On my path to getting fit for a half-marathon, I began to assess my diet. The first decision, and most obvious, was to cut back on alcohol consumption. All those empty calories went straight to my waist and sapped my endurance. And yet, my social life continued to revolve around happy hours and barbecues where delicious alcohol in all it’s forms was not only readily available, but strongly encouraged! So to help me make the right decision when the time came, I wanted to understand the impact alcohol was having on my performance.
For 55 days, almost two months, I logged the number of drinks consumed. Why 55 days? Because as you’ll see, that was more than enough to establish a pattern.
1. Frequency of Alcohol Consumption
Days of the busy work week blur together into an endless cycle, and it’s easy for habitual consumption to fade into the background. So the first step was to objectively survey how often I imbibe.
When visualizing the data, you can see clear and strong clustering. If I drink one day, I’m more likely to drink the next day. I have to toss this up to the taste and sugars being habit-forming in the same soda is. But no matter the physiological cause, if I drink one day, I’m 70% more likely to drink the next.
2. Quantity of Alcohol Consumed
“Just one drink”. That’s what they always say. But put something tasty in front of me, be it food or ice cream or soda, and I’m not the best at holding back. For me, discipline comes in the form of avoidance, most often taking the form of keeping unhealthy options out of the house and at a safe distance. But when that fails, my drink intake looks like this:
So what is one drink? To me, “one drink” is actually 4.43 drinks. To take that a step further, “one drink” is 886 calories*, or 1/4 of a pound of body weight.
In 55 days, I consumed 20,400 calories* in alcohol drinks. That’s 5.82 pounds of body fat. I could be almost 6 pounds lighter today! .
What difference does this make? Well, I obviously knew alcohol had calories and that abstaining from it would help my waistline and recovery time, but putting a number to the impact turned an abstract concept into actionable information. The decisions is now much easier. I’m not longer denying myself some malty goodness, each time I’m saying no to an extra 1/4 pounds of body fat, which really ruins the appeal.
* Estimating calories is difficult due to the variety of drink options. A glass of wine, bottle of light beer, or shot of hard alcohol all weigh in around 80-120cal. Meanwhile, mixed drink can range from 100-700cal, and a strong flavorful beer can hit 500cal. For calculations use here, I’m estimating 200cal/drink.