Eating out and socializing have become a big part of the modern day lifestyle, and yet, despite what you may think, you can still achieve a healthy balance, having a good social life while still dropping fat .
Sadly, most people who are on diets now totally avoid eating out all together. Alternatively, if they do go out, they end up on complete binge, which then leads to regretting it afterwards.
But, it doesn’t need to be this way – finding a healthy mid group will help both your social life and your physique.
Remember, partaking in regular social events or eating out with friends and family can actually help improve your long-term dietary adherence. This is because you don’t feel fully restricted and are actually enjoying the process.
Here are some very simple methods I’ve used with many clients to find that ‘healthy balance’…
Use Intermittent Fasting Before Eating Out
Intermittent fasting is a popular technique used to drop fat and improve health.
I’ve discussed this topic in detail before on my blog (click HERE for more information) but in short, intermittent fasting involves prolonged periods of time without food, consuming most of your calories within a smaller 6-10 hour window.
Along with using Intermittent Fasting to drop fat, it can be a great technique to implement as a one-off when you are eating out that day.
The time you’re eating out will dictate the time of the fasting window. Quite simply, if you are planning to eat out in the morning or at lunch time, you will have the fasting window at night. In contrast, if you’re eating out in the evening the fasting window will be in the morning.
Here is an example breakdown if you are eating out in the evening around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m:
Meal 1: Meal 1 will occur around lunchtime, having been fasting all morning up to this point. This meal should be high protein, low calorie primarily consisting of lean meat or fish and tons of vegetable or salad (if you are up very early, you could take a lean whey protein shake in the morning).
Aim for 1 ½ servings of meat or fish providing around 40 grams of protein and around 5 or 6 different portions of low carb vegetables to fill you up.
You also want to include a large green leaf salad, which is extremely low calorie but will really help fill you up. Top the salad with a low calorie or zero calorie salad dressing such as Walden’s Farm Salad Dressing or a low fat/zero fat product.
Meal 2: Meal 2 will occur around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. just before you head to the gym if you are training that day.
This should be similar to the one above, containing 1 ½ servings of meat or fish and several portions of vegetables.
If you’re heading to the gym you will want to consume around 40 or 50 grams of carbohydrates, which will just give you the added energy you need for a good gym session. These carbohydrates should come from low calorie carb sources such as potatoes or root vegetables.
Meal 3: Meal 3 (eating out) should be around 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.
1 or 2 hours after your workout and around 2 or 3 hours after your last meal.
There are guidelines below to help you make good choices when eating out.
Meal 4: If your meal out was around 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. and it was relatively controlled and you start to feel hungry, I recommend 1.5 scoops of whey protein before heading to bed around 10:00 p.m.
If your main goal is fat loss and you’re not interested in gaining muscle then you can skip this.
If your meal out is in the morning or at lunch time I recommend you follow this rough schedule:
Meal 1: This will likely be your meal out / cheat meal so you can eat within the recommendations I discuss below.
If your meal out isn’t until 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. and you’re up particularly early, I recommend 1.5 scoops of whey protein in the morning around 3-4 hours before, just to keep you going and to reduce any potential muscle breakdown (don’t freak out, this isn’t significant).
Meal 2: Around 5 hours after the meal out you will have your next meal which, as above, should be a high protein, low calorie meal such as 1.5 servings of meat or fish with mixed vegetables.
If you are heading to the gym at this time, you can add in 30-40 grams of carbohydrates.
Meal 3: At around 8:00 p.m. you would eat your last meal of the day which would be a regular relatively low calorie but high protein meal. Again this needs to include a high quality protein source such as meat, fish, or eggs along with a small amount of healthy fats, plenty of vegetables, and around 30-40 grams of carbohydrates.
In terms of calories, if your meal out is around 1,500 calories and the other two meals are around 300 each then you will be at around 2,100 calories for the day.
If you have a slower metabolism or weigh less than 160lbs this may be your rough weight maintenance and therefore may not lose large amounts of fat for the day. However that’s certainly an acceptable sacrifice for you to achieve a good lifestyle balance and, of course, you’ll be burning much more fat for the other 6 days of the week.
If however, you weigh more than 160lbs or head to the gym that day then you can still actually successfully burn fat while eating out and having an enjoyable social life – win, win!
Perform Metabolic Resistance Training Before Eating Out
Another key method that I recommend to people when eating out or having cheat meals is to perform Metabolic Resistance Training ideally just before the meal. If this doesn’t work logistically for you, then the same day training is still very effective and important.
My Metabolic Resistance Training workouts make up the bulk of the training in the 90 Day Bikini Transformation Program and provide numerous benefits for fat loss and physique transformation which go way beyond standard training you may normally do.
Metabolic training’s effectiveness is primarily due to the large boost in metabolism (known as the afterburn and EPOC) it causes. It also burns a ton of calories within the session and helps increase your carbohydrate tolerance (known as GLUT4 translocation) which is key to the subsequent meal out or cheat meal (driving that food into the muscle and away from fat!).
Where possible, I recommend you perform a full body lower or upper Metabolic Resistance session about an hour before you head out. If this isn’t possible because of time constraints you could perform it afterwards, when the food is settled, or earlier that day.
The key here is to perform it on the same day you’re eating out so you benefit from the associated alterations in hormones, metabolism and extra calorie expenditure.
This technique is great if you want to do a high volume session which creates a significant energy deficit and burns as much glycogen (stored carbohydrates) as possible.
This training technique works particularly well before large meals because it stimulates GLUT-4-Translocation, which helps your body metabolize and process carbohydrates into the muscle more efficiently. This means more fuel will be heading to the muscle cells and avoiding the fat cells.
If you want over 20 done-for-you, highly advanced Metabolic Resistance Workouts click HERE.
Take These Nutrient Partitioning Supplements When Eating Out
Another trick I use as part of the 90 Day Bikini Transformation Program, is to use nutrient partitioning supplements around refeeds or larger meals.
In short, these supplements help improve carbohydrate metabolism and insulin function. Similar to that of metabolic resistance training, they help shuttle more of the food into the muscle and away from the fat cell.
There are several research supported supplements I recommend for this. They are taken with the meal and there is plenty of research showing that they can improve blood glucose clearance, (i.e.the removal of carbohydrates from the blood stream), following a high carb or large meal.
This is important, as not only are large elevations in blood sugar bad for your health eventually, it will saturate the muscle cell and then be synthesized as fatty acids and thus stored within the fat cells.
The body functions in this way to prevent excessive carbohydrates in the blood causing cell damage. This is why after a large meal if it cannot shuttle the fuel to muscles efficiently or use it for physical activity, it has no choice but to convert it and store it as fat.
There are several supplements I recommend depending on the meal and other factors. Some of the main supplements include Berberine, Fenugreek, Chromium, and Ashwagandha.
Perform HIIT Before Eating Out
One other exercise strategy I like to use is High Intensity Interval Training (HITT).
HITT offers numerous benefits which I’ve discussed previously in one of my blog articles, but a key benefit in this situation is that it can quickly reduce muscle carbohydrate stores and boost your metabolism with just a few sprints.
I like to use HITT on the opposing muscle group to the one being trained in order to remove extra glycogen and further boost your metabolism. For example, if you did an upper body gym session you would do some HIIT-based lower body sprint.
When you’re heading out for a large meal or having a cheat meal this is important as it is basically clearing out stored carbohydrates and making extra storage/ room for the incoming meal which will remove that “overspill” of carbohydrates.
If you have a free day or a day off from work you can of course perform two sessions that day- one being the metabolic resistance workout and the other being HITT. Most people will likely only be able to perform one session; if that’s the case I recommend 10 HIIT sprints after finishing your metabolic resistance workout (this will only add 15 minutes).
As mentioned above, I recommend that you do HITT on the opposing muscle group to the one you have just trained. This is because the metabolic resistance workouts will have already depleted most of the remaining carbohydrate stores so, by training the opposing muscle group, you can also improve glucose tolerance and remove the glycogen on the other side/end of the body.
Base Your Meal Out On These Foods When Socializing
Along with all the strategies discussed above one of the most important factors still revolves around your food choices when dining out / having a cheat meal.
While the whole idea may be to socialize and have a night off, it doesn’t mean that you must or should consume a 4,000 calorie binge based solely on unhealthy foods.
In any good restaurant, even healthy foods or relatively healthy foods can be super tasty and most importantly allow you to socialize.
As always, your meal choice should be based around a protein source most commonly some sort of meat or fish. Popular meals out include:
- Steak and Fries
- Burger and Fries
- Meat with Pasta
- Meat or Fish with Vegetables and Rice or similar
- Medium Sized Pizza with Lower Fat Cheese and plenty of Meat and Vegetables
- Chicken Wings or Similar Meat Based Side or Appetizers
There’s certainly room here to enjoy a treat such as fries, a dessert or 2-3 glasses of alcohol. For the most part, I recommend you stick with just two courses either a starter and main dish, main dish and dessert, or just a main dish if you’re planning on having 2 or more alcoholic beverages.
This way, you can keep under around 1,500 calories which, as shown above, is a fairly moderate amount and can still keep you within a good calorie range for that day and won’t undo all the good achieved by your last 6 days of hard work.
Achieve a Balance
As always, being at either end of the spectrum may not be healthy.
On one end, you have people who lose friends and a social life just because they want abs, developing a poor relationship with food. On the other end, you have people who will do hardcore diets and then binge out, regaining all the weight and more.
Somewhere in the middle is obviously the most sensible and probably healthiest place to be for your social life, psychology and body.
Whatever meal you choose, remember to enjoy it and do not obsess or developing an eating disorder where you freak out after eating 1 slice of chocolate cake. Ultimately fitness / fat loss is about achieving a healthy balanced lifestyle…
Unless you are prepping for a physique competition or are an elite athlete heading off for the Olympics or a world championship there’s no need to obsess about or fear the odd meal out 2-3 times a month!