In this day and age, alcohol and socialising come hand in hand. In this blog I aim to explain the impact alcohol can have on your diet, and provide you with some strategies to reduce the negative effects. Whether it is swapping your drink of choice for a lower calorie option, learning to be more mindful of your food & drink choices on the day of/after drinking, or simply reducing your consumption altogether – I hope that after reading this you will understand how it is possible to incorporate MODERATE drinking into a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
Yeah, that’s pretty much what I see when reading things on my phone when hungover. Top tip, don’t read this after a night out!
The research to date:
- Oxidative stress and inflammation on the brain (1)(2)
- Hormone and metabolic disturbances – homeostasis
- Lack of sleep
- Dehydration causing: fatigue, cognitive impairment, headaches etc
- Congeners in certain alcoholic drinks
I’d love to explain the magic method to alleviate your hangover, carry on your day as normal and not be in a deep state of “depression” thinking about what you did the night before. We all know the day after drinking comes with big consequences on your mind set: ‘What did I do last night? Oh sh*t my phones cracked! How much did I eat and drink? I must’ve drank and ate so much. I’m never going out again, I’m going to start dieting tomorrow, but today…today i’m going to eat the world and be happy.
The truth is, researchers aren’t sure how alcohol physiologically inhibits our mind and body the day after, but these factors above are the partial contributors.
Therefore, I’m afraid I can’t prevent your phone from smashing, I most definitely can’t impact your bad decision making but in regard to nutrition I shall attempt to relieve you of your paranoia and weight gaining nightmares for the following day. I’m also going to provide you with steps & tips to prevent the worst case scenario & aid in creating that social lifestyle aligning with your nutrition, training & body compositional goals.
Calories held in certain drinks:
(not exact – depends on the brand and proof of the alcohol)
- 1 pint of lager = 200+ calories
- 1 large glass of wine (250ml) = 210+ calories
- 1 flute glass champagne (175ml) = 90 calories
- 50ml of liqueur = 170 calories
- 25ml of spirit (gin, vodka) = 60 calories
- 25ml dark spirit (rum, whisky) = 85+ calories
High Calorie Alcoholic Drinks:
- Sugary Spirits/Liqueurs
- All lagers, ales & ciders.
- White wine, red wine
Low Calorie Alcoholic Drinks:
- Single Gin & slimline tonic = 60 kcals
- Single Vodka & diet coke/diet lemonade = 60-80 kcals
- 1 bottle Coors & Budweiser light = 100 calories
- 1 small glass of Rose (120ml) = 83 calories
So you now know how many calories you’ll potentially consume from alcohol in one single night out if you aren’t tracking or mindful; 5 pints or 5 glasses of wine = 1,000 calories. This isn’t a scare tactic. Well actually it kind of is, but the aim here is to inform & make you aware. you still need to allow for social events and enjoy yourself but I’m here to teach you how to do it in the best way possible.
You also know that you need to try and stay away from the higher calorie options listed above if you’re drinking in excess.
The sad thing is, it happens to be significantly easier to consume calories than it is to burn them, especially when alcohol is involved…
2/2.5 pints of lager = 5k run
1/1.5 glasses of wine = 1 hour walk
The above figures are just estimates based on the ‘average person’, because our bodyweight and other factors will determine calories burnt in exercise.
Now we’ve discussed calories in alcohol, but what about the Big Mac you scoff down after a night out and the takeaway you get the next day?
Big Mac & Chips = about 1,000 calories.
That’s 2,000 calories in alcohol and fast food – both containing little nutritious value. But what’s worse is that it’s 2,000 calories on top of what you ate that day, and that isn’t including the takeaway we all feel obliged to order on the hangover day! This will put your weekly average calorie count a lot higher than anticipated – keep reading and I’ll tell you how to counteract this.
How many of you count your calories, eat healthy nutritious food, exercise every week day and think you “deserve” a binge on the weekend – loads of drinks and a big takeaway.
Or how many of you just think you deserve it for getting through a week at work?
I’m adamant that this mindset and thinking we deserve to go off the rails at the weekend after being “good” for 5 days straight, is preventing so many people from maintaining a healthy bodyweight or achieving their desired body fat % & ultimately being happy with their lifestyle, in the moment it provides fantastic gratification but the next day, we feel regret & anxiety. This encourages people to think that the process isn’t working for them and can lead to further complications like bad relationship with food and alcohol as well as eating disorders.
We as humans are never going to stop going out and drinking, social interactions are important for mental health as much as anything else so I’m not saying stay in, don’t drink and don’t get takeaways. The message I’m trying to get across to you all is that we can do these things, every weekend if you want, but we must be mindful and eat/drink in moderation if we want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, whilst staying in shape and watching our weight.
A classic example of this, is what people call ‘The Dubai Stone’. This is a commonly used phrase amongst expats in Dubai, and refers to the rapid weight gain many appear to experience within their first few months living here. There are numerous reasons for this:
- Meeting new people: usually involves meals out, nights out, casual drinks
- Increased drinking = more hangovers = more sh*tty food
- Takeaways easily accessible
- Weather making it too hot to walk
- Expensive supermarkets combined with the ease of having anything delivered to your door step 24 hours a day, makes ordering in a much more attractive option than home cooking for a lot of people.
Another example is summer holidays. For most people a summer holiday will involve a considerably higher amount of eating and drinking than in their average week. They leave for the holiday in good shape and come back 2kg heavier. The reason for this is simple: too many calories from eating out and high alcohol consumption. But the reason behind their mentality of binging all holiday is because they haven’t been taught the principles behind weight loss or weight gain. They’ve probably paid a knock off PT to feed them rabbit food and force them to do HIIT workouts daily for 2 months. No wonder they’ve lost weight so quick and gained it back within a week… it’s because their deficit is so large that when they reach the date of their holiday, their maintenance has dropped so far below normal, that consuming 1,400 calories is probably a 500 calorie surplus to them!
What if I told you that you don’t have to sacrifice these social events or obsess over tracking calories on holiday, and that there are multiple ways to eliminate half of the calories you’re consuming during these times?
Below are some simple methods that everyone could do with applying.
- Consume lower calories & high protein that day in order to compensate for the night to come
- Opt for lower calorie alcohol drinks & mixers (see below)
- Ensure you’re in a deficit during the working week, so your weekly average calories remain under maintenance
- Exercise on the day you’re going out – you’ll gain a positive mind set due to the endorphins released from exercise, which could mean you’re more likely to be mindful of your food choices that evening… maybe?
- Make sure you’ve got food stocked in the fridge to eat the next day, and reduce chances of ordering – don’t binge the next day and regard it as a ‘f*ck it I’m hanging I’ll get a large dominoes stuffed crust today and get back on it tomorrow’ (Large dominoes stuffed crust has over 3,000 calories by the way)
- IF you feel like you won’t survive without a takeaway, fast in the morning and have your takeaway in the afternoon as your only meal that day
- If you’re not willing to track calories, then just eat as healthy as possible with high protein foods (healthy foods are generally lower in calories)
- If a big fat burger is the ONLY thing that cures your hangover, why not make one yourself? This way, you’re still satisfying your cravings, but you can track the calories and make it a lot lower by grilling chicken or using low fat sauces and cheese
- Don’t drink on a night out? Ha ha good banter
- Mackus M, et al. Proceeding of the 8th Alcohol Hangover Research Group Meeting . Curr Drug Abuse Rev. (2017)
- Penning R, et al. The pathology of alcohol hangover . Curr Drug Abuse Rev. (2010)