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Booze and the waistline

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Something I have a bit of personal experience with is the effects of alcohol on your waistline. When a Personal Trainer starts talking about alcohol, you see a glazed look pass over the listener’s eyes! Stay with me if you can!

Beer bottles and cans

When I was bigger, I didn't start losing weight because I was on a diet, I'd lost about 12kg (2 stone), and the only thing I had changed was that I was taking a break from drinking. When I was struggling with my mental health and experimenting with ways to improve it, cutting out booze is always at the top of the list when you start researching these things, so that's what I had done.

I used to drink quite a lot. Most nights I'd come home with at least three bottles of ale. Ales had become my favourite drink. It was around the time when all these fancy bottles had started popping up in the supermarket, and you'd get three bottles of beer for a fiver. They'd have quirky names like Wispy Wizards, Badgers Victory, or just have a large 48 printed on the bottle.

In the past, I had gone on a diet and was trying to work out how I could lose weight while also still getting my beers in. On a couple of occasions, I had tried to find some low calorie or diet beers. I found a couple that called themselves light beers, but it turned out that just meant light tasting, whatever that means. I thought I'd found how to make my fortune, making the first zero-calorie tipple. It could be called "Z" for zero-calorie, and the bottle would have a big Z on it! I was going to be rich! I lost interest in the endeavour after remembering I had no idea how booze was made.

It turns out I hadn't found an untapped market at all. Zero-calorie booze is basically impossible. The alcohol itself has 7 kcal per gram, so if you can get drunk off it, it has a caloric value. The number of calories in a single drink will vary depending on the strength of the alcohol and additives. I've just looked up what was my favourite beer, and it comes in at 210 kcal per bottle, so with my three beers a night, I was having a meal's worth of calories in beer alone. Full disclosure I'd often drink more than three beers in an evening, which explains why I'd lost 12kg when I stopped.

It's common for people to try to come up with hacks regarding losing weight while still drinking. They might switch drinks, they read that gin has fewer calories, so they put down the wine or beer and grab a G&T. The best lies are based on truth. A gin and tonic with a single 25ml measure of gin is about 100 calories, but how many people make a drink with 25ml of gin? How many people would know what 25ml's of gin looks like? I wouldn't! What's being poured at home is probably more like a double, triple or quadruple measure, ranging between 150 kcal to 250 kcal on a single drink. So it's not uncommon for people who have made the switch to gin to discover they're not hitting their weight targets.

Switching to low or no alcohol drinks might not be better. They don't often start with the best taste, so manufacturers tend to add sugar to make them a bit more palatable. Not always though and there are a couple of good ones out there, so have a look at the labels.

Now for the boring part, the current UK guidelines advise limiting alcohol intake to 14 units a week for women and men. Here's a link to a website if you're unsure how many units you've been drinking. Just put in what you'd normally drink, and it'll work it out for you. It'll give you the number of calories in your booze too! The same website has lots of information on cutting down on the drink, and there's even an app!

Drinking less has a couple of other benefits too, you'd be healthier, have a bit more money, more time, sleep better (when people use drink to help them sleep, they may fall asleep quicker but their quality of sleep isn't as good), be in a better mood and get sick less often.

Most people have no intention of dropping the drink altogether, and that's fine, but maybe drinking a little bit less could help you if you've got a weight goal.


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