By now, you know how to track what you eat and effectively lose fat. There’s plenty of quality scientific information out there on the subject.
Most of you will find yourselves weighing out food and using measuring cups, a digital scale, and while this allows for consistent and predictable results, there’s always going to be a level of uncertainty when you dine out. You can’t accurately measure the portion sizes or be 100% certain of the ingredients that are being used.
For many, the solution you create is to just avoid going out to eat altogether. The fear of blowing your diet overpowers any desire to socialize with friends and family.
That’s the safe choice, but it’s also unsustainable in the long-term.
After struggling for years to choose one over the other, I’ve cracked the code, and I’m here to share with you strategies that will make dining out with friends enjoyable, stress-free, and 100% in-line with your current nutrition plan.
Because at the end of the day, fitness should add to your life, not take it over. Eating out and socializing with your friends doesn’t have to be incongruous to building a kick-ass body.
The Secret Sauce/Strategies
The main goal of these strategies is, as much a possible, to reduce the chance of overeating.
Now, these will help you make smarter decisions, but their effectiveness can only take you so far. Remember, you’ll continue to need to practice willpower and stay mindful of your goals when going out to eat. That said, here is what I can promise you: if you follow these strategies, dining out responsibly will be easier than ever before.
1. Plan Your Meal Ahead of Time
The great luxury of living in the 21st century is having access to the world’s largest information database: the internet.
Most restaurants have all of the nutritional information for their meals posted online. All you have to do is go to their website, find their menu, and once you choose your meal, simply look up the calories and macros.
Now you just need to choose the meal that best fits into your current diet.
2. If Don’t Know The Calories, Make It Simple.
Ok. Yes, there are smaller restaurants that don’t have the nutritional information of their dishes online.
Don’t be persuaded. You can still go out and make smart, healthy choices.
The key is to order simple. That is, choose an entrée that only has few components. An example would be a meal that only includes a piece of lean meat, veggies, and a carb-dominant side (potatoes or rice).
Choosing a simple meal like this will lessen the chance of accidentally overeating on sneaky calories that might get added in.
For example, if you order a simple entrée that includes a steak, mixed veggies, and a baked potato, it’ll be much easier to estimate the calories and/or macros. The only things you’ll need to watch out for is how fatty the cut of meat is and if it looks like it was cooked in a lot of oil.
Say you were to order something like a lasagna; it would be much more difficult to guess the exact ingredients or even be able to estimate the portions of protein or fat that are in it.
3. Utilize Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting is explained more in-depth here and here, but just know that it’s simply an eating protocol that involves eating during a specific (and small) window of time each day.
I prefer to have my eating window later in the day, so, most often, I’ll skip breakfast and push my first meal back 4-8 hours into the day. This doesn’t require much thinking and allows for larger, more satiating meals later in the day.
To utilize this and take full advantage of eating out, I recommend keeping your first meal to high in protein with a lot of veggies to fill you up (around 400-800 calories).
In doing this, you’re setting yourself up perfectly for later in the night. When you have 1,200-1,600 calories to play with while you’re out, choosing a filling and enjoyable meal becomes a piece of cake (often literally).
4. The “Pick Two” Rule
Most restaurants include multiple courses: bread, salad, chips & salsa, a slew of entrees, and a full menu of desserts.
The Pick Two Rule is exactly what it sounds like. You get to choose just two of these courses, and no more. This will help control your calorie intake while also allowing for variety.
Now, to avoid looking like a total jackass, I suggest you make one of your two choices the entrée. If you skip it and just eat bread and dessert, you’re going to stick out, as well ruin your diet.
The rule should really be called “Pick An Entrée and One Other Thing,” but it doesn’t have as nice of a thing to it. So pick two (including your entrée), and you’ll be less prone to an excessive calorie intake.
5. Be Smart with the Happy Juice
This is my least favorite rule, but it works, so keep reading.
Drinking alcohol has gotten a bad rap in the fitness world, and while excessive alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain, the actual reason it that it’s detrimental to your progress is due to all of the food you eat when you’re drinking.
It’s possible to drink and not get fat, but it’s difficult. When you start to drink, all of your willpower goes out the window and instead of following the Pick Two rule from above, you pick 20. And they’re all desserts.
So, if you do drink when you’re at dinner, try to limit yourself to 1-2 beverages and consume them before you eat or once there’s no food around.
I also suggest you opt for low-calorie options over a dark beer or some fancy margarita. Personally, I go for a tequila and club soda which is only around 120-150 calories per drink.
Bonus Strategy: Go Easy on the Extra Salt
Eating salt won’t cause extra fat storage, but it can manipulate your water levels and scale weight.
This is a large part of why people fear dining out: you end up consuming salt-rich foods, retain a bunch of water, and associate the next morning’s bloat with pure fat gain.
This rise in weight you experience is from water and isn’t a big deal in the long-run, but it does cause you to feel bloated and puffy in the immediate future.
Don’t Let Fitness Stop You From Enjoying Life
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight and get a six-pack. Being lean and shredded is a testament to your hard work in the gym, and all of us have the ability to dine out with friends and still achieve our individual fitness goals.