More often than any of us will ever admit — even to our selves, let alone others — we’ve all woken up many mornings (or afternoons) with a pounding head, parched throat and vague memories from the previous night. And almost always, the first thought is ‘Never Again’. Until the next time, of course!
As much fun as it is to live it up with your drinking buddies, or even random strangers, we all know some of our behaviours don’t help our health, weight loss plans, our waistlines or our fitness goals.
Let me be clear, again, on my approach to food and drink: Nothing is off the menu. However, just as the concept of moderation applies to food, it equally applies to alcohol. So, honestly, a couple of drinks a week are nowhere close to disastrous. In fact, depending on the drink and the quantities you consume, alcohol can even have a somewhat positive effect on your overall well-being. Of course, it’s all always far, far easier said than done. And with the party season peaking, our alcohol intake is going to spike.
Even if you are careful about your alcohol consumption, GOD didn’t create all booze the same and some drinks are worse than others. For instance, a large beer contains roughly the same calories as a slice of pizza and a glass of wine might have the same calories as four cookies. So it really shouldn’t be surprising how quickly a liquid diet can lead to all kinds speedbumps.
So what’s the smartest ways to drink this season?
First, let’s get a couple of educational points out of the way:
1. Alcohol Calories: Alcoholic drinks are made by fermenting and distilling natural starch and sugar, consisting of ‘empty’ calories (they have very little nutrition, so that’s a whole lot of unwanted empty calories). Calories vary from drink to drink so choose drinks with the best calorie from alcohol ratio. Fat provides nine calories per gram, protein and carbohydrate have only four calories per gram. But alcohol provides seven empty calories per gram. So for a standard drink consisting of 10 grams of alcohol, you are consuming 70 calories from alcohol alone before considering the other sources of calories in most drinks (mostly mixers).
2. Bio-chemistry of alcohol: Alcohol interrupts our body’s normal process of nutrient absorption and calorie burn. Unlike protein, carbohydrate and fat our body cannot store alcohol. So removing it from the body takes preference over normal functions. This hinders the fat burning process causing weight gain and in many cases water retention.
Now, here’s a few ways to make smart choices. At least keep these in mind on your way to a party:
1. Choose hard liquor, simple cocktails and low-calorie mixers- Just as you might order your salad with dressing on the side, don’t shy away from asking for your mixer in the same manner.
You can save 100 calories if you choose water or a ‘diet’ mixer. (By the way, tonic water is not a diet mixer, it’s full of sugar). A sugar-free mixer has zero calories compared to 85 calories form 250ml of orange juice. SO pass on the fruit juice and the sugary colas (and Oh! Stoli Raspberry does not count towards your daily fruit intake).
2. Skip mixers altogether. Even Better. The new trend of infused vodkas are very popular because they are not sweetened but infused with flavours like cranberry, orange, peach, etc. It’s the perfect drink when mixed with a zero calorie mixer like soda, lime and water. On the rocks works too.
3. Alternate: Let every drink be followed by a plain soda or a diet beverage. It won’t just help with the calorie intake it may enable you to actually walk instead of stumbling at the end of the evening. And your head will thank you the next morning.
4. Portion control” Just like with food, ask for a small instead of a Patiala.
5. Watch what you eat at the party. When buzzed after a few drinks, you find yourself mindlessly over-eating the nuts, the wafers or whatever junk food is around. You eat the munchies and fried foods because drinking alcohol reduces blood sugar, increases your body’s desire for food and reduces your brain’s ability to make sensible choices.
6. Eat before you drink. To minimise the risk of the above, plan ahead and have a small snack before you head out for a party. It will make you feel less tempted to dive into food. It will also keep your blood sugar in check and help you avoid those few extra handfuls of salted triple-fried peanuts you so love when under the influence.
7. Drink after you drink. When you get back home, don’t just fall flat on the bed. Hydrate yourself, drink two-three glasses of water. It will reduce the bloating and your body will thank you for that too!
The party season is challenging for even the most motivated dieters. Just be careful, that’s all. In addition to compromising on your health plans, too much alcohol tends to give you water-retention and makes your face and eyes puffy (which is never a pretty sight). So like I said, I don’t believe in denying oneself of life’s pleasures. Just try to keep a lid on it!
Stay sober, stay healthy and don’t drink and drive!