Nutritionist Ashleigh Jones shares her tips and tricks for understanding alcohol and calories, and how to consume more healthily.

When it comes to Weight loss, many of us focus on what we should and shouldn’t eat.

But what about liquid calories, especially in the form of alcohol?

Do you like what you see? Sign up for our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.

Carbohydrates are important, but calories are king

When you are working hard to choose a healthy diet, it is important that you do not let your drinking habits thwart all of your efforts. Most people are not surprised to learn that alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and spirits are not suitable for weight loss. But a lot of people blame the carbohydrates in beer or the sugar in wine and cocktails. This is why low-carb (or even carb-free) beers and sugar-free spritzers have become so popular in recent years.

But when it comes to alcoholic beverages, no carbohydrate is like “no calories”.

A standard 30ml nip of vodka does not contain carbohydrates, proteins or fats, but still provides 65 calories. That’s because the alcohol molecule itself contains calories. In fact, alcohol provides almost twice as much energy per gram as protein or carbohydrates:

  • 1g of carbohydrates provide 4 calories
  • 1g of protein provides 4 calories
  • 1g of fat provides 9 calories
  • 1g of alcohol provides 7 calories

So how many calories are you drinking?

Gateway calories

Trying to lose weight is not just about the calories you consume from alcoholic beverages. You also need to consider how your drinking habits could affect your food choices.

Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, which can lead us to indulge in extra snacks or less healthy foods. Depending on how much you’ve drank, a kebab at 2 a.m. sounds like a good idea – even if you had a three-course dinner for dinner. And let’s not forget the morning after, because a hungover frying is certainly not going to help you in your weight loss efforts.

Sleep

Alcohol disrupts our sleep-wake cycle. Yes, it can make you sleepy, but it also disrupts your sleep cycle, making you less likely to enjoy a good night’s sleep. It can also make you wake up earlier than you otherwise would.

We know that good sleep is critical to good health and also to good health choices. When you’re not getting enough good quality sleep, you’re more likely to choose less healthy foods and even look for sugars and fast-acting carbohydrates to boost your energy levels throughout the day. This is bad news for weight loss!

Exercise performance

The other problem with excessive alcohol consumption is its impact on your lifestyle. A big night will leave you much less inclined to get up and tackle the morning fitness session.

If you actually make it to the gym, you will start the session dehydrated and the alcohol in your system will affect both your performance and your recovery.

What Do You Drink When Trying To Lose Weight?

When deciding to consume alcohol, it is important to keep track of your overall alcohol consumption. Current NHMRC guidelines recommend consuming no more than 4 standard beverages in a single day to reduce the risk of alcohol harm. If you stick to this rule, you will not only protect your health, but also your waist!

Choose light or medium beers rather than heavy ones and try some of the low alcohol wines available. If you have your favorite flavors that you don’t want to deviate from, at least try alternating each alcoholic drink with a glass of water or soda water.

As with food, think about your portion size. A generous sip of wine or a pint (570 ml) instead of a saver (425 ml) beer will change your calorie (and alcohol!) Consumption significantly at the end of the night.

If you drink liquor, choose soda water as your blender of choice. Remember, double alcohol also means double calories. A double vodka soda has 130 calories, not the 65 calories you planned on.

The sober revolution

Mocktails and soft drinks are often loaded with sugar and turn out a bit too sweet if you consume more than one. They can also make you feel like the weird one in social situations.

But the non-alcoholic beverage market is constantly growing, with a huge selection of non-alcoholic beers, wines, and even liquor substitutes. We even see non-alcoholic beer at festivals, concerts, sporting events, pubs and restaurants!

I’ve tried a few and can confirm that they taste just like the real thing and make you feel like you’re part of the action. At just 80 calories per 375 ml bottle or can, non-alcoholic beer is a low-calorie alternative that won’t interfere with your food choices, sleep, exercise performance, or overall health.

Summary

  • Alcohol contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates
  • Reducing alcohol consumption is the best strategy for overall health and weight control
  • If possible, choose soft drinks or no alcoholic drinks
  • Remember that alcohol also affects your eating habits, sleep, exercise, and recovery

If you need help controlling your alcohol use visit DrinkWise.

Ashleigh Jones is an accredited practicing nutritionist with extensive experience in dietetics in hospitals, healthcare, private practices and the food industry. Ashleigh is passionate about promoting healthy habits, especially for busy people, and providing simple and sustainable nutritional solutions.