Warning!!! Some readers may not appreciate this blog, but don’t shoot the messenger. I have been avoiding this topic. However, in honour of the May long-weekend, I thought it was time that I finally address the topic of alcohol.
Alcohol could easily be sabotaging your body composition goals. The calories in alcoholic beverages come from the alcohol, which contains 7 kcal/gram. In comparison, protein and carbohydrates contain 4 kcal/gram and fat provides 9 kcal/gram. 1 shot contains about 100 calories, a 6 oz. glass of wine about 160 calories or a bottle of beer about 150 calories. On top of this, other ingredients such as sugar, cream or fruit juice are often added to alcoholic drinks and further increase the calorie content. The calories in alcoholic beverages can easily add up.
Another reason that alcohol could lead to weight gain is that alcohol consumption is often accompanied with poor food choices or unplanned food consumption. Any university student who has stopped for pizza after a night out at the bars can verify this. However, it’s not a good idea to “save” calories from food to put toward alcohol calories. Alcohol lacks the essential vitamins and minerals that are needed for health and practicing this type of “calorie swap” could lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Alcohol can not only lead to unwanted weight gain, but also interfere with sports performance because of its negative effect on recovery. Alcohol impedes muscle growth. Post-exercise there is an increased protein synthesis to facilitate muscle growth. Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to do synthesize protein. Alcohol not only interferes with muscle growth, but also glycogen synthesis. Glycogen stores become depleted during exercise to fuel activity. After exercise, the food we eat replenishes these depleted glycogen stores. Drink alcohol post-exercise and your ability to restore glycogen will be disturbed, negatively impacting future workouts.
Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that it causes your body to lose water. Exercise usually results in dehydration, so one post-exercise goal should be to rehydrate to replace the fluids lost through sweat. Alcohol does the exact opposite by causing further water loss. Some general advice: Don’t drink alcohol if you are thirsty since it will lead to further dehydration. Rather, have water with your alcoholic beverage. You should also avoid salty foods such as chips or salted peanuts while drinking because it will only make you thirstier.
I’m not saying that you need to completely cut out alcohol, but like all things, it should be enjoyed in moderation. Women should aim for less than 2-3 units/day and men less than 3-4 units per day. No, you cannot save up your units and use them all in one evening!
- 1 pint beer= 2 units
- 1 oz glass of spirits= 1 unit
- 4 oz glass of wine= 1.5 unit
This upcoming weekend, I will be running the Ottawa marathon. Follow me on instagram: @the.running.dietitian and facebook: Megan Kuikman Registered Dietitian to stay updated as I try to survive the dreaded tapering and take my carbohydrate loading to the extreme.