Friday 24 March 2017

Shape Up: Avoid the temptation for alcohol at parties

Library Image. Getty Images
Library Image. Getty Images

Damien Maher

This time of year sees you receive requests to attend Christmas parties and with it a date with its evil twin alcohol. In our nutrition programmes I encourage clients to integrate cheat meals so that physiologically the excess calories will kickstart their metabolism and psychologically it feels like something they can continue for life.

But what about our friend "alcohol"? The Irish social culture is one that revolves around alcohol, pubs and nightclubs. We often start and even finish friendships and relationships in pubs with a drink.

But if your goal is fat loss, there are things you need to know. One question asked by many trying to shed weight is whether or not alcohol can be in their diet plan.

Alcohol is something that adults like to indulge in. But what does alcohol do in terms of your fat-loss results?

The first thing that you need to note is how many calories are in alcohol. Alcohol contains seven calories per gram. Fat comes in at the highest calorie value per gram at nine, which places alcohol right in the middle.

A pint of beer is 568ml in quantity and it will range in alcohol strength between 4-5pc. That equates to about 28g of alcohol. Multiply this by seven and we get 199 calories. It is common, but not normal, for a guy to consume eight pints of beer -- a total intake of nearly 1,600 calories in beer.

A female opts for a small glass of wine, with a 14pc alcohol strength in a 220ml bottle. This is 31g of alcohol, equating to 216 calories -- so, five to six "small" bottles is 1,300 calories.

We could analyse spirits at 40pc of alcohol strength in a 30ml glass as being 98 calories but if a can of coke has 10 spoonfuls of sugar of 5g each and we have 4 calories per spoon, it all adds up. If you're drinking alcohol with high-calorie soft drinks you could end up with a drink well over 300 calories per serving.

Our resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the number of calories it takes for your body to survive without movement. It is estimated that a 90kg man would have an RMR of nearly 2,000 k/cal and a 60kg female 1,300 k/cal. The more active you are the more lean body mass you have. When you combine a weekend's alcohol intake with food intake you may just open your eyes on why your fat loss plan is not working.

Maybe you can see that muscles and alcohol don't mix. I am not suggesting you forgo food instead of alcohol for a night but if you enjoy frequent outings and your body is not changing, you can make an informed decision and accept the consequences.

The second thing you need to note is the impact that alcohol consumption will have on your fat metabolism. The minute that you put alcohol into your body, all fat burning is going to come to a halt.

Finally, the last important thing to note about alcohol is the impact it will have on your recovery. In addition to putting the breaks on all fat burning, the second thing that alcohol is going to put the breaks on is protein synthesis.

This means that no further lean muscle tissue will be built up as long as that alcohol is in the body. Lean muscle tissue influences not only your metabolism, but also your longevity, strength and subsequently your appearance. Alcohol can lower your testosterone, the hormone necessary to build fat burning muscle for up to five days after a night out.

So if you want to be truly successful with your fat loss and workout programme, it's best if you can forgo alcohol.

Life does not have to be drudgery with a few happy moments, or boring to the point where you have to drown your miseries with alcohol every weekend.

Quoting Navy SEAL Team Six leader and author Richard Marcinko, you don't have to like it, you just have to do it. Doing what needs to be done even when it's the last thing you want to do, is the critical factor in achieving success.

A recent study of 685 people showed that subjects who kept accurate diet journals lost twice as much weight than those who didn't.

Assuming you're honest and keeping a detailed journal, your journal keeps those truths in front of you. This means that you record your food and alcohol immediately to ensure accuracy. Any morsel of food or drink that crosses your lips, including finishing off the baby's meal to the cream in your coffee. Yes this means that you must carry a pen and paper with you. A bit extreme you say? You can always opt to remain over weight.

After a week of keeping a detailed food journal, you'll understand why you're not losing weight. Relying on memory is delusional. Most of my clients are shocked when they review their daily food logs. Most people don't bother keeping track, thus finding themselves overweight. Unpleasant, perhaps, but in most cases true!

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