Every diet has its own take on the rules for alcohol while trimming down. The sugar alcohol has gets a bad rap, and many choose to forego libations when on a cleanse or dedicated diet. The Atkins diet favours spirits in moderation, Slimming World gives Syns and Weight Watchers allocate points per choice of alcoholic drink.
If you think you can rest easy on your diet of choice, with a bottle of vodka at your hip, I’m sorry to be a party pooper, but you can think again.
It’s not just about the carbs or sugar alcohol holds
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True! Vodka and other spirits contain virtually no carbohydrate or sugar, but alcohol also has another energy source up its sleeve called Ethanol.
Whereas protein and carbohydrates give us 4 kcal per gram and fat equates to 9 kcal /g, Ethanol also gives us 7kcal per gram, which doesn’t make it sound such an attractive weight loss choice.
Ethanol is produced by fermentation of yeasts and its metabolism produces acetaldehyde which is linked to cancer and cirrhosis.
Beer, cider and wine contain simple sugars as well as ethanol and go by the names of maltose, dextrin, maltotriose, fructose and sucrose. These sugars have no dietary fibre and rapidly converted to glucose in the body and absorbed into the blood stream.
“Your mum was right when she told you to never drink on an empty stomach”.
Alcohol is one of the few molecules that can be absorbed in the stomach. Alcohol also stimulates gastric acid secretions and if the mucosal layer of your stomach is already damaged, this acid will damage it further.
Alcohol can inhibit the livers ability to release glucose into the blood. The liver is so preoccupied with removing alcohol from the body it forgets to produce glucose; this causes a drop in blood sugar and a drop in energy.
When glucose levels drop, the body moves into survival mode, causing Epinephrine and Cortisol to be released. Cortisol will raise blood glucose levels, whilst Epinephrine will increase heart rate.
Chronic heavy drinking will therefore put extra stress on the body. Add an already stressful lifestyle into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for high blood pressure, visceral fat, diabetes type 2, anxiety and sleep problems.
Well thanks for that Ali… so the sugar alcohol has is bad for me and I have to resign myself to the misery of a lifetime of winelessness.
Not true! The Mediterranean way of having a glass of wine with a meal will slow the rate of alcohol absorption and subsequently reduce spikes and dips in energy levels. Small amounts of alcohol can be relaxing, rather than stimulating.
Alcohol does have benefits too!
Wine in particular is fermented by the sugar fungus Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. This is classed as a probiotic even though it is yeast based and contains beta-1, 3 glucans which stimulate the immune system.
Ideally one would consume probiotics from various sources to achieve synergistic and cumulative health benefits (think sauerkraut, natural yoghurt, and miso) rather than considering necking a bottle of red and getting it done in one sitting!
Wine also contains Resveratrol and Quercetin, which together with other dietary antioxidants will help to strengthen blood vessels, raise good cholesterol and prevent blood clots. Remember one nutrient in isolation will not provide health benefits.
If you eat a varied and colourful diet, a small amount of alcohol should be fine for most people.