Surviving the Holidays: Alcohol

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Surviving the Holidays: Alcohol


It’s getting to that time of year again. You can love it or hate it, but there are a few inescapable truths that come around with every Christmas, and those include parties, booze, rich food, not enough exercise, and most worryingly of all, an increasingly weary acceptance of all of those things. It’s true. Most people I know, as December progresses, simply cease trying to justify the endless rounds of indulgence and pop another mince pie in their mouths, wash it down with another glass of wine, then shrug and say, “Well, it’s Christmas.”

I’m not here to tell you that you should avoid all of it, that while everyone around you is partying hard, you should live like a monk, but it’s not the parties we really want to avoid, is it? No, it’s the aftermath. It’s the feeling of having eaten too much energy-dense food, and not enough of what our body needs. It’s the feeling of disappointment when suddenly, after only a month, our clothes aren’t fitting the same way, we’re feeling tired all the time, bloated, and now we’re staring at the long task of undoing the damage we spent a month wreaking on ourselves.

The first and most obvious culprit we need to develop a management strategy for is alcohol. This stuff flows pretty freely around Christmas, and its reach is far more insidious than just dizziness, convincing you that you can sing like Jimmy Barnes when Khe Sanh comes on, and ill-advised decisions involving mistletoe and so-and-so from marketing at the office party. Alcohol is a staggering contributor to weight gain, visceral fat, deterioration of major organs and all-round ill-health. In the event, though, that not drinking at all is unrealistic for you (and you are not alone here, at this time of year, not drinking at all is an unrealistic prospect for a lot of us), you can try some of these management strategies:

  • Don’t go to every party you’re invited to – Every year we get flooded with invites, both work and personal. Instead of trying your hardest to hit them all, just pick a few key events. The ones where you have to be seen, or the ones where you will get to socialise with the majority of your friends? Go to those.
  • Offer your services as designated driver – This way you get to stay sober and be a hero. This is a great strategy if attempts to invoke the first suggestion don’t turn out as well as you might have hoped.
  • Drink water in between alcoholic drinks – This will benefit you in a number of ways. It potentially halves the number of alcoholic drinks you indulge in. It also helps to keep you hydrated, and a lot of alcohol’s most unpleasant short-term side effects are a result of dehydration. Also, if you stick ice and a slice of lemon in your glass, it’s unlikely anyone will spot that you’re spacing out your drinks. This limits intervention on the part of friends or colleagues who feel the need to encourage you to drink more.
  • Eat plenty of antioxidants – Alcohol promotes cellular damage through the production of free radicals. Plenty of antioxidants in your diet help to combat this. An extra handful of blueberries is a great start.
  • Drink slowly – Do I need to explain this? If you sink a beer in fifteen minutes then have another, that’s potentially two beers in half an hour. If you sip your beer slowly, over half an hour that’s, uh, one beer in half an hour.
  • Eat first – No, really. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. No good ever comes of that.
  • Avoid Mixers – The booze isn’t the only thing you need to watch out for, there are a lot of kilojoules in those brightly coloured mixers. Sure, the Russian empire was built on vodka, but they drank that stuff neat, they didn’t blend it up with sticky, sugary drinks before they threw it down (NB – please read through the other advice on the list before walking away thinking I’m encouraging you to drink neat vodka, I didn’t say that. Let’s not forget that the Russian empire also fell.)
  • If you must drink, drink something like red wine – Alcoholic drinks aren’t known for their health-giving properties, and whilst a small quantity of some of them might be considered healthy, Christmas parties often aren’t known for that kind or moderation. Nonetheless, red wine has antioxidants and resveratrol, while to the best of my knowledge, tequila slammers contain little more than memory-loss and regret.
  • If you are going to ignore that last piece of advice, don’t be fooled by marketing – The best example of this that I can think of is low-carb beer. It might have less carbohydrate, but this certainly isn’t code for “healthy,” or “diet” beer. No beer fits in with a low-carb diet. It just doesn’t. Also, consider this; carbs contain 17kj/gram, alcohol contains 29kj/gram. If you’re trying to lose weight, which of these substances is more of a threat to that?

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