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Alcohol – A Health and Fitness Comparison - Nutrition Series

So, dry January over? Maybe over indulges a little too much last weekend and now feeling guilty about it after being sooooo good all January?


Me and Jenny are doing dry January AND February – crazy I know! However, hear us out, the reason is twofold. Firstly, we’re doing it to aid our weight loss, and secondly we want to wait until our holiday before having that sweet sweet nectar!


We all know alcohol isn’t good for us right? No matter how many articles the Daily Mail (or any international alternative to this piece of crap newspaper) brings out trying to tell us alcohol can do this and can do that. Nope – alcohol is a poison and has been shown to increase the risk of many cancers. We also know it’s not good for our gym, endurance or overall health.


BUT – sometimes with all this knowledge, we still want a tipple or two. So given that most of us will inevitably end up drinking again (or currently are) lets take a look at a little comparison between alcohols based on our goals.


Calories


Not all alcohol is equal when it comes to calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll know all too well alcohol has a ridiculously high amount of calories in it, most of which you want to avoid – so how can we do this?


First things first, alcohol is made of sugar. Sorry – that’s how it’s produced, the yeast eats up the sugar and poops out alcohol – yummy, and that alcohol has a lot of the calories the sugar had in it.


Here are a list of some common alcohol drinks with their calories – this is a rough guide to give an idea, it will depend on brand of spirit/drink and strength:


Unmixed drinks:


Single Vodka Shot (30ml – shot sized may actually vary) – 65 Calories

Single Whisk(e)y shot (30ml) – 71 Calories

Single Gin Shot (30ml) – 74 Calories

Single Rum Shot (30ml) – 65 Calories

Small Glass of Sweet White Wine (125ml) – 101 Calories

Small Glass of Dry White Wine (125ml) – 87 Calories

Small Glass of Red Wine (125ml) - 105 Calories

Flute of Champagne (125ml) – 87 Calories

Small Bottle of Beer (330ml) – 145 Calories

Pint of beer (560ml) – 200 Calories


Mixed Drinks:


Mojito (standard 300ml) – 240 Calories

Pina Colada (standard 300ml) – around 600 calories depending on the type of coconut milk used…. That’s not fun to read just before we go on a beach holiday!

Margarita (Standard 300ml) – Around 750 Calories!

Long Island Iced Tea (Standard 300ml) – Around 320 calories



So as you can see, if you’re just looking at calories then those cheeky cocktails are the worst offenders! This is largely due to what you’re mixing the alcohol with! When you’re adding sugar to an alcoholic drink – like with margaritas or adding fat like with pina coladas, you know that’s only going to make the calories sky rocket!


Also, a lot of the time you’re mixing it with fruit juice, which again – contains more calories than soda water or simply water (which is what beer, wine and spirits largely are).


It’s not all about the calories though – what about vitamins and minerals?


The spirits have little to no other minerals – because they are essentially just water and alcohol. Yes, gin has a few botanicals – but for the amount of botanicals it has, that translates to very minuscule minerals in your drink. So the least calorific drinks have the least nutrients – kinda makes sense right – often to get nutrients you have to consume calories with it.


Beer has a small amount of nutrients. Beer’s got a few nutrients from the hops and malt – but again, by the time the finished product comes out and is filtered all through – these are really quite small amounts. At one point (I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m pretty sure my parents told me it) Guinness, which is a very heavy beer, used to be promoted on it’s iron levels to help pregnant women (I’m glad the health advice has advanced a little since then). However a pint of Guinness contains just 3% of your recommended daily iron intake – and is CERTAINLY not good for pregnant people. Beer is higher in soluble fibre than spirits, and so theoretically might be better for your digestion than spirits, but I’m sure you can see for yourself when you’ve over indulged on beer – it doesn’t FEEL good for your gut.


Wine glorious wine… Red wine is good for you right? As I alluded to above – newspapers and articles are constantly trying to find SOME good from wine. When you have a drink which is consumed by a large proportion of the worlds population, and you struggle to find benefits from such a large pool of people – that kind of indicates there isn’t one.


Red wine does have antioxidants (that’s what produces that deep red colour) so it trumps white wine in this respect. However, the studies that claim it’s good for you don’t focus on the effect of consuming wine as a whole – they instead cite studies where animals have been given a specific ingredient (reseveratol) in red wine and concentrated it to do the study. They essentially extract one of the antioxidants and concentrate it so you would have to have 4 bottles of red wine to even have the equivalent of the study. This ignores the other harmful ingredients in alcohol. So yes – if you’re wanting more antioxidants, you should choose red over white, but remember it’s still not good for you, and loses on the calories to white wine.


Cocktails – finally some good news for the cocktail lovers! Yes – they are horrific in terms of calorie content, but that’s largely due to the mixers. Many of which are juices. The juices in the cocktail mean you can get high levels of vitamins and minerals from your cocktails! It all depends on what goes in your cocktail, but cocktails have a lot more scope to actually contain some vitamins and minerals. The healthier ones will be those higher in fruit juice. So if you are a cocktail drinker and want the nutrients, go for some with fruit juice. Fruit juice does contain calories though so avoid those that have fruit juice AND added syrup/sugar/fat.


As I said at the beginning – no amount of alcohol has been proven to be a “safe” amount of alcohol, and any amount is going to be detrimental on your health and fitness, so the best bet is to not have it – but hopefully for those times that you are going to have it, the above info will prove useful!