Being a university student, I guess I fall into the stereotype of regular party-goer and late nights – which is typically accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol. I would say I’m a “social drinker” but I’m not really that social (science life, am I right?) and on top of that I’m a light-weight and don’t really enjoy the sense of feeling “out of control of my faculties”. However, I know quite a few people who probably hit the drinks a bit too hard and it might be affecting your waistline, and so much more.
We’ve probably all cut out alcohol at some point in time, whether it’s for weight loss or “Dry July” or perhaps a new year’s resolution. Interestingly enough, there are pretty decent reasons behind why alcohol, nutritionally speaking, is one thing you may want to look at in your diet, especially if you’re having trouble losing weight.
But what about all those health benefits of wine?
Some of you are probably starting to think “I remember all that research that came out about the antioxidants in red wine and how they’re quite good for you”. That antioxidant is called resveratrol, and can actually be found in a number of non-alcoholic plant foods including blueberries, cranberries, whole grapes, pistachios, and even chocolate. Resveratrol isn’t very well studied yet but it is suspected to help with heart and artery health and MAY be protective against cancer.
What’s the problem with alcohol?
So here’s where alcohol can mess up your waistline. Alcohol is very “energy dense and nutrient poor”, which means there’s a load of calories with no vitamins and minerals, carbs, protein or fat. Just to compare on a gram for gram basis, alcohol has MORE energy per gram than carbohydrates or protein, this is what gives it the term “energy dense”. The form of energy alcohol provides us CANNOT be stored, so it has to be used first by the body, which means you’re not using other stores like fat and carb stores.
Our health guidelines in Australia warn that “no level of drinking alcohol can be guaranteed as completely safe”, which is pretty scary stuff given how many people drink on a daily basis. There are some guidelines that keep the risk of injury and disease at a low level. These risks include liver damage, increased likelihood of cancers, and other stuff most of us are trying to avoid. Obviously for pregnant and lactating women and those under 18 years of age, not drinking is the safest option.
Like, I spoke about in a previous post, often drinks like cocktails come with a high amount of sugar in the form of fruit juices and fizzy drinks, those super creamy ones can also be quite high in sugar AND fat. So it’s not just the alcohol itself but what it’s consumed with, that boosts the calorie content even higher. As I’ve said in the past, it’s very easy to forget about what you’ve had to drink in a day and often these are forgotten if you were asked what you consumed in the past 24 hours, yet probably have a huge impact on your overall daily dietary intake.
Alcohol also tends to dehydrate, and replacing the water lost is really important. It’s also advised to avoid salty foods (hot chips and salted nuts you often find at bars, amongst others) when you are drinking, as it’ll increase your thirst (this is an automatic response by your body) and make you drink MORE of the alcoholic beverage.
Alcohol is a drug that most people use responsibly and often carries a fairly low risk. However, some people suffer from an alcohol dependency, which has physical withdrawal symptoms associated with it and it’s not as simple as just “cutting it out”. If this is something that you struggle with please go and see a health professional.
Enjoy alcohol occasionally, but also consider how it is affecting your health and if you’re trying to improve that, it may be worth taking a look at reducing how much you’re having on a week-to-week basis.
NATIONAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL. 2015. Alcohol [Online]. Australia. Available: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol/alcohol [Accessed April 17 2016].