5 Ways to Shrink Your Waistline and Expand Your Mind

"If you drink O'Douls, you don't drink; but if you drink 20 O'Douls in a half hour, then you're a non-alcoholic." - Mitch Hedberg  

In 2014, nearly 60% of Americans reported they imbibe at least monthly.  From craft beers to ciders and charcoal smoked whiskeys, we're now living in a golden age of fermentation.  While scientific research has shown that alcohol consumption can impair athletic performance and hinder weight loss, it's considered faux pas to play cornhole or hit the dance floor without a beverage in hand.  Does this mean that a couple margaritas will quash all the hard work you've put into your diet and training program?  No way Jose Cuervo.  Here's five ways you can drink strategically to maintain your gains and avoid a beer gut.

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1. Have your cocktails as far from your workout as possible.  

Why?  Alcohol consumption has detrimental effects on protein synthesis, energy production, the secretion of anabolic hormones, and the absorption of vitamins.  Giving your body an opportunity to process the alcohol out of your system will help to mitigate these effects so you can get the most out of your sweat equity.  Bottom line...take a raincheck on happy hour if it's right after your workout.  Aim for a buffer of at least 8 hours.

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2. Have 8oz of water for every drink 

Why?  One of the main side effects of alcohol consumption is dehydration.  Since muscle tissue is mostly made up of water, a lack of it in your muscle cells can lead to significant decreases in strength development, meaning you're unlikely to set any personal bests the day after hitting the bottle. Furthermore, your liver and kidneys both require H2O in order to break down alcohol and filter toxins out of your system.  Pound a water with every cocktail to avoid a muscle hangover.

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3. Know the calorie content of your booze 

Why?  If you're trying to adhere to a weight loss goal and monitoring your daily macronutrient intake (protein, carbs, and fat), you know that calories matter.  Since alcohol isn't processed like food your safest bet would be to treat these as calories from carbs (4 cals = 1 gram carbohydrate), as protein and fat both help to maintain muscle and keep hormone levels in check.  The above chart will give you a quick breakdown on some of the differences between cocktails, beer, and wine.  Choose wisely.

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4. Take a multivitamin.  

Why?  As mentioned above, alcohol decreases the absorption rates of vitamins and minerals necessary for a wide number of bodily functions from digestion to muscle growth and repair.  Deficiencies in vitamin A, B1, B12, folic acid, and zinc in particular can significantly alter metabolic functioning.  Downing a multivitamin before you begin drinking will help to replenish these lost nutrients.

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5.  Drink in moderation.  

Why?  New research has shown that consuming 1-2 drinks (depending on your size) has very little effect on post exercise muscle recovery.  On the other hand, binge drinking can lead to decreases of up to 70% in lipid oxidization, which puts a halt on fat metabolism.  Keep in mind that increased alcohol consumption also has a tendency to lower natural inhibitions....you're far more likely to think that eating an entire pizza at 2AM is a good idea.  Try to set a limit before you go out and do your best to avoid that friend that keeps buying everyone shots.