Dick’s Guide to Drinking (from Minimum Viable Fitness)

Note: I originally wrote this guide for my Minimum Viable Fitness program. Here is the section explaining how you can drink while sticking to your diet:

First, let’s establish that you can drink and still make progress

Alcohol gets an undeserved rap when it comes to gaining fat. Drinking is often the first scapegoat for the “Freshman 15,” while the unlimited amounts of cafeteria food are conveniently forgotten about. In theory, alcohol does suppress lipolysis, the process in which your body breaks down its stored body fat and utilizes it as fuel. However in practical terms, this may not always be the case.

Consider this snippet from nutritionist Alan Aragon:

“One study found that men consuming an average of 56 grams of ethanol per day (four beers) took in 16 percent more total calories than a matched group of non-drinkers. The two groups–drinkers and non-drinkers–had identical amounts of physical activity. So, logically, you’d think that the drinkers packed on some pounds.

They didn’t. Both groups had the same body-mass index, despite all those excess calories for the drinkers.”

In fact, moderate alcohol consumption increases insulin sensitivity, which we’ve established is a good thing.

Personally, alcohol by itself has never, ever, prevented me from losing fat in the long run, even when drinking multiple times a week.

Kasra even dropped 60 lbs while drinking every day. (Note: I’m not stating whether or not this has other health implications.) It’s the post-binge drinking munchies that make up 95% of the damage.

Below, I refer to two types of days…training days and rest days. To find out more about these, read my guide to the most effective workout program in the world.

How often can I drink?

There are two types of days: the “social drinking” type and the “I’m going to get shitfaced” type.

These two days require a different mindset.

For social drinking days, your mindset should be moving forward with your progress while incorporating alcohol into your diet.

For “I’m going to get shitfaced” type of days, your mindset should be damage control. Making sure that your drinking does not get in the way of your progress too much.

As long as you stick to the rules below, you can probably get away with one day/week of the latter and a few days of the week of the former, depending on your goals and current status.

When can I drink?

First, let’s establish that you’re probably drinking at night, which means if you’re someone who practices intermittent fasting as per my nutrition guide, you shouldn’t worry about the end of your feeding window–you won’t stick to it.

If you drink more frequently, however, you will need to think about adjusting your feeding window.

How much can I drink?

Social drinking days

If you are using the “track” option, then you’ll need to incorporate drinks into your macros for “social drinking” days. Count each drink as 10g of fat and track any necessary carbohydrates as well. There is a full list of substitutes at the end.

If you are using the “rules” option, then this is open ended. You can certainly drink enough to get buzzed or lightly drunk, as long as you stick to the alcohol choice guidelines below. On rest days, keep fat lower than normal and only stick to foods from the list of lean proteins. That’s because alcohol blunts the process of lipolysis–burning fat for fuel–meaning that dietary fat will have a tendency to be stored.

Shitfaced days

Same rules whether you’re using the “Track” option or the “Rules” option. Don’t try to track. Today is about damage mitigation, remember?

Instead, spend the day hitting your protein requirements from lean protein sources only. Today, eat lean protein, vegetables, and maybe some carbs if it’s a training day… but keep it minimal.

After that, have fun. If you’re the type of person who craves food at the end of the night, have some protein waiting for you when you get home. Cottage cheese or greek yogurt are a good choice.

What can I drink?

Rest Days

You may drink as many hard liquors and zero calorie mixers (e.g. diet coke) as you like. You may also drink a moderate amount of extremely light beers (think Michelob Ultra, or you know, things you wouldn’t normally want to drink because they taste like water) and dry red wines. What am I defining as a “moderate amount”? It’s an amount that will get you slightly buzzed.

Why are we avoiding everything else? This is because the only other macronutrient that alcoholic beverages contain is carbohydrates (with some exceptions like White Russians), which we are avoiding today. Hard liquors are carbohydrate free for the most part, and light beers and red wine tend to be lower in carbohydrates. For this reason, we will stick to these drink choices.

That means if you know you will be heading to a Biergarten to knock sausages with some Germans for Oktoberfest, you will probably want to shift around your workout so that drinking day is a Training Day.

You might also want to skip the sausages. Training Days are low fat, high carb, remember?

Training Days

You may consume all types of alcohol under some guidelines.

First, cut down on your usual amount of carbohydrates. Lowering your carbohydrate totals will create a buffer for the additional carbohydrates that you will be consuming from alcohol.

Secondly, if you plan on drinking more sugary mixed drinks (i.e. cosmos, rum and coke) and dark or “tastier” beers (e.g. Guinness Stout), drink them first. Psychologically, these may fire up cravings for other foods, so you don’t want to drink them towards the end of your night when your willpower is most likely to cave in. Once you’ve gotten your fill of these, round out the rest of your night with hard liquor, wine, or beers that are on the moderate end of the carbohydrate spectrum.

Final note–If you are going to be training the next morning, you should still be training hard. Of course, be smart about it. If you are extremely hung over and dehydrated, then it may be best to postpone your Training Day. If you did not drink too heavily and are capable of training, however, it is entirely possible to still PR after a night of drinking. Many people simply have a poor workout because they’ve already resigned to a poor workout. I’ve had some of my best workouts the day after drinking.

List of Substitutes (If tracking)

If you’re tracking pretty closely, you may substitute one serving (glass, shot, etc.) of the following drinks for the macros listed.

Vodka, Whiskey, Scotch, Rum, Gin, Tequila–

10g fat

White wine, Red wine, Champagne–

10g fat, 5g carbohydrates

Most light beers–

10g fat, 8g carbohydrates

Other beers–Varies

Why Lack of Sleep Is Causing Your Bad Habits

This is a guest post by Maneesh Sethi, Founder of Pavlok and sleep expert…but Dick here with a quick introduction:

Aside from the hundreds of emails I get asking for free fitness coaching, one of the most common questions I get is:

“Dick! You’re so good looking, funny, and full of energy. How do you do it? Do you wake up early? What time do you go to bed?”

The answer: A good night’s sleep. And my ADHD medication…kidding. Mostly.

But in all seriousness, when it comes to sources of energy and productivity, sleep is right up there with diet and strength training. Unfortunately, unlike nutrition and fitness, it’s something that I’m not an expert on–so I invited my friend Maneesh to talk about it.

In today’s post Maneesh shares how sleep and routines can affect your habit change journey.


Why Lack of Sleep Is Causing Your Bad Habits by Maneesh Sethi


“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” – Benjamin Franklin


  • Having an extra hour in your day to spend however you wanted.
  • Exercising, meditating, and having a healthy breakfast, all before you head to work.
  • Instead of waking up feeling stressed and rushed out the door, you woke up excited for the day.

It’s not a pipedream, all of the above is entirely possible.


It starts with mastering your evenings and mornings.

Hi I’m Maneesh Sethi, the founder of Pavlok. For those of you who didn’t see me getting yelled at by Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, Pavlok is a wearable device that helps you break bad habits. One of the things that running Pavlok for has allowed me to do is see thousands of data points…what works and what doesn’t when it comes to habit change.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest indicators of successful habit change is the ability to both end your day and start your morning on the right foot.

Today I want to share a few of my findings.

Whether you want to start going to bed at a decent hour, or want to start waking up earlier, understanding habit change and the common roadblocks you will face will help you succeed in the long run.

But first, the elephant in the room.

Most people have “tried” being a morning person before:

They set the alarm for 5 AM.

Maybe the first day they get up no problem.

But after a few days they revert quickly back to their old ways.

Contrary to popular belief, the reason most people fail,  isn’t because they lack “willpower” or “motivation.”

The single biggest reason people aren’t able to start their mornings right is due to lack of sleep. The second biggest reason is not having a plan.

The Devastating Costs of Lack of Sleep

It’s no secret that sleep is important, but it’s easy to understate just how important it really is, especially when it comes to affecting your ability to form good habits.

No matter how many “2592 ways to be successful” blog posts you read or courses you buy, if you’re not getting sleep you’ll likely struggle to get results in your life.

According to the CDC “Those experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.”

If there was a pill that could instantly make your entire life worse, it would be called “No Sleep.

Lack of sleep makes it harder to build good habits, be productive, and even makes you grumpy.


A recent study in bettersleeop.org shared nearly 8 in 10 Americans admit they would be better prepared for the day if they had an extra hour of sleep.


So not getting high quality sleep is a problem. But how do we fix it? Let’s dive in.

Creatures of Habits

Has your friend ever told you he wanted to start waking up early but that he “can’t” because he’s a night owl?

I know I get that all the time.

But in my experience, night owls (as with most things) are made not born.

The truth is, we’re just creatures of habit.

The time you wake up, the time you go to sleep, and what you eat for breakfast are all habits.

And it’s taken thousands of repeated actions to get you are you are today.

Thousands. Of actions.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to change habits, is they set unrealistic expectations.

They expect things to happen over night.

What often happens is they give it a half hearted effort, and then quit when they don’t see results after just a few days.

So when it comes to making changes in your life, play the long game. Overcoming bad habits, and installing new ones in your life take time.

Should You Wake Up Early?

Look. I’m not going to pretend that you have to be  “morning person” to be successful, happy, etc.

Of course you can be crazy successful and sleep in until 1PM in the afternoon.

But if you’re struggling to get where you want to go, becoming a morning person will significantly increase your chances of finding success for most people. Even if you don’t want to wake up at 5 AM, at the very least you can incorporate a powerful 20-30 minute morning ritual which I’ll discuss more later.

One of the best reasons to consider waking up early, is that it gives you the opportunity to work on your habits before all the excuses pile up throughout the day.

Here are just a few things that can have a huge impact on the quality of your life all before most people wake up.

Exercise – I won’t list the hundreds of benefits of exercise here, but making a habit of exercising will help you take care of your body and mind.

Meditation – Waking up early gives you the chance to reflect, meditate, or pray helping you greet the day with a clear head.

Healthy Breakfast – Having the morning to yourself and not being rushed allows you to cook a nice healthy breakfast you might otherwise not get around to. A great meal to start the day will give you a leg up on everyone else.

If you already do all of the above, great! If not, you’re really missing out.

Now that we’ve discussed whether or not you should wake up early, let’s look at how you can go about making that happen.

It Starts With Awareness

If you want to wake up early for example, but haven’t been able to do in the past, chances are, it’s not because you “can’t” but because you’ve been approaching it the wrong way.

Ugh! I slept through my alarm at 5AM!

*Went to bed at 3AM*

When we’re caught up in trying to change our habits, it’s not easy to look at our actions in a deliberate and unbiased manner.

Of course, an outside observer KNOWS going to bed at 3 AM won’t let you get up at 5 AM on a regular basis.

Building awareness of your behavior is key. Which is why when designing Pavlok 2 (and the original Pavlok) we relied heavily on actual peer reviewed studies to ensure Pavlok was actually helping our users through making them aware of their bad habits.

One of the main benefits of our Pavlok wearable, is it helps our users generate awareness around their actions and habits, through a slight shock.

And it’s amazing how many of our users email us back saying something to the effect of “Wow, I had no idea I started smoking the second I left work.”

So if you’re looking to go to bed on time, or wake up early, the first step is to become aware of your current behaviors.

Are you super stressed and unable to go to bed? Do you have a coke later in the evening? Are you drinking too much coffee? Are you glued to your phone until the wee hours of the morning?

Start paying attention to your evening habits. They might unlock the reason why you’re not getting good sleep.

Getting To Bed Earlier

Once you’ve become aware of your bedtime and morning habits, it’s time to start making some changes. Here are a few suggestions to help you get to sleep.

Turn off your electronics an hour before bed.

  • Meditate.
  • Supplement with some melatonin.
  • Listen to some calming music.
  • Do some journaling to unwind from the day.
  • Use flux or some other coloring software to reduce eye strain.
  • Delete your Netflix account. 😉
  • Read fiction.
  • Go to bed around the same time each night.
  • Purchase some light blocking glasses (seriously, they are a game changer.)

Pick one or two from the list and give it a try tonight when you go to bed. Start small and add more as you go along.

While you may not include all over these in your evening ritual, doing just or two will help you build a helpful evening routine.

How To Get Up Earlier

Step 1 – See “Getting To Bed Earlier”

No really. It’s true. If you want to start waking up early, you have to get to bed at a decent hour. There’s no way around it.

You can’t continue your old ways and expect different results.

One of the biggest reasons people fail to get up early, is because they don’t give their body the proper rest it needs. And then they quit before even giving themselves a chance.

Once you start getting to the sleep your body needs, here are a few tips to help you transition into a morning person.

Plan Your Night Before – Planning your night before helps you know exactly what you can accomplish by waking up early. Having a clear picture gives you a reason to get up instead of hitting snooze.

Do Some Exercise As Soon As You Wake Up – One feature of our Pavlok wearable is that is requires you to do some jumping jacks when you wake up — if not you get a nice little zap. One of the best ways to ensure you wake up and stay up, is doing some light exercise the second your alarm goes off.

Track Your Sleep With An App Such As Sleep Cycle or Pavlok:

One of my favorite things about Pavlok, is it tracks your sleep so you know exactly how much you were tossing and turning during the night. Just being aware of how I slept, makes me want to improve my sleep each night, which obviously has some pretty great long term effects.

Build A Morning Routine – Another helpful way to start waking up early is by starting to build a morning routine. Instead of having to think about what you’re going to do, a morning routine allows you to wake up and just do it.

For example, when I wake up, I take a 30 minute bath and do some pushups, and it’s now much harder for me to not do it then it is to actually do it.

Experiment with several positive habits you know will help improve your quality of life. Start meditating. Writing 1000 words. Drinking more water. Doing 7 minutes of exercise. If you start small, these habits will quickly add up.

Changing your sleep behavior can feel pretty overwhelming and like an impossible task. But if approached correctly, it is possible.

Here’s the TLDR of today’s post.

  1. Lack of quality sleep is bad for your health and habits.
  2. Change takes time, don’t beat yourself up.
  3. There are many benefits of waking up early.
  4. Habit change begins with awareness.
  5. If you want to get better sleep you should have an evening routine.
  6. If you want to change your habits, you should have a morning ritual.


Develop awareness around your current habits. Wind down the day properly, and give yourself a reason to wake up excited for the day.

As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

Now go forth and have a productive day.

Thanks a ton to Maneesh for writing this. Make sure to check out Pavlok 2’s Campaign on Indiegogo! – Dick