Alcohol and Your Weight
How many of you have struggled losing those last few kilos of weight or heard people complain they don’t know why they are overweight because they don’t overeat? Many people consume the equivalent of a whole meal in alcohol each day without knowing it and wonder why they can’t lose weight.
We see many clients for weight loss and often have to ask them “how many bottles do you drink?”, rather than how many glasses. If their food intake does not reflect their current weight, then often they may be consuming the extra calories in alcohol.
Alcohol is not something people consider to be part of their diet or eating habits, however there is more dietary energy (kilojoules kJ/calories Cal) in alcohol than there is in carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrate contains 16kJ per gram, protein 17kJ per gram and alcohol contains 27kJ per gram!
What is a standard drink?
There is a lot of confusion about what a standard drink is. Many people think that one standard drink is 250ml which is equivalent to one measuring cup of liquid such as water or milk, so when they drink a 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne a night, they think they are drinking only 3 standard drinks. However, there are between 7-8 standard drinks in one bottle (dependent on alcohol content).
One standard stubby of full strength beer is 375ml and contains 1.4 standard drinks. When you ask people how many beers they drink they may say four stubby’s, but they don’t realise they have drunk almost six standard drinks.
If you are drinking every day, then this quickly starts to add up in extra energy and extra weight.
What does this mean to my weight?
Sometimes, reducing your daily alcohol intake is all you need to do to achieve your weight goals. Here’s why:
One standard glass of red wine is 100ml and contains 320kJ (78 Cal). If you are one of the many Australians who drink a whole bottle each night, then that equates to an extra 2400 kJ (573 Cal) in dietary energy per day which is more than eating a Big Mac which contains 2180kJ (521 Cal). The energy in a bottle of white wine is 2212kJ (528 Cal) and sparkling wine contains 2190kJ (523 Cal) which are still more than eating a Big Mac.
One stubby of full strength beer is 375ml and contains 541kJ (129 Cal). One slice of Dominoes Hawaiian pizza contains 628kJ (150 Cal). If you drink 4 stubby’s a night, then it is almost equivalent to eating half a pizza or 2164 kJ (517 Cal). Mid strength beer is only slightly better with 454kJ (108 Cal) per stubby.
Spirits vary considerably depending on what they are mixed with. The standard drink for spirits is 30ml and contains between 250 – 260kJ (60 Cal). Mixing it with soda water is the healthiest option as it only adds about an extra 20kJ. Mixed with tonic or cola can add between 700-800kJ per drink. A standard 375ml can of pre-mixed spirits contains 1.5 standard drinks and contains 986kJ (235 Cal).
Many people will go out drinking on a Friday night, have dinner, drink the equivalent of another meal in alcohol and then stop off for a kebab or pizza on the way home. Then they wake up the next day and eat junk food to try and help with their hangover. Then on Monday they can’t work out why they can’t lose weight.
If you need inspiration to reach your weight goals, then changing your mindset to thinking of alcohol in terms of dietary energy and the food equivalent may be just the trick for success. Here are some tips to help you get on track.
5 Tips for healthier drinking
- Measure your drinks so you know exactly how much you are consuming. A standard drink of wine is only 100ml, not a full glass.
- Reduce the number of drinks you are having on any one day. Try and aim for no more than two standard drinks per day.
- Don’t drink every day. Having a day or more each week without drinking is good for your physical, mental and nutritional health, as well as your waist line.
- Have a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink. This will slow your alcohol intake down and help to prevent dehydration which is the main cause of hangovers.
- If drinking has become a habit, find a new healthier habit such as going for a walk or joining a gym.
Written by Lisa Stegena, Nutritionist, for The West Australian
Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programs, private dietetic consultations, children’s nutrition & dietetics, school nutrition and Corporate Wellness programs. If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.