Avoid gaining body fat – and that dreaded beer belly – by making these smart drink swaps the next time you raise a glass
Right now not many of us need our arms twisting when offered a glass of something. While it’s fine to have some drinks now and then – life is about balance, after all – too much alcohol too often will have a hugely negative impact on how you look and feel.
Alcohol is high in calories and low in nutrients: 1g of alcohol contains seven calories, almost double the four calories found in 1g of protein or carbohydrates, and only slightly less than the nine found in a 1g of fat. For context, one unit is 8g of pure alcohol, so a pint of beer will have around 24g.
Worse it that downing too many drinks also tempts you to make less healthy food choices – “I can’t be bothered to cook; shall we get a takeaway?” – and hangovers make us crave fatty and salty foods, like a huge fry-up. Suddenly a few too many drinks has turned into 24 hours of high-calorie eating and drinking!
The good news is you don’t need to abstain from alcohol: just read on for our smart drink swaps advice to keep your beer belly at bay!
SWAP 1 Pints for bottles
Swapping pints for bottles is one of the easiest ways to avoid a beer belly. A pint of 5% lager, like Peroni, has 227 calories – the same as a large slice of pepperoni pizza – and 2.8 units (the NHS advises a limit of 14 per week), whereas a 330ml bottle has just 139 calories and 1.7 units. Bottles are also cheaper and guarantee a fizzy and fresh drink, because there’s nothing worse than shelling out the best part of a fiver for a flat pint!
On a night out drinking five bottles instead of five pints will save you over 500 calories, or more if you drink a lighter lager (a 4% beer has only 99 calories) or, even better, alternate rounds with a Heineken 0% or another zero-alcohol option. These days they taste almost identical but contain only a fraction of calories!
SWAP 2 Fizz for red wine
A flute of champagne contains 95 calories, about the same as a chocolate digestive biscuit, and a large glass of white wine has 215 calories, the same as a large glass of red.
So, if they have the same calorie count, why should you favour red wine over all others? It’s a healthier option thanks to polyphenols, powerful antioxidant compounds found in grape skins. The skin is used in the production of red wine but not other types, and research links red wine consumption to improved heart health, better gut function and lower cholesterol.
But too much vino outweighs these and other health benefits, so do your brain, liver and waistline a big favour by sticking to small glasses: a 125ml serving contains just 100 calories.
SWAP 3 Mixers for diet options
Spirits are the smart choice to keep your calorie and unit intake low, but only if you choose the right combos. A single gin with slimline tonic is only one unit of alcohol and just 60 calories, but a double whisky with cola has a whopping 180 calories, as well as 25g of sugar.
On a night out four G&Ts equals 240 calories and no sugar, whereas four whiskies and coke is 720 calories and a whopping 100g of sugar, more than three times the 30g daily limit suggested by the NHS. But the big danger is happy hour cocktails: a Long Island Ice Tea has around 450 calories, more than in a large portion of McDonald’s French Fries! Opt for diet mixers to slash the calorie and sugar count, and avoid cocktails made with juices, milk or cream, or added sugar.
Bonus booze tip!
If you thought a couple of drinks at the end of a long day will send you to sleep faster, then think again. Indeed, if you want to wake up feeling full of beans then drinking booze before bed is the worst thing you can do because of how alcohol affects brain activity. That’s according to the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research Journal, which reported that subjects who drank just before bed had more slow wave sleep patterns, called delta activity, which is the period of deeper sleep that’s associated with restoration.
So far, so good. But they also had heightened alpha wave patterns, which your brain usually displays when you’re wide awake. This competition between “active” alpha waves and “resting” delta waves seriously disrupts sleep, which is why you’ll often wake up tired and drowsy even after just one drink the night before. Hot chocolate, anyone?