripped from somewhere a while back. Note, the beer is 12 ounces, and 25% if you are drinking pints and of course a lot of places pour more generously than 4 ounces of wine and a typical liqour shot is more like 1.5 ounce.

Beer 12oz 145
Beer, light 12 100
Liquor, 100 proof, 1 oz 83
Liquor, 80 proof, 1 oz. 65
Liquor, 86 proof, 1 oz 70
Liquor, 90 proof, 1 oz 74
Wine, 4 oz 100
posted by stormygrey at 1:40 PM on January 12, 2007

croutonsupafreak: you are correct! I dashed off that sentence too quickly.
posted by scody at 1:41 PM on January 12, 2007

Low calorie options I like are:
Whiskey (scotch, etc...) straight or on the rocks.
Any hard liquor mixed with diet soda or club soda (Vodka Soda's are good).

Some people can't stand the taste of the hard liquors, if you're one of them a good way to "acquire" a taste is to get a good quality liquor (Grey Goose Vodka, Glenlivet 12 Scotch, etc...) and drink it on the rocks with a splash of soda. You'll gradually learn to love the flavor.

Pure alcohol has about 7 calories per gram if that helps.
posted by Octoparrot at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2007

grey goose and soda
belvedere and soda
chopin and soda
stoli raspberry and soda

premium vodka + club soda = low cal, yummy drink

and ditch the fruit.
posted by jessica at 2:23 PM on January 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

mmm... pure alcohol....

When I'm trying to lose weight I totally avoid beer.

But if I have to drink beer, I drink Guinness, because it is low in calories. Guinness Draught (be it on tap or in a can) has just one more calorie per ounce than Miller Lite. (source)
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2007

Yes, it is a little known fact that Guinness is a (relatively) low carb beer. If I recall, it has about 6 or 7 grams of carbs per 12 ounces, versus about 12 or 13 for Budweiser, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada--i.e., your typical lager or ale.

More to point of the question, though -- as long as you drink in moderation, or for that matter rarely (which is how I would classify a once-a-month regimen involving 4-5 drinks), I just can't see that it would make any significant difference in your fitness. Drink whatever tastes good at the time, and enjoy yourself.
posted by chinston at 2:35 PM on January 12, 2007

I would go for a really good beer. Drink it slow, enjoy it. Guinness is a really good one. Drink in moderation, you should be fine. Maybe substitute some chips or desert for a good beer???
posted by j-urb at 2:48 PM on January 12, 2007

I agree with folks who said drink what you like, but if you want an answer to the question you asked (no snark intended), your best options will be red wine for overall health, or spirits (and 0 calorie mixers) if you just care about calories. Be aware that calorie free mixers get you drunker faster than juice or regular soda.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:59 PM on January 12, 2007

I found this
posted by Jofus at 3:12 PM on January 12, 2007

Best answer: Drink the Chimay for two reasons: If that's what you like, you deserve it once in a while (like everybody else said); I also think you might drink less of a strong Belgian beer than anything else. I doubt you'll be having four or five of them at a time if you're only drinking once a month. The strong flavour and relatively high alcohol content makes it a sipping beer rather than a quaffing beer. Because the alcohol content is almost optimal for rapid absorption, you'll catch your buzz sooner and be content, rather than knocking back a dozen shots and waiting for something to happen, then having it all catch up on you. And if you're anything like me, that aftertaste builds up after 2 or 3.
posted by nowonmai at 3:15 PM on January 12, 2007

Best answer: Red wine would most definitely be at the top of the list for alcoholic drinks with actual health benefits, with the resveratol and the other polyphenols. White wine is second as it has polyphenols too (but different ones and no resveratol). But keep in mind that after the third glass the negative effects from the alcohol content have negated any positive benefit from the other compounds, which is why the recommended dose is 2 glasses of red wine (there's a lot of research out there to back this up but I'm too lazy to go look. A pubmed search should bring it up). So if you're going to drink 4-5 glasses just pick whatever works best for you.

But I agree with those above, drinking slightly too much once a month isn't going to have that much of an effect, particularly if you take into account the extra calories as part of your usual diet tracking. Just like eating cake once a month isn't going to hurt if you're otherwise exercising and healthy.
posted by shelleycat at 3:47 PM on January 12, 2007

Count the calories and factor it into your eating plan. Drink and enjoy your Belgian ale, and then either eat less or exercise more to balance it all out.

In fact, eating less just before you drink will have the double benefit of counteracting the calories and giving you more buzz for your buck.
posted by tomble at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2007

Straight vodka. If you mix it, even with club soda, you will end up drinking more. You will have less of a hangover than if you drink some of the other liquors that are richer in congeners which should minimize your hangover; this should increase the likelihood of working it off the next day. You could also switch to club soda and lime after a Belgain ale or two.
posted by exit at 4:22 PM on January 12, 2007

why bother with the premium brands if you're going to mix it - even if its just with club soda? Save the extra money and buy a bottle of Stolichnaya :)
posted by jeffmik at 5:53 PM on January 12, 2007

diet coke + {rum | whiskey}
posted by chrisamiller at 7:51 PM on January 12, 2007

don't drink beer number one.
when i was a pro cyclist, i would stick to vodka.
the most important thing about my drinking was to be well hydrated before i went out, and to not go toooo far.
the most important thing about training is not to push it if you are not feeling great. listen to your body. if you happen to go training after a night out, and don't feel that great, don't try and push it - take it a bit easy.
as your train, your metabolism will increase, so staying hydrated will easily allow you to hit half a dozen drinks.
posted by edtut at 2:28 AM on January 13, 2007

Response by poster: What a terrific and thoughtful set of replies. Thank you very much all! Off to the gym now...
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 6:15 AM on January 13, 2007

Request for clarification on stormygrey's post: I often see calorie values listed for hard liquor, but the vast majority of hard liquors are only alcohol, water, and some higher-order esters & phenols that create the flavor. None have any protein or fat, and almost none have any sugar.

Now, I know that *technically* ethanol has calories in it, in the sense that it stores energy in its atomic bonds like any other molecule. And I'm likewise sure that you could measure this energy with a calorimeter. But does the human body actually process ethanol in a way that creates energy and thus practically impacts your calorie intake?

I only vaguely remember high school / college physiology, but I was under the impression that only certain types of molecules, primarily (only?) simple sugars, were processed during the Krebs cycle in a way that stored up energy in ATP molecules -- everything else, like complex sugars, fat, and protein, is reduced to simple sugars in order to generate energy, and ethanol is not readily convertible into a simple sugar.

So I'm thinking that, while hard liquor might technically have calories-with-a-little-c, a vodka/soda is pretty much a zero Big-C-Calorie drink. Am I full of it?
posted by rkent at 6:57 AM on January 13, 2007

OK, answered my own question (after posting, natch). Short answer: it's complicated.

This wikipedia page on ethanol metabolism (not authoritative, I know, but it cites academic sources) seems to point both ways. On one hand, it says explicitly that "the body has developed many important other pathways to convert certain chemicals into energy (ATP), such as ethanol." So literally, yes, your cells can process liquor for its energy.

On the other hand, it also says that "There is a common misconception that drinking alcohol leads to weight gain. This has never been proven in the literature and is the subject of ongoing debate among experts." The tentative explanation is that, despite the ability of your body to use ethanol that way, most of it is not in fact so processed -- instead, it gets absorbed by cells and is broken down in other ways, e.g. to various acetyl compounds, that don't contribute to energy generation.

So, yes, hard liquor does have about the number of Calories stated by stormygrey, but it's questionable whether your body is really going to take that much energy from it. So liquor + club soda would still seem to be the drink of choice for hardcore calorie counters.
posted by rkent at 7:17 AM on January 13, 2007

This isn't exactly the answer to your question, but I wanted to tell you about what I am doing. I modified my drinking in this way: if I am going out, I set a limit to having one or two drinks, period. If I am drinking beer I choose light beer. I usually end up with wine. I find it easier to sip so it lasts longer. I will allow myself to eat either a portion of an appetizer or a dessert, but not both, if I am drinking. I did this for a couple of reasons: one, I am not willing to give up food for the calories alocholic drinks contribute; and two, I do not like the effects of alcohol any more. I don't like the way it makes me feel when I drink too much and wake up all weird the next day. Finally, I have also recently started drinking club soda with lemon or lime. It has zero calories and is not sickly sweet as I am finding diet sodas to be. As I have limited the amount of sweets in my diet, I am not craving them like I used to, so club soda is a good thing for me to drink.
posted by FergieBelle at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2007

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