The Buzz Around Alcohol and Fitness
Most health professionals will tell you that alcohol, particularly consumed in excess, is bad for your health…and they’re right. Excess alcohol does not promote health, and even the widely accepted belief that one drink per day is beneficial, has been debated in recent research.
To date, however, a majority of the research still shows that alcohol in moderation can be good for those without existing health issues. And the reality is that many of us consume alcohol, at least in a social setting. But just as some foods are healthier than others, different forms of alcohol aren’t created equal either.
Pure alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, which makes it relatively high compared to other foods. (For reference, proteins and carbohydrates each contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram.) But even “straight” forms of liquor aren’t pure alcohol. Alcoholic beverages consist of other ingredients and sometimes mixers are also included. These additional ingredients must all be considered when discussing caloric content. Remember too, that alcohol has no nutritional use in the body, and therefore is easily stored as body fat.
Is there a difference between light and dark forms of alcohol?
Beer: From a health standpoint, there’s no difference between light and dark beer. A beer’s malt content determines its color, and color does not affect the amount of alcohol or overall calorie content. Most beers contain 150 calories per 12 oz. serving. But there are some dark beers with lower alcoholic content and fewer calories; and there are some lighter colored beers that contain over 300 calories per 12oz serving.
Liquor: Similarly, calorie differences between light and dark liquors are minimal (about 100 calories per shot of liquor). However, darker drinks such as whiskey and brandy can lead to more severe hangovers. Clear liquors like gin and vodka contain fewer byproducts from alcohol fermentation, therefore the next-day effects of these liquors are minimized. (Of course, if you’re not going to have more than one or two drinks, there won’t be much of a hangover effect anyway.)
Wine: Calorically speaking, red and white wine are very close in calorie content, with each containing around 125 calories per glass. Red wine does edge out its white wine competitor when it comes to mineral content, however. Since the health benefits are very similar, the decision to drink red or white wine can simply boil down to personal taste preference.
Here are a few things to consider with alcohol consumption:
- Even though most alcoholic beverages don’t have nutritional labels, most list alcohol content. To keep calories low, look for lower alcohol content. Lower calories will usually follow.
- Don’t assume darker beers are heavier or that lighter colored beer is healthier.
- A drink with dinner is fine, but avoid drinking alcohol as a means to rest better. While you may fall asleep more easily, your overall rest quality is lessened as the alcohol wears off through the night.
Be aware of the effects of alcohol from a health standpoint and remember to drink responsibly. Like most indulgences, alcohol is fine in moderation, but it can have serious health and weight gain side affects when consumed irresponsibly.