Do alcohol and dieting mix well? After all alcohol is fat-free and low in carbs! But it’s the calories that count when you’re watching your weight and alcohol has plenty of empty calories that add to your daily intake. Let’s try and figure out how you can include a bit of alcohol without derailing your diet.Alcohol Facts
First, it’s important to understand how calories from alcohol effect your body. Alcohol temporarily hits the ‘pause’ button on your metabolism and forces it to start burning the alcohol calories. Your body cannot store these calories for later as it views alcohol as a toxin and starts working on it immediately. This also means that your last meal is stored as fat, since the body cannot properly break down carbohydrates and fat as it is occupied with the alcohol. In addition, alcohol dramatically decreases the rate at which belly fat gets burned – hence the term ‘beer belly’.
Keep it Clean
When it comes to choosing your drink, the simpler the better. Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram and if you mix it with juices, sodas and other flavours it can really hike the calorie count. So pure spirits such as a shot (1 ounce) of vodka, rum or gin (about 100 calories per ounce) are your safest bet when you’re watching your weight. If you must mix it with something, go for club soda (calorie and sugar free) or diet tonic. Diet colas can also add calories, though much less than say a juice mixer. Steer clear of mixed cocktails – a pina colada with added pineapple juice and coconut cream has a whopping 250 calories. Beer can be quite detrimental to your diet – a pint of it contains about 180-200 calories. If beer is your poison, opt for a dark one such as Guinness, which has (marginally) fewer calories compared to a Heineken, for example. Avoid liqueurs as they are generally artificially sweetened with high-calorie fructose corn syrup.
Red Red Wine
What about the ‘one glass of red wine is OK’ studies that keep getting published, you ask? Wine is a low-calorie drink, about 25 per ounce. So a glass of wine (5-6 oz) has about 100-125 calories. If you’d like a wine, opt for a white wine, preferably dry, as these have low sugar content. Red wines and sweet whites (such as Riesling or Zinfandel) are higher on sugar.
Remember to eat when you drink. Alcohol sends your blood sugar soaring since it contains simple carbs. Eating a protein and fibre rich meal or snack before a drink will stabilise your blood sugar level and will also prevent the alcohol from being absorbed in your bloodstream rapidly. Plus you will be less likely to munch on the greasy, high calorie bar snacks on offer.
And lastly, moderation is the key. Don’t go overboard with your drink – an occasional drink or two won’t undo your diet but a binge definitely will. So saving your ‘one drink a day’ to go on a bar crawl over the weekend is certainly not a good idea!
1 ounce is approximately 30 ml
1 pint is approximately 470 ml
Don't fret! Beer and Wine have some health benefits too! Read more about them here.
Get Started with Fitness: