Friday, 2 May 2014

Cocktail Calories

All of us love a drink from time to time, some of us like more than one!As a student I am a particular fan of shotting tequila (sometimes a bit too much tequila!) and I can certainly match my guy friend for pints of lager.  Alcohol is a great stress reliever and a huge part of social life in Britain. There are some that argue that alcohol doesn't do any harm, its empty calories which the body cannot absorb. However, the vast majority of fitness experts argue it can be detrimental to weight loss and diet! My personal trainer refers to two of his clients who go out for drinks every weekend and come back on Monday 2 pounds heavier.  

The knowledge that a glass of wine has the same amount of calories as four cookies, whilst a pint of beer has the same amount of calories as a large slice of pizza is slightly concerning. Indeed, in one episode of Secret Eaters it was revealed that one of the women consumed 2000 calories a day just in alcohol! Two bottles of beer contain the same amount of calories, and far less nutrition, than a sirloin steak! A huge issue with our love of alcohol then is that we do not make allowances for the alcoholic calories in our daily calorie allowance. The average woman needs about 2000 calories a day in order to maintain her weight. Therefore if we intend to drink 500 calories worth of alcohol in a night we should reduce our food for the day likewise. This however, can have a negative impact on nutrition as we are replacing food packed with nutrients we need, with the empty calories and toxins in alcohol.

Research has suggested that alcohol does not make you gain weight because your body physically cannot store the calories from it. In fact one study found that non drinkers put on more weight than those who frequently drank a moderate amount of alcohol. The argument is that when calories in food were worked out it was by burning it to test for energy, clearly alcohol burns fast and so it was given a high calorific factor. However, the calories in it have as much point as if we ate coal. The body cannot process or absorb them. 

Although I am not convinced by this argument alone, there are further flaws to add to it. A problem with alcohol is the fact that it tends to make people hungrier. It is a staple part of a night out to take a 3am trip to Mcdonalds or Marylands adding up to 1000 calories onto what has already been consumed in the day! Now don't get me wrong, nothing tastes better than crispy Maryland's chicken or a greasy fat kebab when you're crashing on the sofa after a particularly insane night out. The temptation to avoid fatty and sugary food when drunk is understandably extremely difficult to resist and this a real danger to look out for! A huge way to reduce the damage done by alcohol to weight loss then will be to avoid the draw of the fatty fast foods!

A further problem is that when the body is absorbing alcohol it is not absorbing the food we have eaten. The processing of alcohol takes priority over anything else as the body rushes to get the toxins out of the body. This means that your body will stop processing the dinner you ate before the night out in preference of sambucca you just shotted. Then, to make matters worse, it will ignore the kebab you wolfed down to focus on freeing your body from that last triples vodka and redbull. Not only does this slow down your metabolism and inhibit the absorption of real nutrients, it increases the liklihood that the food you eat will be stored as fat rather than used for energy. 

There are a lot of myths surrounding alcohol and it is difficult to know exactly what to believe. What can safely be assumed however, is that anyone who is serious about getting fit and healthy needs to keep an eye on those liquid calories and limit alcohol fueled nights to a special treat!


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