This is a guest article written by Lumen nutritionist Ulrike Kuehl.
Summer is here and you know what that means? Rooftop bars, cold beer and barbecues. We tend to drink more alcohol in summer when we’re socialising with friends and enjoying the longer and hotter days. However, we all know alcohol doesn’t do our body any favours, so how we can keep on track with our health and fitness goals? Ultimately, it comes down to drinking in moderation and making the best drink choices.
How does the body metabolise alcohol?
When we drink alcohol our body’s priority is to metabolise it straight away. This is because the metabolic by-product of alcohol, acetate, is toxic. The problem is this means while your body is busy breaking down alcohol, it isn’t breaking down fat. The fat-burning process, therefore, grinds to a halt and doesn’t begin again until the alcohol is metabolised.
What do ‘empty’ calories in alcohol mean?
Another reason alcohol and fat loss don’t mix is that alcohol contains lots of calories – 7 calories per gram, which is almost as many as pure fat (9 calories per gram). You’ll often hear the calories in alcohol referred to as ‘empty calories’ as they have no nutritional value. To make matters worse, there is a reason why a long night of drinking ends with fried chicken or a kebab. Studies show alcohol increases your appetite and cravings for unhealthy food.
What drinks are the best choice?
Now, I’m not saying you have to lay off the booze completely. If you still want to enjoy the occasional drink, there are some ‘healthier’ options as not all alcohol has the same sugar (carb) content.
Wine – One glass of wine (150ml) won’t have a significant effect on your blood sugar or insulin levels. A glass of dry wine contains less than 2 grams of carbs. Sweet wines have more sugar and contain about 4 grams of carbs per glass.
Beer – A typical bottle of beer (330ml) can contain up to 14g of carbs. There are lower-carb beers that contain around 5 grams of carbs per bottle.
Spirits – Whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila and other pure alcohols have no carbs. However, adding tonic to your gin can total 16 grams of carbs per serving. Order spirits ‘on the rocks’ or with soda water.
Cocktails – Try to stay away from cocktails as they are loaded with carbs due to the fruit juices, syrups and purées used in them. A margarita, for example, has 13 grams of carbs.
The bottom line
Drink in moderation and stick to dry wine, low-carb beer or spirits with sugar-free mixers.
Learn more about how Lumen can help improve your metabolism through your breath here.