'Tis the season to get your drink on -- and to buy bigger pants. But that doesn't have to be the case. Alcohol may be filled with empty calories, but it's not completely off limits if you want to look great without your shirt on. We polled leading experts for their strategies to imbibe without wrecking your quest for six-pack abs.
Follow the Golden Ratio
For hard liquor, drink a 4-to-1 water-to-booze ratio, suggests Cassandra Forsythe Ph.D., R.D. For beer, 2-to-1 will do. This will keep you full and fight hangovers, making sure you don't miss gym time the next morning.
Know What's in Your Glass
You don't have to count every calorie, but a ballpark estimate will keep you in check. Here's a cheat sheet to guide your choices. Keep in mind that serving sizes vary, so adjust accordingly.
• 12 ounces beer = 153 calories
• 12 ounces light beer = 103 calories
• 5 ounces wine (red) = 125 calories
• 5 ounces wine (white) = 121 calories
• 3 ounces sake = 117 calories
• 1 1/2 ounces liquor (80 proof/40 percent alcohol) = 97 calories
Not all light beer is flavorless swill. Check out our list of the Best Low-Calorie Beers.
Gain the upper hand before you go out. Nutritionist Alan Aragon, M.S., recommends reducing the number of meals you eat that day so your overall calorie intake is in check. If you're going out on Friday night and usually eat four meals a day, reduce them down to one or two. (Just don't drink on an empty stomach. Duh.) You can also reduce the size of your meals instead of their frequency, eating more at the meal prior to hitting the town. To maximize their impact, include protein since research shows that it helps to keep you fuller. Or try one of these easy recipes to make your favorite comfort foods, like mac & cheese, waistline-friendly.
If all else fails, get a workout in the day you plan on drinking. If you chow down high-calorie foods under the influence, a workout helps improve nutrient partitioning, shuttling incoming calories towards muscle building and repair rather than fat storage, explains Forsythe. (Try one of the most popular muscle-building, fat-blasting workouts in Men's Health and Women's Health history -- The New Spartacus Workout.)