Monday, August 29, 2011

Calories and alcohol

Whenever the urge comes to watch one’s diet, alcohol is often put on the sideline.  But what about all those “empty” calories?! They are calories alright, but it turns out men and women handle the intake differently.  According to the Tara Parker-Pope on Health article in the New York Times from March 8, 2010: “Studies suggest that drinking alcohol has different effects on eating habits among men and women. Men typically add alcohol to their daily caloric intake, whereas women are more likely to substitute alcohol for food.” (1)  So the lads get fatter and the birds get drunker. What are they having more off or substituting for?  Doughnuts, chocolate ice cream, beans on toast, cake, cream, to name a few. (2,3)

What I was curious about is: which drinks would be the lesser evil? The relationship between the amount of alcohol in a drink and its caloric content is linear, so it may come down to the serving volume and your habits. The shots of pure spirits are small and calorie dense, but if you prefer the strong taste and are happy to sip, your diet should survive and the happy buzz should ensue. However, when was the last time you’ve seen people out on town sipping tequila or vodka? The “sippers” seem to gravitate to the drinks with lower alcoholic content – wine, beer, cider – that come in larger serving sizes than those shots. Here is a dieting advantage worth exploiting. If you drink that cider or beer fast, you should feel physically fuller quicker. The serving volume should force the stomach to expand to accommodate the incoming volume and then the neurophysiology kicks in (having food inside should add to the effect). That’s the hypothesis. And beer drinking lads override it all over the world, so it seems. Those froufrou cocktails that birds fancy may “expand” the volume of the spirits within, but at the cost of the added goodies. Meal substitution it may well be – 800 calorie cocktail anyone? No volume advantage here. Give me a serve of loaded nachos instead. More texturally varied; less like baby food.

There is no way around it. Serious dieting and drinking sessions just don’t mix. Unless, you are prepared to cut here or here. Or – how about some sweat? Sixty-minute walk after those four pints of cider? Ten-minute run after four glasses of red? (4)  Ha, I can see it now: a Haile-Gebrselassie type slaloming and occasionally tripping over the shoelaces, but burning that alcohol from the night before. It’s just an image to ponder. Just saying.

Continued - "Calories and alcohol II"and "Calories and alcohol III"

Left to right: (2) and (3).
(1) New York Times: Tara Parker-Pope on Health. “Women who drink gain less weight.”; March 8, 2010. Accessed: August 29, 2011; (2) BBC News. “Many unaware of alcohol calories”.; April 17, 2009. Accessed: August 29, 2011; (3) The Health Age. Rajan “Most dieters ignorant of alcohol containing equivalent calories to pure fat”; May 23, 2011. Accessed: August 29, 2011; (4) Voato: Tech/Lifehacks/Productivity. Pete Wood “10 minute exercise to burn off beer and wine.”; April 11, 2010. Accessed: August 29, 2011

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