How to balance losing weight with enjoying a drink
Weight loss and alcohol
Celebratory events – think everything from Christmas and New Year’s Eve to birthdays and anniversaries – can mean an endless round of parties, celebrations and social events that have ‘good fun’ written all over them. Which is great because it’s a chance to catch up with friends and family, and to toast a milestone, event or holiday.
It can also be an opportunity to enjoy a drink or two, which is something to look forward to as well – just try not to overdo it. Because, let’s face it, hangovers are not only nasty, they’re unhealthy. And no one wants to see their weight-loss goals disappear into the bottom of a glass, right? To help navigate your next celebration, here are the main things to remember when it comes to alcohol. These will help you rethink how and what you drink, so you can still enjoy a tipple.
FACT: Alcoholic drinks contain ‘empty’ kilojoules
By ‘empty’ we mean they provide plenty of fuel or energy without many, or any, essential nutrients to go with them. So you get a lot of bang (kilojoules) for your buck without the benefits (no positive impact on your hunger or your health).
Not only are the kilojoules in alcohol empty, there are usually more of them than you think, too. Exact quantities differ but as a general rule, a standard drink, which is a 100ml glass of wine, a 375ml bottle of mid-strength beer, or a 30ml nip of spirits, contains around 280–380kJ. Get through three drinks and it’s like eating two or three scoops of ice cream!
FIX: Set a drinks budget, bearing in mind your SmartPoints allowance and that it’s smart to drink no more than two standard drinks a day, or four on a single occasion (and aim for two alcohol-free days a week). To stick to the budget and stay hydrated, drink a glass of water between every alcoholic drink. And because we pour 30 per cent more alcohol into short, squat glasses, choose a tall, thin one.
FACT: After a few drinks, food seems more attractive
It’s not just a theory – scientists recently proved it, finding that by influencing how the brain responds to food aromas, drinking alcohol can significantly increase your food intake. It’s an effect that can turn enjoying a drink into a double whammy because not only are you ‘spending’ kilojoules on alcohol, you might also be spending extra ones on food as well.
FIX: Eat a healthy snack before you have your first drink, and stock your party with nutritious zero Points foods to help keep hunger at bay. Someone else’s event? Take a healthy plate.
FACT: Some drinks are a better choice than others
By ‘better’ we mean some will have less impact on your weight-loss goals than others. For example, the creamy cocktail that looks so enticing? It might contain as many as 1210kJ, which is four times as many as a glass of wine! And beware of drinks, particularly beers, marketed as being better for your waistline purely because they’re ‘low carb’. In fact, there’s little, if any, difference between the kilojoules in a low-carb beer and a regular one.
FIX: Look out for ‘extra’ kilojoules in the form of things like cream, sugar syrups and sweet mixers (go for soda rather than tonic, lemonade or cola). And choose low-alcohol wines and beers, because with those drinks, it’s the kilojoules in the alcohol that make up the biggest chunk of the overall kilojoule count. It’s the reason why a 150ml glass of low-alcohol red wine is worth 2 SmartPoints values but a glass of full-strength red wine is worth 4 SmartPoints.
FACT: Alcohol affects you faster if you drink it on an empty stomach
Without food in your stomach to slow down the rate at which alcohol passes into your bloodstream, it takes just a few minutes after you take the first sip for the alcohol to reach your brain. It means you’ll hit a higher blood alcohol concentration sooner than someone who’s eaten a meal, and when that happens it can be harder to judge how many drinks are too many.
FIX: Make sure you have something to eat before you have a drink, preferably something that contains carbohydrate and healthy fats, both of which slow down the absorption of alcohol. And drink a glass of water before you have your first alcoholic drink, because if you’re thirsty when you get your hands on a beer or a glass of wine, you’ll be more likely to guzzle it.