Can I drink alcohol when I am trying to lose weight?


Good news: yes you can. However, here are a few things to consider when deciding whether or not to have a drink.


1. Alcohol is a high kilojoule (calorie) macronutrient


Alcohol is a macronutrient just like fat or protein (except it has no nutritional importance) and therefore it still contains kilojoules. In fact, alcohol in higher in kilojoules per gram than carbohydrates or protein at 29kj/g (compared to 17kj/g for carbs and protein) and this isn’t including any mixers!1 This doesn’t mean you can’t have any alcohol – it just means you need to take into account these kilojoules the same as you would if you were to have an extra piece of choccy after dinner.





Remember, to lose weight we need to be in a calorie deficit, so consider the amount of alcohol you are drinking over the week. The NHMRC recommends at least two alcohol free days over the course of one week [2]. If you are consuming alcohol every day, particularly if you consume more than one drink on each occasion, this will make it more difficult for you to lose weight due to the added kilojoules.


Alcohol does not contain fibre, fat, protein or any other nutrients which contribute to nourishing your body or keeping you full for any amount of time. In fact, alcohol can speed up the digestion process for some people which might lead you to feeling more hungry than if you hadn’t had any alcohol at all [3].

2. Be wary of mixers


Mixers! This is arguably the most important factor to consider when choosing to drink if you are trying to lose weight. Why? Mixers are typically things such as sugar sweetened beverages, juice (typically not the freshly squeezed, pulp-included type) or tonic water.


These are all high in kilojoules with very little nutrients or fibre and will typically exceed one recommended serve when added to your alcohol of choice [4]. For reference, one serve of these types of drinks (juice included) is 100mL, which is equal to approximately 180kJ [4,5]. But we know that the size of your average glass is much more than that - I measured the glasses I use at home to give you some comparison, and they were just shy of 400mL. A note for all the G&T lovers; tonic has a similar nutritional content to the likes of lemonade or coke.


3) Alcohol can lead to extra snacking!


Lastly, alcohol is typically a social drink, which for the most part is great and part of the reason why I believe it is okay to include it in moderation as part of a balanced diet. However, this can also lead to an increase in our intake of fast foods and excessive snack foods surrounding the intake of alcohol.




While this isn’t inherently detrimental if it occurs once in a blue moon, if we are consuming a number of alcoholic drinks and food in this manner on a regular basis, it is not conducive of weight loss. This is because the total kilojoules we consume as a result of these occasions can add up more quickly than we anticipated, even if it’s only once per week.


In summary, alcohol definitely has its place as part of a balanced diet, even when we are trying to lose weight. Try to limit your alcohol intake to one or two drinks on any one occasion and remember to consider the extra kilojoules this is contributing to your diet, as well as the other tips I mentioned above.


A small glass of pinot noir over a home-made dinner with friends is a big yes from me!


References:

[1] CHAPTER 3: CALCULATION OF THE ENERGY CONTENT OF FOODS - ENERGY CONVERSION FACTORS. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/3/y5022e/y5022e04.htm

[2] Alcohol | Eat For Health. (2019).

Retrieved from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol/alcohol

[3] Preedy, V. (1996). Alcohol and the Gastrointestinal Tract. Boca Raton: CRC Press, https://doi-org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/10.4324/9781315149844

[4] Serve sizes | Eat For Health. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/serve-sizes

[5] Easy Diet Diary – Because what you eat matters. (2019). Retrieved from https://easydietdiary.com/



This article was written by one of our amazing PNW Interns Donna Harris. Donna is in her final year studying a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics with Honours at QUT in Brisbane. Being fresh into the nutrition scene, Donna is up-to-date with all of the current information. With a keen interest in research and clinical nutrition, her nutrition articles are designed to relay all the latest nutrition science to you in easy to understand terms. You can follow Donna on instagram @pepperandcorndietetics.




Kiah Paetz is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and founder of Plant Nutrition and Wellness. She operates her private practice clinic at North Lakes, Hamilton and offers online consultations via Skype/Facetime. For bookings, please visit our website or contact admin@plantnutritionwellness.com

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