You Booze, You Lose… and not in the Good Way (April 18, 2013)

For April 18th’s article You Booze You Lose, and not in the Good Way either click here or keep on reading!


Alcohol. It evokes so many fond memories for most people; a special bottle of wine, a pina colada on vacation in Mexico, a pitcher of beer with friends during hockey playoffs.

Not me. I think of it as the silent diet killer.

Not only tough on your liver and your general wellness, alcohol is also full of completely empty calories. This is, truly, a sad fact. I like to drink now and then. Not excessively, not abusively, but I enjoy a good cocktail. But when it comes to your health, your fitness, and your weight, it is a no-no. No two ways about it.

I’d like to tell you there are sneaky ways around this, that there are little tricks to keep your diet clean and your cocktail hour intact.

There just aren’t.

In my experience, nothing packs on the pounds quicker than moderate to heavy drinking.

I subscribe to the once-a-week rule. I pick one night of the week to enjoy my cocktail hour, and I do exactly that. This is really the only way to go about drinking and maintaining your weight, let alone drinking and losing weight.

Doubt me? Let’s look at some numbers.

Want to drink a bottle of wine?

You’re looking at 800 to 1,000 calories, depending on the wine. And no, that isn’t the 1.5 litre bottle. Do you know what else you could have for that? A Big Mac and fries. Or 10 fillets of haddock. Or a piece of white-chocolate-raspberry truffle cheesecake.

How about a long island iced tea? That’ll cost a pretty high price; 700 calories, to be exact. You could have fish and chips at the pub for the calories in that one drink.

And who doesn’t love a good margarita? But at 600 calories, I could have a Wendy’s double cheeseburger instead.

I’m aware that alcohol doesn’t have the same fat content as, say, a double cheeseburger and yes, gin is a trans-fat free source of calories. Fine. But the effects of alcohol are even more damaging than their calorie counts would imply. The prevailing science of the day tells us that our bodies process alcohol calories before food — allowing whatever you ate earlier in the day to handily jump onto your thighs. More scientifically speaking, your body converts alcohol to acetate, which it then uses as an energy source instead of the food you’ve already consumed. This is not what you want. Moreover, calories in alcohol are completely empty; you certainly aren’t satiating any hunger by drinking.

Alcohol, by definition, skews what is otherwise sound judgment (if you need any proof of this, just check out any local karaoke bar). After a few mixed drinks, you’re a fair bit more likely to chow down on a bowl of extra-gravy poutine than your sober self would be. Diet plans go out the window in a Smirnoff stupor.

And it isn’t over yet. The day after you drink can hold a shocking number of diet perils. No one in the history of time has craved a salad when hung over. You want some cheesy-bacon goodness, and you sure as heck don’t want to make it to your cardio kickboxing class.

But don’t fret just yet. I have some fantastic lower-calorie drink options for you to enjoy the occasional cocktail hour without fear.

The vodka soda is my standard drink order. At about 60 calories a shot, vodka is easily the most diet-friendly of the booze options. The club soda (with zero calories) is refreshing, and doesn’t add any sugar. I like to order it with extra lime wedges. If you can’t stomach it like this, try it with a splash (and I mean a splash, not a cup) of orange juice, grapefruit juice, or pineapple juice. An added bonus to this is that club soda helps to counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. This, combined with the lack of sugar, will make for a much more enjoyable morning than if you had been sipping on jack-and-cola all night.

You’ve likely seen bottles of Skinnygirl Margarita at your local LCBO. If you’ve been craving the taste of a margarita, this really is your best option. The bottled mixes at the grocery store are full of sugar and taste impossibly syrupy; you might as well drink Aunt Jemima syrup. At only 100 calories, you can enjoy the margarita taste without sacrificing your waistline. If Skinnygirl isn’t up your alley, you can easily make yourself a faux margarita at home. Providing you can stomach it, pour a shot of tequila on ice and add a splash of both lime and orange juice. You’ll have what tastes like a quite strong margarita, but without the guilt.

Wine is a particularly tricky one. People assume that it is light because it usually tastes light, but you can get anywhere from 140-200 calories per six ounce glass. Skinnygrape wine, from British Columbia’s Andrew Peller winery, offers tasty and inexpensive chardonnay and pinot grigio. Clocking in at 80 calories per glass, it’s the best wine option around — and Canadian, to boot! Look for it at the LCBO.

Skinnygirl Margarita has been a huge hit, and it is really a great diet-drinking option. But with its popularity has come the inevitable “skinny-everything.” Be careful. Don’t let yourself get ripped off because of clever marketing. Take the Skinnygirl vodka, for example. A 30-proof vodka with 40 calories a shot, it’s the same size bottle as, say Absolut, but is generally a few dollars more. But, if I wanted 30-proof vodka with 40 calories, I’d take three-quarters of a shot of regular vodka. Don’t get conned into paying more for less.

You want to keep in mind that clear alcohol (vodka, gin) is generally better for you than amber (whisky, bourbon, etc). Rum is made from sugar cane, so you want to steer clear of the Captain. If you insist on it, have it with diet coke to minimize the damaging effects of copious amounts of sugar. Generally, you don’t even want to look at the mixed drink menu. I know the raspberry-fizz-vodka-rum-slushee sounds good, but it won’t feel good when you can’t zip up your jeans in the morning.

Remember these tips, and enjoy your weekly bar night with ease. Cheers!

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