Many people include alcohol in their diet but what they may not think about is the number of calories included in the drinks. Your body has a set number of calories needed to maintain your weight. When you consume more than your body needs, you will gain weight. It is easy to forget that you can drink as many calories as you eat, and that alcohol can cause you to eat more calories after consuming the alcohol.
Some alcoholic drinks can have as many calories as a meal, especially when you add the calories from any juice or soda that is combined with the alcohol. Alcohol stimulates food intake and can also increase feelings of hunger. It is shown that there is a 20% increase in calories consumed at a meal when alcohol was consumed before the meal and around 33% increase when calories from the alcohol were added. Late night munchies are also often associated with a night of drinking.
Having your judgement compromised and increasing your appetite is a recipe for failure for anyone following a weight loss program.
The essential nutrients that your body needs are carbohydrates (includes fibre), protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Alcohol does not fall under the category of essential nutrients as there is no problem if you do not consume it.
Alcohol can interfere with how your body processes and stores nutrients which can lead to digestion and absorption issues and potentially malnourishment. The body processes alcohol first, before fat, protein, or carbohydrates, which means that the consumption of alcohol slows down the body’s metabolic process. The reason for this is, unlike protein, carbohydrates and fat, there is nowhere for alcohol to be stored in our body, so it must be metabolised first.
Consuming elevated amounts of alcohol is associated with abdominal obesity in men known as the “beer belly”. Unfortunately, this also puts you at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, elevated blood lipids, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
But, it does not only affect men, the other impacts of alcohol consumption that can affect everyone:
- Alcohol has no nutritional benefits.
- It reduces the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, K, folate, B1, and B2.
- Increases sugar and fat cravings.
- Over-consumption of alcohol can lead to liver problems.
- Can decrease insulin’s effectiveness, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
Affects on your blood sugar
Normally, when blood sugar drops your body can make more blood sugar or burn up stored sugar. And when your blood sugar rises, additional insulin is secreted to bring your levels back to a healthy range. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can decrease insulin’s effectiveness. Alcohol can also negatively impact blood sugar levels each time that it is consumed, regardless of the frequency of consumption.
Drinking as little as 60ml of alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to very low blood sugar levels, which makes alcohol an even bigger problem for anyone with diabetes. Alcohol can also impact the effectiveness of hypoglycemic medications, so extreme caution needs to be taken when consuming alcohol by anyone with diabetes.
If you do decide to drink alcohol, here are some tips to help reduce the number of calories when you do drink.
- Never drink on an empty stomach, you should always have food in your stomach before you have a drink.
- Limit the amount that you drink.
- Learn to sip your drink to make it last longer.
- Have one non-alcoholic drink in between each alcoholic drink, having water available to quench your thirst while you drink your alcoholic beverages.
- Select light versions whenever possible. “Light” means fewer calories, but these products are not calorie- or alcohol-free, so you still need to limit your intake.
It is recommended to have no more than two standard drinks a day and avoid binge drinking. Do not ‘save’ your drinks using alcohol-free days, only to consume them in one session and you should have at least two alcohol-free days every week.
Drinking alcohol is a social thing for a lot of people, and I’m not saying never drink. I just want you to think about how much you are drinking as well as eating beforehand and drinking non-alcoholic drinks like water between to help quench your thirst. Alcohol does lead to weight gain and other health issues, but if you follow the tips above and cut down the amount it can help reduce the risks. The best thing you could do is to avoid as much as possible and drink very minimal alcohol, but I know this will not suit everyone.