I read an interesting statistic recently that over 82% of adults in the UK consume alcohol, and that almost 60% of those consume up to 14 units per week. This number was so high it got me thinking - do people really know the effects of alcohol and how it can affect their attempts to lose weight?
Now I am the first to admit that I do enjoy an occasional drink as much as the next person. Even though I am a PT, I am still a human being! I enjoy a social drink when out for dinner or a glass of wine at the end of the day. I do find it helps me relax, and as a busy mum of two young children sometimes I do look forward to a glass of wine once the children are in bed! I know a lot of my clients do too, and that's fine - I would not expect my clients to do something I'm not prepared to do myself and give up alcohol.
What I do say to my clients however is if you want to have a drink then include it in your daily calories - calories from drinks count too. People often talk about the "empty calories" in alcohol. What does this mean? Well, alcohol has no real nutritional value to the body. Unlike other foods we consume, our body doesn't actually use alcohol for anything useful. For instance protein is used to build muscle. And of course if you are hungry a drink won't fill you up - so it's calories wasted on alcohol that you could be consuming in the form of food. Technically alcohol is a carbohydrate - a form of energy. It has around 7 calories per gram, which is almost as much as fat. Like anything else you consume, if you consume too much of it your body will store it as fat. And it is quite easy to over-consume alcohol, as we all know!!
If you consume 14 units of alcohol a week that's about equivalent to just under 5 large glasses of wine (1200 calories). One pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories - so if you are regularly drinking large glasses of wine each night it is very easy to see where the weight can easily creep on.
In food terms that would look like 5 bars of chocolate, 5 slices of cake, 6 doughnuts or a whole tub of ice-cream (personally I'd rather have the ice cream!). You can easily be in calorie deficit during the week (that is losing fat during the week through monitoring your calorie intake) and then blow it all at the weekend on a few glasses of wine. Back to the start again with all that effort for nothing. I have had clients who have been getting nowhere with their weight loss and can't understand why when they are being good with their eating during the week and working out regularly. When I ask a few more questions about their food and drink habits it turns out they are drinking two bottles of prosecco at the weekend. Hence they are seeing no progress.
Of course having a few drinks also loosens our inhibitions and that can easily lead to a few packets of crisps, snacks, takeaways as well etc etc.... It's not just the extra calories consumed on the day that count, but if you have a hangover you are often tempted to eat junk the next day too, further compounding the extra calories consumed.
So if you are trying to lose weight what does this mean for you? It means that if you want to lose weight and you are a regular drinker then reducing your alcohol intake is a very easy way to cut your calories. If you enjoy a drink I am not saying you should cut it out altogether (although for some people this might be recommended, if you struggle to stop at just one drink).
But think about it, be informed and make your own decisions.
Exercise For Mum's was created by PT mum Susan Flintoff. Susan is a busy working mum of two who specialises in helping other busy mum's fit health and fitness back into their lives, and hopes to inspire them to be the best mum they can be!!