I love wine.
I love it almost as much as I love living in my healthy, happy, and more often than not, lean body. However, the most important word there was almost.
Isn’t it always the way that some of the world’s most tantalizing treats are chock full of those stupid little things called calories, and as much as we try to avoid those guilty pleasures, our resolve never seems to last. We break our diets, we binge, we feel guilty, we feel like crap and then we detox. Does this sound like a familiar cycle? Whatever happened to that little thing called “moderation” people? Because trust me, today’s love for extremism is ruining our health. Extremism is ruining your health.
With a little bit of commitment, here’s how you can keep both wine and your bikini body without being a slave to dieting.
First, the key science-y stuff it really helps to know…
- Unlike protein, fat, and carbohydrates, the human body can’t store alcohol.
- Alcohol has a high-calorie density of 29 kilojoules per gram. It gets worse though: those 29kJs don’t include the extra ones that come from the sugar syrups and liqueurs in the drink. For reference, carbohydrates and protein each have 17kJ/g; fat has 38kJ/g.
- Acetaldehyde, one of the intermediate products of alcohol metabolism, is extremely toxic to your body.
- As our body tries to convert acetaldehyde it will (and listen up, as this is important) STOP metabolizing other fuels (like protein, fat, and carbohydrates) until it’s converted into something that our body can burn off.
- High blood sugar levels can be toxic to our bodies.
- Our bodies can only hold approximately 300-700 grams of stored glycogen (carbohydrates) in the muscle and liver.
- Most females only have an average Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of around 5400-6300 kJ per day.
- Although alcohol metabolism will vary by age, race, gender, body size or how much food you’ve consumed, the average metabolism is 7-15 grams of alcohol per hour.
Common sense stuff you already know but may need reminding of…
- Alcohol can often make us do some pretty dumb s**t by reducing our inhibitions and willpower.
- It’s a poison to our body.
- Overconsumption can have detrimental effects on your health and to those around you.
- Moderate consumption is 1-2 drinks, not 1-2 bottles.
- We “should” be having 3-5 alcohol-free days every week.
So all of that said, what does it mean for my bikini body?
Well, a ‘real person’ example might work best to explain how the current view of a “moderate” night maybe a totally skewed.
Melissa (our case study) is a happy-go-lucky marketing whizz who is heading out this Friday to enjoy few drinks with friends after another hard week at work. Over the course of her Friday night, she will drink four glasses of red wine, two espresso martinis, and one shot of baileys liqueur.
So, let’s break it down into calories first. One glass of red wine contains around 500kJ, consisting of approximately 13g of alcohol and 5g of carbohydrates. Therefore 4 glasses would total 2000kJ, 52g alcohol, 20g carbs. One espresso martini contains 45ml vodka [420kJ, 13g alcohol, 0 carbs), 15ml Kahlua [190kJ calories, 2.3g alcohol, 7.2g carbs), 10ml sugar syrup [84kJ, 5g carbs], and 30ml espresso [0kJ]. Therefore her 2 cocktails would total 1380kJ, 15.3g alcohol, 12.2g carbs. Oh, and the Baileys: 406kJ, 4g alcohol, 7.4g carbs, plus a little 3.8g hit of fat.
So now Melissa has consumed a grand total of 3795kJ, 71g alcohol, 39.6g carbs, 3.8g fat.
So this is where the problems begin as those kilojoules come from mostly nutrient-void alcohol, and as most females have a BMR of approximately 5400-6300 kJ per day, Melissa has only got another 1600-2500kJ left for the whole day.
I could go on about the problems with alcohol and our metabolism for hours but for the sake of being concise, let’s just talk about those kilojoules in terms of how long it takes to burn them off, which in this case, would be around seven hours. But as we know from the science-y stuff, our body is required to preferentially burn off all the alcohol before the other macronutrients (fat and carbs) she consumed.
So what would happen to that stuff?
The problems continue for Melissa as not only does she have to deal with the toxic alcohol, but she now has to quickly find a way to clear some of the excess blood sugar, too. (Remember that high blood sugar can also be toxic to our bodies.)
We have very limited storage capacity for carbohydrates, so that means that there’s only one place left for that excess energy to go – fat cells. And which area loves to convert excess blood sugar into fat? That’s right, your belly!
So as you can see, when it comes to alcohol, each of these things can quickly snowball into a big metabolic catastrophe on just a “moderate night” whilst also having some seriously negative outcomes for your body composition.
So here are my top tips to help ward off alcohol-related disaster:
1. Make smart drink choices
Thinking about the ways that you can lower the total calories of the drink. As a rule of thumb, white spirits (vodka or gin) with water or soda water is best, followed by red wine, then liqueurs, ready-to-drink products, and spirits mixed with juice or soft drinks at the bottom of the list.
2. Watch your kilojoules beforehand
Slightly reduce your intake throughout the day to account for the alcohol, but please note, I’m NOT saying don’t eat. I would suggest cutting carbohydrates and fats first but maintaining protein.
Do a resistance or high-intensity interval training session on the day. You’ll open your muscle glycogen stores, so they’re able to take on excess carbohydrates while you’re drinking. This lowers the likelihood of them being stored as fat.
4. Avoid killer carb or fatty meals
It’s tempting to head for pizza before a night out, but high protein meals (chicken, fish, beef, lamb) and salad or green cruciferous vegetables before you start drinking will help slow the alcohol absorption.
5. Make a “next day plan”
The sooner start eating healthily and exercising again the better. If you can manage a long walk or even a training session the next day, it will help get you back on track and clear some of the excess kilojoules.
6. Drink lots of water
Like, a lot. Women have less body water than men so can’t dilute alcohol down as much. Stay hydrated.
At the end of the day, if you’re not getting the results you want – or you’re losing the results you have – then you’ll need to make a sacrifice somewhere. It’s a very fine (wine) line that you’re treading when it comes to this stuff.
So after all that, I’ll let you get back to enjoying that glass (in moderation)…