Festive season drinking

By , 9 January 2012

As featured in the last issue of Longevity: The silly season is officially here and many of us will enjoy higher than normal alcohol consumption as a result. Choose sensible drinking options and the inevitable New Year come-down doesn’t need to be quite so severe.

Those concerned with their body weight often opt for spirit-based drinks under the impression hard liquor is lower in calories than beer or wine. In absolute terms, this is simply not true (25ml of vodka contains about 55 calories compared to 10 calories for the same measurement of beer and 20 calories for wine). Obviously, spirits offers a relative advantage in that 25ml is the regular serving size (one shot) while a 330ml beer has a total of 132 calories and a 125ml glass of wine 100 calories.

So no cocktails this summer? Not necessarily. It all depends what you use as a mixer. Straight, on the rocks, or with water or soda is first prize as you aren’t adding any additional calories. A great option is a vodka soda. Vodka is the purest of the hard alcohols and soda is mainly water. Add a couple of limes and you’ve got a clean and refreshing cocktail that’s diet friendly. Stay away from those daiquiris and margaritas which contain loads of sugar and hence send the calorie count off the scale.

Another reason why so many body conscious people mistakenly opt for spirits is that it does not contain any extra carbohydrates whereas beer and wine do. Stick to the hard stuff and less obligation to work out is the widely held but ultimately erroneous thinking here. Unfortunately, the problem with alcohol is that it changes the way your body works, forcing you to burn alcohol-derived calories before you burn fat. Spirits, of course, are typically 43% alcohol by volume compared to around 14% for wine and 5% for beer. Tequila shots are therefore a definite no-no…

There’s a lot to be said for beer and wine in general. In addition to having (limited) food value, they also contain small amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals with antioxidant and hence anti-disease properties. Light beer and white wine are relatively lower in calories; dark beer and red wine, meanwhile, tend to be high in those highly desirable anti-oxidants.

Whatever your preferred alcoholic beverage, remember to drink water between glasses of alcohol to keep you hydrated and the extra volume you’re taking on board will also reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.


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