A patient of mine approached me a little over a year ago with a weight loss goal of 40lbs. After a thorough dietary consultation during the first week of workouts we also discussed alcohol intake. What I found was my patient was a ‘binge’ drinker. That is – he only drank once or twice a week but when he did he went all out! This practice of alcohol consumption is more common then you think.
The ‘eureka’ moment for my patient came when I took him through the calorie math of a big night of drinking. Let’s say he drank 10 bottles of beer – that would amount to around 1500-2000 calories. That is close to the average recommended daily intake! But wait – that’s not all. You are much more likely when you are inebriated to make poorer food choices such as wings, poutine, etc. So add these extra calories and fat as well (another 500 cal). After the big night of drinking and eating you wake up the next morning and surprise – you feel like crap! Your B vitamins are depleted so you crave more fatty foods (think bacon/eggs/cheese and another 200 extra cal) to make you feel better. Add to this – the next day you are more likely to be sedentary and lazy. You’ll likely take the day off exercise (let’s add another 500 cal that you would’ve burnt off if you had worked out). Now that the dust has settled how many extra calories did my patient take in compared to if he just had a drink or two? Let’s call it an extra 3000 calories!
How do you lose weight? It comes down to simple math – caloric expenditure must trump caloric intake! So for my patient to maintain his current weight he would have to run an entire marathon (42km) the next day to burn off these excessive calories! Once I showed him this example he actually gave up drinking. After 2 grueling months of training and dietary modifications I helped him lose that 40lbs! So if you want to lose weight think about your alcohol intake and adjust accordingly. I guarantee you won’t miss those brutal hangovers!
Approximate average calories per alcohol type:
• Beer (12oz) – 150
• Red/White Wine (6oz) – 150
• Vodka and Soda (1oz with 6oz mix) – 80
• Caesar (1oz with 6oz mix) – 180
• Gin and Tonic (1oz with 6oz mix) – 200
• Rum and Coke (1oz with 6oz mix) – 200
• Vodka and Cranberry (1oz with 6oz mix) – 220
• Margarita, Long Island Ice Tea or Pina Colada – 500
Note: This Blog Post was featured on the GoodLife Fitness Blog.
I 100% agree with calculations and recommendations with one exception. For scientific correctness, it is better to use kilocalories instead of calories. A calorie approximates the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 °C, which is almost nothing.
If American doctors insist to use the local science, they should use Calories. But I think using kilocalories instead of calories will increase a fear factor for patients.
Ah yes – spoken like a true chemist 🙂 Very good point Sergei!