I often get asked “Is it OK to have a drink when following a healthy food and fitness plan…?” My answer is always the same. Life is for living – so enjoy everything in moderation. That said however – it might be helpful to understand a little about the effects of alcohol on the body – specifically when it comes to a fitness plan. So how does alcohol affect the body from a training point of view? Here’s a few interesting facts…..
1: Alcohol Affects Weight Loss
If weight loss is your goal then the consumption of alcohol could be damaging. Alcohol has almost double the amount of calories per gram compared to proteins and carbohydrates.
Alcohol = 7 calories per gram
Proteins = 4 calories per gram
Carbs = 4 calories per gram
On top of that – alcohol calories don’t contain any of the nutrients that help promote a healthy metabolism and a slow metabolism means fat storage.
2: Alcohol Affects Testosterone Levels
If you are looking to gain muscle – it’s good to keep in mind that alcohol lowers testosterone levels in the body. The hormone testosterone is needed for growing muscle. Consuming alcohol suppresses the production of testosterone (this applies to both men and women though for women the level of testosterone in the body it’d naturally MUCH lower than that for men.) Testosterone also plays a role in fat metabolism, helping to burn fat more efficiently. Dropping levels of testosterone can cause an increase in body fat.
3: Alcohol Increases Appetite
I think everyone can relate to this. Alcohol definitely increases appetite causing people in many cases to opt for fast food before the night is through. Foods that you might not usually opt for and food that is high in calories and fat. If you think about it – are the calories you are burning in the gym daily adding up to MORE or LESS than the calories you consume whilst out socializing?
And it’s not only the calories you need to watch on a night out. It’s also the sugar content in each drink. Here is a little look at some typical drinks and their calories and sugar. (All the values listed below are sourced online – as most companies do not list the nutritional information. In each case the number is a good indication of what each drink contains.)
Glass of White Wine – 110 calories 1.4g Sugar
Glass of Red Wine – 109 calories 0.8g Sugar
Bottle of Vodka Mix (eg. WKD/Smirnoff Ice) – 185 calories 14g Sugar
Glass of Champagne – 113 Calories 2.5g Sugar
Glass of Prosecco – 69 Calories 1g Sugar
Pint of Beer – 233 Calories 17g Sugar
Pint of Cider – 210 Calories 23g Sugar
Bottle of Beer – 139 Calories 11g Sugar
Bottle of Light Beer – 94 Calories 4g Sugar
Putting this into perspective – a pint of beer is ALMOST as calorific as a standard size bar of Dairy Milk chocolate which comes in at 280 calories and 30g of sugar. Consume 5 pints of beer and you are racking up 1165 calories and an incredible 85g of sugar.
The thing with consuming alcohol is that we rarely count it into our calorie intake, we don’t count it as a “cheat meal” and then more often than not we splurge the next day on “hangover food”. Drinks should be seen as occasional treats. You need to recognise the added calories you have taken in. On a night out I usually opt for wine, prosecco or Vodka with soda water and fresh lime. Keeping the calories and sugar low is important to me to ensure I don’t undo all the hard work I put in during the week at the gym. I also tend to skip the “cheat meal” the next day if I’m having a few drinks and count the alcohol (usually with a meal on a night out) as my cheat.
Getting “back on it” the next day is the trick to not overdoing it. Pass on the stodgy breakfast roll and opt for oats instead. A banana – full of potassium – will help with any nausea and coconut water is great for rehydrating and rebalancing electrolytes. Here’s a little POST on how to cure your hangover blues the right way! The most important thing is to get back to your normal routine as quickly as possible and not let the bad calories continue. Enjoy your “you” time but be clever about it when you have a goal to reach.
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