If, at the end of a busy day, you enjoy a glass of wine, a gin and tonic, a beer or whatever your drink of choice is, I’m not going to waggle my finger at you and tell you to cut it out. I dislike few things more than those who sit on what I call the ‘healthy high horse’ telling us what we should and shouldn’t do. Instead, I prefer to share with you the facts based on the science to date, provide my professional advice, but then it’s up to you to make your own choices. I enjoy a glass of wine myself, and it can be part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle; in fact, it can even be beneficial. But not when a couple of glasses become several, most nights of the week.
It’s not just that booze is loaded with kilojoules (kJ), it’s the situation drinking creates. Your resolve to eat well goes out the window, you sleep poorly, you’re tired and dusty the next day so you skip your exercise and turn to fatty or sugary foods to pick up your energy levels.
Fat and alcohol is a particularly bad combination. When alcohol is in your system, you can’t store it and so you burn it for energy ahead of fat or carbohydrate. Meantime it opens up your fat cells, priming them to take in any fat consumed meantime. So, if you have a few drinks and then devour a pizza, there’s no way ‘get lean’ is going to be happening!
Your overall health will also suffer. While one or two drinks a day can be beneficial for heart and cardiovascular health, it’s all too easy for your intake to sneak up on you. Too much alcohol affects liver health, brain function, heart disease, and raises the risk of many cancers.
In Australia the National Health and Medical Research Council recently launched new national guidelines to help us to reduce our risk of harm from alcohol. These guidelines recommend:
• For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.
• Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
My advice is to give yourself at least three AFDs (alcohol-free days) and stick to only a couple of drinks on the other days. If you do drink more on a social occasion, get straight back on track the next morning. Fit in an extra walk and eat really well on that day. Skip a snack or two, and ensure you stick to the Plate model for meals. Drink lots of water and take a vitamin B complex supplement (as alcohol uses up extra vitamin B vitamins).
A standard bottle of beer contains 570kJ, a glass of wine 430kJ and a nip of a spirit 280kJ – but that’s before you add a mixer. A pub serve of gin and tonic for example, provides about 460kJ.