Dietitian Ashleigh Jones shares her tips and tricks for understanding alcohol and calories, and how you can eat in a healthier way.
When it comes to losing weight, many of us focus on what we should and shouldn’t be eating.
But what about liquid calories, especially in the form of alcohol?
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Carbohydrates count, but calories are king
If you’re working hard to make healthy food choices, it’s important that you don’t let your eating habits derail your best efforts. Most people are not surprised to learn that alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and spirits, are not ideal for weight loss. But a lot of people blame the carbs in beer or the sugar in wine and cocktails. This is why low-carb (or even no-carb) beer and sugar-free spritzes have become so popular in recent years.
But when it comes to alcoholic beverages, no carbohydrate equals “no calories.”
A standard 30ml pinch of vodka contains no carbohydrates, protein or fat, but still provides 65 calories. This is because the alcohol molecule itself contains calories. In fact, alcohol provides almost twice as much energy per gram as protein or carbohydrates:
- 1 g of carbohydrates provides 4 calories
- 1 g of protein provides 4 calories
- 1 g of fat provides 9 calories
- 1g of alcohol provides 7 Calories
So how many calories are you drinking?
If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s not just about the calories you consume from alcoholic beverages. You should also consider the impact that your drinking habits may have on your food choices.
Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, which can cause us to indulge in extra snacks or less healthy food choices. Depending on how much you’ve drunk, a kebab at 2 a.m. might seem like a good idea, even if you’ve had a three-course meal for dinner. And let’s not forget the next morning, because a hangover fry is definitely not going to help your weight loss efforts.
Alcohol disrupts our sleep-wake cycle. Yes, it can make you drowsy, but it also disrupts your sleep cycle, making you less likely to get restful sleep. It can also cause you to wake up earlier than you would otherwise.
We know that good quality sleep is crucial for good health, as well as for making good health choices. If you don’t get enough good quality sleep, you’re more likely to make less healthy food choices, and even turn to sugar and fast-acting carbohydrates to boost your energy levels throughout the day. This is bad news for weight loss!
The other problem with binge drinking is its impact on your lifestyle. A big night out will make you a lot less inclined to get up and tackle that morning workout.
If you actually go to the gym, you will start working out dehydrated, and the alcohol in your system will affect both your performance and your recovery.
What to drink if you are trying to lose weight
If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to keep your overall alcohol consumption in mind. Current NHMRC guidelines recommend consuming no more than 4 standard drinks per day to reduce the risk of alcohol damage. Following this rule will not only take care of your health, but also your waistline!
Choose light or medium beers rather than heavy, and try some of the low-alcohol wines available. If you have your favorite strains that you don’t want to stray from, at least try alternating each alcoholic drink with a glass of water or soda.
As with food, keep your serving size in mind. A generous glass of wine, or a pint (570ml) rather than a schooner (425ml) of beer, will make a big difference in your calorie (and alcohol!) Intake at the end of the night.
If you drink spirits, choose sparkling water as the blender of choice. Remember that doubling the alcohol means doubling the calories. A double vodka soda will total 130 calories, not the 65 calories you planned.
The sober revolution
Mocktails and sodas are often loaded with sugar and get a little too sweet if you drink more than one. They can also make you feel like the intruder in social situations.
But the non-alcoholic beverage market is constantly expanding, with a huge range of beers, wines, and even non-alcoholic spirits substitutes available. We’re even seeing non-alcoholic beer available at festivals, concerts, sporting events, pubs, and restaurants!
I’ve tried several and can confirm that they taste the same as the real deal and help you feel like you’re part of the action. At just 80 calories per 375ml bottle or can, non-alcoholic beer is a lower calorie alternative that won’t disrupt your food choices, sleep, physical performance, or overall health.
- Alcohol contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates
- Reducing Your Alcohol Intake Is The Best Strategy For Overall Health And Weight Management
- Choose low-alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks when possible
- Remember that alcohol will also have an impact on your food choices, sleep, exercise, and recovery.
If you need help managing your alcohol consumption, visit Drink wise.
Ashleigh Jones is a Certified Practicing Dietitian with extensive experience in dietetics in hospitals, corporate health, private practice and the food industry. Ashleigh is passionate about promoting healthy habits, especially for busy people, and offers simple and sustainable nutritional solutions.