Alcohol forms a part of most of our social lives and for many having a drink in the evening helps to de-stress and relax. However we need to be aware that alcohol carries many calories and when trying to lose weight or maintain weight a few extra drinks can add some significant centimeters on your waistline.

So whether you are the occasional social drinker or the regular drinker you need to understand how alcohol affects your diet and weight loss goals.

Alcohol affects all our systems that – our central nervous system, gut, intestines, circulatory system, hormones, liver, pancreas and reproductive system. With so many systems affected we should take a closer look at the choices we are making around alcohol. Alcohol is considered a toxin to the body, and can’t be stored – for this reason, when we drink alcohol the body gives it priority to metabolize and get rid of (ahead of all other systems). The body therefore uses this as the primary energy fuel – thereby slowing down the “fat burning” process. It is estimated that alcohol slows fat burning potential by up to 36%. Around 20% is absorbed and goes directly into the bloodstream, and straight to the brain. The rest gets absorbed in the gut, and gets excreted via our saliva and sweat (know the smell of someone oozing with alcohol?)

It is recommended that women have 2-3 units alcohol a day and men 3-4 units a day.
Double whiskey = 2 units alcohol eg 2 tots whiskey per day
125ml Red Wine = 1.6 units alcohol eg one glass 250ml red wine (not the bottle)
A cosmopolitan = 2 units alcohol

Tips to control alcohol calories in your diet:

1. Mixing your drinks with soda water and using fresh lime or lemon as opposed to cordials is a good idea. Tonic water is high in sugar – 9g per 100ml, or almost 2 teaspoons sugar. Mix drinks with sugar free cooldrink.
2. Choose light beers or wines. This will save you lots of additional kilo joules.
3. Have a meal before drinking with friends. Keep the meal low in starch or avoid the starch completely.
4. Drink plenty of water in between drinks, and add ice to your drinks. When you get home, have 2 – 3 glasses of water before bed. Alternate a drink with a glass of water or sugar free cooldrink.
5. Cocktails can range from between 100 – 400 calories per drink, so keep these for special occasions. They are high in sugar.
6. If weight loss is your goal, alcohol should be kept to a minimum and definitely not every day. If you are opting for a drink or two, stay away from a high carbohydrate meal, as the alcohol already has plenty of carbohydrates and sugars in.
7. Remember that you are usually snacking before a meal with your alcoholic beverage, you then also have a drink with your meal – you can easily end with with far more kilo joules than you planned for. Always plan your day so you are aware of what you are having and how it fits with your plan.

Alcohol should be used sparingly in your diet. Remember that you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle – not overindulge in food or drinks. If you do not drink we definitely recommend you to keep it that way. However if you do enjoy a drink be mindful of the amount you are drinking and ensure that you do in small quantities.