When Friday happy hour hits, you probably feel relieved and are ready to let off some steam. I understand. The problem is that most people lose all of their hard-earned fitness progress during the weekend. It is like they forget everything they know about health and fitness. This makes balancing a social life and fitness difficult. How can you continue to lose weight and still go out with friends on the weekend?

At the beginning of my weight loss journey, I had no social life. I stayed away from alcohol and unhealthy foods. That was the best decision for me. I knew that if I went out, I would have too much to drink and lose an entire week of work. I was also worried that I would gain weight from overeating after I lost all my inhibitions while drinking. I am working now to find a better balance between being social and being fit.

Let’s talk about alcohol really quickly. Alcohol is the worst thing you can put in your body if you are trying to lose body fat or build muscle. It is toxic. There are no health benefits to alcohol besides the occasional glass of red wine. Alcohol dehydrates you, lowers your inhibitions and stalls weight loss. Therefore, if you want to lose weight and drink occasionally, you will need to practice a lot of discipline. If you have no self-control when you start drinking alcohol, then you need to avoid it all together. You have to stop getting drunk and eating pizza at 3 am. There is no room for that in any fitness plan.

Here is what I do now when I go out. I drink alcohol and still have a great time, but I take certain precautions to keep myself in line.

1. I drink vodka sodas with lime. That is it! I do not drink anything with mixers because of the high-calorie content. There is so much sugar in the juices and mixers that make cocktails delicious. Avoid these!

2. I drink 2 glasses of water between each drink. This helps me feel full, keeping me from overeating. It also helps me not to feel hungover the next day. Staying hydrated will keep you from making decisions you will regret the next day.

3. I limit myself to 2-3 drinks. I can get pretty buzzed off of three drinks now! That is because I drink less and my tolerance has lowered. This is one of the advantages of curtailing your drinking – you can have a great night out that costs way less.

4. I eat a protein rich snack when I get home. Alcohol makes you hungry. Instead of eating tacos, cereal, or pizza, I will make an omelet with cheese, spinach and a little hot sauce. It is delicious, makes me full and keeps me from going through the drive-through window at 2 am.

This is what works best for me. You know your body best. If three drinks is too much, then only have two. You may find that two drinks is too much for you! Whatever your tolerance is, do not drink to the point that you cannot get up and do your fitness routine the next day. If you drink so much that you cannot workout or eat healthy, then you have had too much. Drink less the next time you go out!

Remember, it is very difficult to have moderation when you have alcohol in your system. All your inhibitions can quickly go out the window. Exercise caution when you meet your friends for drinks. You work too hard during the week to throw it all out the window in one night. Eat a salad instead of nachos. Drink clear liquor. Do not indulge in unhealthy munchies on the way home. Drink lots of water all night. It may take some time to get your routine down, but you can enjoy drinks with friends and still lose weight. Do not be discouraged if you mess up the next time you go out. Learn from your mistakes and do better next time.