There’s no doubt that many of us enjoy a drink and in moderation it is fine but if you are trying to lose weight, how much you drink could be stopping you from achieving your weight loss goals and here’s why.
No matter what diet or weight loss plan you follow, at the end of the day it all comes down to calories. We all require a certain number of calories a day to maintain our weight. Eat more than you need and you’ll gain weight, eat less and you’ll lose weight. Simple, right? As anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows, weight loss is not that easy or simple and the last thing you want to do is jeopardise your efforts by consuming empty calories.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. Now that may not sound like much but when you compare it to carbohydrates (4 calories per gram), protein (4 calories per gram) and fat (9 calories per gram), its starts to look a little bad. Add to that the unfortunate fact that alcohol contains NO nutrients and things really start to look bad for alcohol. Not only are you drinking something high in calories but they are empty calories with no nutritional value what-so-ever.
This on its own is bad enough but given that many people (especially women) drink mixed drinks and cocktails, the news gets even worse. Mixed drinks and cocktails usually have the added calories of regular soft drink (soda), juice, and/or cream. Yes, you guessed it – even more empty calories tipping your daily calories consumption way passed what it should be. This is definitely something you don’t need when you are trying to lose weight.
Another negative for alcohol when you are trying to lose weight is that it acts as a diuretic. This means that it stimulates your kidneys and causes more visits to the toilet than normal. While this can be annoying enough when you are trying to enjoy a night out, the constant need to visit the toilet leads to dehydration. To fix this your body tries to encourage you to drink more by making you feel thirsty. Unfortunately, more alcohol equals more trips to the toilet which equals more dehydration and the cycle continues. If you are planning a night out and want to ward of the dehydration try alternating a glass of your favourite drink with a glass of water. Not only will it help you to stay hydrated but it will cut your calorie consumption and help ward off a hangover.
Another way alcohol helps to sabotage your weight loss efforts is by stimulating your appetite. We’ve all been there – sitting at the bar, absent-mindedly eating peanuts or enjoying a parma with greasy chips with our mates, but sadly this only makes weight loss harder. Pub meals are notoriously high in fat and if you add the calories from your meal with the calories from your alcohol, there goes your efforts for the week in one foul swoop. And let’s not forget the late night visit for a kebab or hamburger – too many calories to mention – or the hangover cure the next morning of more greasy food. When you look at it like this, it’s no wonder losing weight is difficult when combined with a night out.
It’s not just the night’s out that will cause you trouble. Alcohol will increase your appetite no matter where you are. Cheese platters or pâté after dinner with wine, chips and dip, or even a barbeque will all add calories without a thought.
How you can lose weight and enjoy a drink
After all the bad news above, you are probably starting to think that you will have to give up drinking if you want to lose weight. Reducing your intake of alcohol is always beneficial, not just for weight loss but for your general health as well. The good news is that it is possible to continue to enjoy your favourite drink and lose weight, and it all comes down to a little planning and food swapping. Here are a few tips to help you take control, lose weight, and continue to enjoy a drink.
Tip 1: Look at what you drink
What do you currently drink? Beer, wine, mixed drinks, cocktails? The key to successfully enjoying a drink while losing weight is to modify it where possible. If you drink beer, try swapping to light and taking longer to drink it. If mixed drinks are you choice, try mixing them with diet cola or diet lemonade, and for cocktails, try opting for ones that don’t contain cream. Another option that many people use successfully is to alternate their drinks. Try to make every second drink a water or diet soft drink. This will help to cut the calories and alcohol.
Tip 2: Choose your food wisely
Whether you are out for a meal, enjoying a barbeque or snacking while watching the footy, try being more conscious of what you eat. If you are out for a meal, ask for sauces or gravy on the side, swap chips for salad or baked potato, and choose grilled meat rather than crumbed. At home, barbeque some fish or chicken rather than sausages and make your own potato salad and coleslaw with low fat mayonnaise. Replace chips with rice crackers or vegetable pieces, and swap dips for light dips, salsa or Greek yoghurt. If cheese platters are more your style, try choosing low fat versions of your favourite cheese, along with fruit cheese and add some vegetable pieces, chopped fruit, rice crackers to your platter.
Tip 3: Remember to exercise
Exercise is an important element in any successful weight loss program no matter how you go about it. Thirty minutes a day will help to improve your general health and well-being while up to an hour will increase your weight loss goals. If you are planning a night out (or a night in, for that matter), make sure you get some exercise in beforehand. One word of caution: don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking exercise means you can drink more – it doesn’t. Exercise will however help to balance out any extra calories you consume while enjoying a few drinks and some good food.
Like most things in life, moderation is the key when you are trying to lose weight and drinking is no different. By alternating your alcoholic drinks with diet drinks or water, or choosing a diet mixer, and making a few changes to what you eat while drinking, you can lose weight and enjoy a drink. But beware, too much alcohol, too much high fat foods, and too little exercise will see you gaining weight rather than losing it.