- Alcohol is nothing more than a drug with empty calories. It contains 7 kcals per gram and offers NO nutritional value.
- Alcohol releases oestrogen into the bloodstream, promoting fat storage and decreasing muscle growth.
- Alcohol stimulates your appetite and weakens your willpower and inhibition — one minute you're having a few drinks, the next you’re shovelling in the last bite of cheesy chips and mayo from your local kebab shop at 3am.
- Alcohol can diminish the body's ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins from the food you eat as it irritates the gastrointestinal tract.
- Not to mention the health-risks involved when drinking alcohol in excess, such as increased risk of mouth, neck and throat cancer (breast cancer too in women), high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis* and infertility to name but a few.
Sorry to scaremonger!
And for the gym buffs…
Did you know that alcohol consumption can decrease testosterone (in men by up to 23%)? The body’s levels of aromatase, an enzyme that helps to convert testosterone to estrogen, increase. This is obviously not something that is welcomed by many guys, or anyone working to reduce body fat. **
An important part of exercise is that we increase our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate – the rate at which the body burns calories at rest) aka raising our metabolism. Maintaining blood sugar levels is one of the metabolism’s main functions and it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels stable. When the metabolism is focusing on flushing the toxins from alcohol from your body as efficiently as possible, your blood sugar levels can drop below a healthy range. During exercise your blood sugars naturally drop, and so post-exercise your body works to replace its glycogen stores. Consuming alcohol particularly after training will halt this process and can cause blood sugar levels to stay at an unhealthy level. This may decrease your BMR (the rate at which the body burns calories at rest).
IF CALORIE INTAKE IS LESS THAN CALORIES USED = WEIGHT LOSS
as the body makes up the energy deficit from your fat stores. If you take one thing away from reading this, it’s that alcohol is not conducive to weight loss. Once you’ve reached your target weight (or giving yourself the occasional night off) you can enjoy sensible amounts alcohol in a maintenance phase, but not when you expect to lose weight. It is your choice whether and how much of your daily calorie allowance you wish to use on alcohol, which contains no nutritional value other than sugar, carbs, toxins and empty calories.
Regardless of what you are drinking, moderation is the key. Beer is incredibly bloating because of its high carb content. Clear spirits such as vodka and gin are relatively lower in calories, but remember that adding a mixer like energy drinks and fruit juice can really up those calories. Dry wines usually have fewer calories than sweet wines, and red wine is said to carry a higher amount of antioxidants than white wine. In fact, red wine has been hailed for its benefits when drunk in moderation. Whilst research states that heavy long-term drinking damages the heart (among increasing the risk of other maladies), moderate drinking poses a reduced risk of heart disease. The French paradox refers to the observation that the French have a lower mortality rate from heart disease than other nations, which has been put down to their regular (but not excessive) consumption of red wine.
- Alcohol consumption counts in your daily calorie allowance.
- Don’t exceed safe limits (3 - 4 units for men, 1 - 2 for women per day).
- It’s pointless saving yourself and then binging on alcohol all in one evening because your body won’t be able to cope metabolically: it will all be piled onto your body as stored fat. Not to mention all the other health implications of binge drinking.
- Don’t skip meals ahead of a big night out drinking as you’ll be more likely to binge on fatty foods later. If you’re planning on drinking later, eat a healthy meal first. You’ll feel fuller, which will stop you from over-drinking.
- Try to have one non-alcoholic drink in between each alcoholic drink (ideally water, to counter dehydration).
- Opt for soda as a mixer instead of fruit juices and fizzy drinks.
- Safety first – don’t drink and drive kids!
Free download for NHS Drinks Tracker App to monitor your drinking
Online Unit and Calorie Calculator to see for yourself how many units and calories you drank last night
* Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver as a result of continuous, long-term liver damage. Scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver and prevents it from functioning properly.
** Sierksma A, et al. Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, testosterone, and estradiol levels in middle-aged men and postmenopausal women: a diet-controlled intervention study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 May;28(5):780-5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15166654