Yes, you can enjoy a tipple and still lose weight!
Celebratory ‘seasons’ – like Christmas, new year’s eve, birthdays and anniversaries – can mean an endless round of parties, celebrations and social events that have ‘good fun’ written all over them. They’re the perfect chance to catch up with friends and family, and to toast a milestone, event or occasion with a drink or two, which is something to look forward to as well, as long as we don’t overdo it. Because, let’s face it, hangovers are not the nicest thing to deal with. And no one wants to see their weight loss goals disappear into the bottom of a glass, right?
To help you 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 and still see success on the scales.
THE FACT: Alcoholic drinks contain ‘empty’ calories
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 (calories) for your buck without the benefits (no positive impact on your hunger or your health).
Not only are the calories in alcohol empty, there are usually more of them than you think, too. When you transfer those into SmartPoints®, you can see just how the numbers change!
- 175ml glass of red wine - 4 SmartPoints
- Alcopop, lemon - 8 SmartPoints
- 25ml brandy or gin - 2 SmartPoints
THE FIX: Set a drinks budget, bearing in mind your daily SmartPoints allowance and that it’s smart to drink no more than two standard drinks a day, or four on a single occasion (and try 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.
THE 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’ calories on alcohol, you might also be spending extra ones on food as well.
THE FIX: Eat a healthy snack before you have your first drink, and stock your party with plenty of healthy foods to keep hunger at bay. Someone else’s event? Take a healthy plate.
THE 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 1210 calories, 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 calories in a low-carb beer and a regular one.
THE FIX: Look out for ‘extra’ calories 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 calories in the alcohol that make up the biggest chunk of the overall calorie count. It’s the reason why a medium glass of low-alcohol wine is 3 SmartPoints values, but a glass of normal wine is 5 SmartPoints.
THE 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.
THE 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.
The government's unit guidelines state that there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women and both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week.