The average person will gain between 3-7lbs over the Christmas period…and alcohol often has a big part to play in this.

I have so often re started training again with clients in January to find them disappointed and frustrated at their Christmas weight gain. This can be a big de motivator and feel like a real set back after so much hard work. So to avoid this potential pit fall progress…read on.  

Frankly, you can eat a perfect diet and work out until you’re blue in the face and still have a difficult time losing weight and changing your body shape,  if you’re not careful with alcohol consumption.

Looking at the facts, alcohol has 7 calories per gram, almost as much as fat (9 calories per gram) and nearly twice as many calories as a gram of carbohydrate or protein (4 calories per gram). So even just a couple of drinks can set you back as much as 300-400 calories, which will make creating a calorie deficit very challenging.

In addition, when you consume alcohol at the same time as food, your body tends to burn the alcohol first, sparing the fat. The more alcohol you consume, the more likely some of your food will be stored as fat. And studies show that alcohol not only makes people hungrier but at the same time, it lowers their inhibitions, so they are more likely to make unwise food choices.

Alcohol can often really put the boot into a steady weight loss trend that you may have worked hard for.

This is not to say you have to cut out alcohol altogether. Alcohol, just like fat and sugar, can be consumed in moderation and enjoyed with little damage . If you drink regularly, we suggest cutting back to a glass every other night, or a glass or two on the weekends, or only when you go out to eat.

There are ways to minimise the impact alcohol has on your diet. If you’re going to indulge, please consider these suggestions: –

Choose a light beer over some of the heavy microbrews. Several lite beers now have as few as 64 calories in a 12-oz. bottle, whereas some microbrews have more than 200 calories!

Use diet mixers, diet tonic or soda water. This can save you 200 to 300 calories or more per drink or cocktail.

Do you enjoy wine? It can be a good choice, as it has fewer calories than many cocktails and most microbrews. However, consuming 2 or 3 glasses means a lot of additional calories, so watch your intake.

Don’t forget the water. For every alcoholic drink you have, drink at least one extra glass of water. This will help your body metabolise the alcohol and may counteract some of the dehydrating effects of the alcohol on the body, such as next-day hangovers. It takes your liver 1 hour to process and metabolise 1 ounce of alcohol, so space your drinks out accordingly. The less you overload the liver, the better it will be able to process the alcohol and work on any fats waiting to be broken down.

As you well know by now, it’s critical that you burn more calories than you consume to lose fat. So, if you plan on going out with friends for a drink or two, plan accordingly and eat fewer calories throughout the day and try to be a more active as well to help maintain a calorie deficit. One last word about alcohol. In general, alcohol has few, if any, nutrients; that’s why they’re called “empty calories.” If you’re getting 500 calories from a few beers, for example, it means that you’ll be missing that same amount in beneficial nutrients that support fat loss, muscle-building or preservation, and good health in general, such as fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals.

So if you have worked really hard this year and you are worried about it all going to the wall this Christmas time…keep your drinking to a minimum and only indulge once in a while.

Key points to remember:

1. Limit alcoholic beverages, as they are very calorie-dense and often lead to overeating or making unwise food choices.

2. When you do drink alcohol, choose wine or lite beers instead of microbrews, and choose cocktails mixed with sugar-free juices or mixers.

3. Also, when you know you’ll be drinking, plan accordingly. Balance your calorie consumption throughout the day and be more active to account for the extra calories that you will be consuming in the alcoholic beverages.

Be drink aware, have fun, get outside and move about a bit.

Rachel Benton

Personal Training

Bedford, UK

[email protected]