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A few glasses of rosé in the sun are are certainly a necessity this summer for many. But, when it comes to alcohol, do we actually understand how it affects our bodies and relates to our goals? As with everything, moderation is key, but let’s take a look at what alcohol is and what is actually going on when we order that extra glass of vino….
Alcohol (Ethanol) contains 7 calories per 1 gram (per 1ml) meaning that gram for gram is has more calories than protein and carbohydrate. Ethanol occurs naturally when glucose is fermented by yeast, and it has been enjoyed for thousands of years for both its taste and for the ‘psycho-pharmacological’ effect it has on us (lowered inhibitions and all that…). Ethanol can appear in our blood just 5 minutes after consumption and as soon as it enters our blood stream our livers get to work. Ethanol needs to be broken down by our livers so that it is no longer toxic for us, but also so we can turn the ethanol into energy to be used (calories).
Not only can alcohol encourage us to make silly life choices… but alcohol can have a significant impact on our food choices too. When you drink, your liver struggles to control your blood sugars because it is too busy processing the alcohol. As your blood sugars start to drop, it can cause strong carbohydrate and sugar cravings. Think of a time when you had that glass of pre-dinner wine, did you grab for that extra slice of bread, or did you find yourself ordering the risotto instead of salad? Don’t worry, biology was against you here.
Alcohol has also been shown to affect both quality and quantity of sleep. This doesn’t just mean feeling a big groggy next day, but the knock-on effect on food choices can be noticeable. When we are sleep deprived from alcohol (or otherwise) we have disturbances in our hunger hormones meaning that you can spend most of the next day feeling constantly hungry but that when you do eat, you are not satisfied. This can wreak havoc when weight loss is your goal! When trying to lose weight, it’s handy to cut alcohol out or to at least reduce it significantly. This is not only to reduce calories, but to cut the cravings and food choices we make when drinking.
Alcohol also acts as a diuretic meaning that is causes dehydration. Dehydration not only makes us feel tired, but it can cause that dreaded alcohol headache we are all too familiar with. Because alcohol is so dehydrating, drinking actually increases your fluid requirements. So, for every boozy drink you consume, you should be drinking an extra non-alcoholic drink. Rule of thumb: one wine, one water.
Fear not, the government have provided us with guidelines to help us moderate our drinking and to help reduce the risk of disease associated with drinking. So, suck it up and try to stick to the guidance; both men and women should drink no more than 14 units per week, we should have at least two alcohol free days and you should try to spread your units across the week. We are not here to tell you to never drink again, but if you were able to reduce your intake of alcohol it would not only see benefits in liver function, but you would be spending less money, consuming fewer calories and making better food choices . . .
Example Alcohol Units: