Look, let’s not beat around the bush. Alcoholic drinks are high in calories, fact. Most of us know this. But did you know that those calories from alcohol are ’empty calories’? Meaning they basically have zero nutritional value. Zero. But worse than that – it actually robs you of vitamins and energy and can actually lead to you eating more …. gulp!
We thought this blog would be worth doing as one of the most common reasons why people join Club Soda is the desire to lose weight and have a more healthy lifestyle. The hidden calories in alcohol can sabotage your efforts to get fitter, healthier and happier. So when we undertake a weight loss plan, we often want to keep the alcohol in, after all it’s part of our social life.
Effectively, alcohol continues to shovel empty calories in, and suck energy out. Check out Drinkaware’s nifty calorific comparisons between alcohol & food equivalents. Doing more exercise, laying off the cake, these are things which will help us lose weight, but if you’re still drinking alcohol, this not only adds calories, but can often leave you feeling slow and lethargic after a night of one too many. Not only are you consuming hidden calories through alcohol, but you’re also more likely eat too much the following day.
So now you’ve consumed about 700 empty calories (One bottle of wine btw) and you’re stumbling home from your night out. What do you stop for? Chips, kebab, cheese? Whatever baffling drunken choices you might make, they are unlikely to be low in calories. In fact a recent YouGov survey found that having one too many could lead you to consume 6,300 calories more than you normally would in the next 24 hours. That’s three days worth of food. On top of what you would normally eat. Does that seem insane to you?
2,829 of those calories come from extra food on your night out, and another 2,051 from all the bacon sandwiches and sprite you need to recover the next day. You could be gaining 2lbs every time you overdo it on the weekend. That adds up!
Not only does alcohol reduce your ability to resist food cravings but according to William Gruchow, a professor at the University of North Carolina, alcohol also stimulates an increase in galanin production. And galanin is a brain chemical that increases your desire for fat. Eating fat also stimulates your galanin production, so that late night burger is making you even more likely to crave fats the next day.
This is kind of obvious. What kind of monster wakes up with a raging hangover and decides to go for a five mile run? If you can get out of bed you’re doing well. Exercise is often off the agenda.
However, there are some other issues it’s also worth considering. Alcohol calories are of no use when it comes to powering exercise. The calories in alcohol lack nutrients that would aid healthy metabolism meaning they hasten fat storage. Alcohol will also have a negative impact on your testosterone production which will affect muscle growth amongst other things.
Drinking after exercising can also cancel out the effects of the workout by impeding muscle growth. On top of all this alcohol’s disruptive influence on your sleep can leave you short of HGH which is essential for muscle repair. Alcohol is also a toxin and it can impede your cells access to energy leaving you feeling lethargic. So it can ruin your exercise for two days, that’s a whole weekend!
A lot of the worst parts of a hangover; headache, dry mouth, lack of energy, can be the effects of dehydration. It seems so counterintuitive that drinking 12 pints can actually leave you dehydrated but we all know it’s true and no matter how much water you drink in between pints you’re still likely to wake up feeling rough. This is because you will only hold onto about ½ to ⅓ of the extra water you drink (if you remember to drink it). Alcohol is a diuretic. For every drink you have you will produce about 120ml of extra urine. That might not seem like that much but normally you would only produce 60-80ml of urine per hour. So if you have a few drinks you are really depleting your fluid levels.
Dehydration can make you more tired and prevent you circulating enough oxygen and nutrients through your body and increase your chances of injuries like cramp, muscle pulls and strains on the off chance you’re some sort of robot who actually made it to the gym.
So alcohol adds calories, robs you of energy and leaves you hideously dehydrated. Is there anything else?
Of course there is! Alcohol also inhibits the absorption of nutrients you do want. Which nutrients you ask? Well almost all of them:
Vitamin A – Vitamin A helps with cell growth, cellular communication and immune system performance.
B Vitamins – There are a lot of B vitamins with a lot of useful roles and alcohol will screw with all of them. B1 (Thiamine) is involved in the metabolism of proteins and fat and the formation of hemoglobin. It is also has an essential role in metabolizing carbohydrates. B2 (Riboflavin) helps with metabolism, B2 deficiency is already fairly common so you don’t want to take any chances. B6 (Pyridoxine) is another common deficiency that can cause anemia and depression and will not be helped by drinking!
Vitamin C – You might have heard that you should take vitamin C to help avoid a hangover. This is supposedly because vitamin C speeds up alcohol metabolization by the liver. It might be a good idea simply because alcohol interferes with vitamin C production.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is necessary for bone health.
Vitamin E – Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, which protects cell membranes helping to maintain healthy skin, eyes and strengthen the immune system.
Vitamin K – Vitamin K deficiencies are pretty rare and very serious but alcohol is still a risk factor.
If you drink a lot you might also be deficient in minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Alcohol doesn’t interfere with their absorption but it does contribute to deficiency in other ways. For example, decreased calcium absorption due to fat malabsorption or iron deficiency related to gastrointestinal bleeding.
If you are trying to get fit and healthy, then you need to make up for this great vitamin robbery before you even start on what you may need to do to become the most perfect version of you that you are after! You may find it useful to look at our list of vitamins to take if you are changing your drinking.
The important thing to remember is that alcohol is a toxin. If you drink a lot your body essentially thinks you are trying to poison it. It interacts with other processes in your body in complicated ways. If you’re looking to make healthy lifestyle changes it makes no sense to ignore the role of alcohol, whether in terms of calories, nutrient depletion, dehydration or its impact on your gym routine. The great benefit of this is all the amazing ways you will feel better when you are in control of your alcohol consumption.