I’ll never forget one of the biggest symptoms of culture shock I faced when moving to DC: HAPPY HOURS! Seriously! Coming off of competing in my third show, my happy hour(s) were spent at Urban Active getting in my second round of cardio. The idea that someone would forgo their evening hours at the gym to be social and drink was absurd to me (and sometimes I still think that way). I quickly learned though being in the politically driven city that one of the most common ways to network was by attending this early evening “drink fests” or at least that’s what I had imagined them being. But more seriously, although I am not a huge fan of happy hours, due to their association with drinking alcohol, I do see their benefits in terms of business and social life.
I think we often underestimate the impact alcohol has on our overall health and physique. At 7 calories per gram, as a society we aren’t reaping many nutritional benefits from this liquid. There is some truth to be told in the nickname “beer belly” because excessive alcohol consumption is linked to abdominal adiposity. In fact, once in the body alcohol actually acts to prevent the breakdown of fat and increase the storage of fat (1). Not only these, but often these calories we drink are in addition to our normal dietary patterns, thus resulting in a surplus of energy consumed, resulting in weight gain. That’s one of the reasons I like to always say, “Don’t drink your calories” – we often forget about those when it comes to our nutrition. Now I am definitely not a calorie counter, but I do acknowledge that they matter and if we are consuming copious amounts of food and drink, especially junk, I will feel and see the impact of it.
If it is an occasion where I decide to drink, I try and stick to the least calorically dense drink or a glass of red wine. When deciding on a mixed drink I tend to go with Vodka and a diet soda or soda water with a squeeze of lime. I also stick to a two-drink max when I am drinking and save it for a special occasion or a weekend evening. It’s not to say that alcohol is inherently bad but consuming it often and in large quantities will not produce the fitness and health results that you desire. In fact research has demonstrated moderate drinking (1-2 drinks per day) can have preventative effects for cardiovascular disease (2).
Another helpful hint I like to use when I am dining out is one I adapted from Jill Coleman, and that is “Booze or Bread, but not both.” If I am going to drink then I will forgo the calories I would have consumed from the bread and vice versa. It’s a balancing act. Enjoy life, be healthy and practice the balancing act!
Again, moderation is key! Enjoy your weekend ahead!
Alcohol, Nutrition, and Health Consequences
Nutrition and Health 2013, pp 371-381Chapter 29. Alcohol, Overweight, & Obesity. Sasiwarang Goya Wannamethee.
Li Huige, Forstermann, Ulrich. Red Wine and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation Research. September 2012. American Heart Association. 111 (8) 959-961.