Burn off the booze!

How much exercise is required to burn off a night on the town?

Just like any food or drink you consume (water excepting) alcoholic drinks contain energy or calories. There are 7 calories per gram of alcohol (29kJ), second only to fat (9 calories per gram) in energy concentration. A ‘standard’ alcoholic drink or ‘unit’ contains 8 grams of alcohol, which is equal to 56 calories from the alcohol alone (not to mention sugars that are also sometimes present). Alcohol compares favorably to the energy content of fat at 9 calories per gram, but is worse than protein or carbohydrate at 4 calories per gram. The other downside of alcohol is that a ‘standard’ drink isn’t so standard anymore! One pint of beer has 2.5 units of alcohol, a 125ml glass of wine (this is a small glass!) has 1.5 units, and a nip of spirits is 1 unit. The original guidelines for standard drink sizes have become outdated as in Australia we serve stronger beer (5% not 3%), stronger wine (13% not 10%) and larger portions of all drinks eg double shots are standard in most pubs. So you can see that a ‘standard’ drink contains a significant amount of calories from alcohol….and that’s not including the calories from mixers sugar in the alcoholic drink and then any mixers you have!

Calories in alcoholic drinks

So what’s the best drink to have for low calories and weight loss? (No prizes for guessing it’s water!). But if you do need to have an alcoholic drink here is a list of common drinks and their calories:

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So all alcoholic drinks contain a significant amount of calories per serve, and we often have a lot more than just one serve! But how much damage does this do for your weight loss efforts? Well, in an ideal dietary plan you’d reduce your calorie intake by 250-500 calories per day to achieve a good amount of healthy weight loss per week. If this is your target then you can easily see that 1-2 drinks per day puts pay to any good nutrition plan you might follow during the day. Simply said: 1-2 alcoholic drinks can seriously halt your weight loss.

Another way to look at the effect alcohol has on weight loss is to compare the equivalent time you would need to spend doing fitness training to burn these calories off! We’ll assume someone has an average fitness level and is of average weight.

Training time required to burn off calories from alcohol:

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So you can see there’s a lot of work to be done if you have a few (or more) drinks. Think of all the blood, sweat, tears, and hard work that can go into a great fitness session…and how easily it can be reversed by drinking alcohol. Also, alcohol contains no essential nutrients and reduces the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, K, folate, B I, and B2. As well, alcohol does not contribute to muscle glycogen, so you may be left short on carbohydrates, which you need in order to train hard.