Exercise is an essential part of any well balanced healthy lifestyle. To ensure you get the full benefit of your workout it is important to have a healthy balanced diet - eating the right foods and fluids to meet your training requirements. Good nutrition before, during and after exercise will help you to achieve your physical goals as well as making sure you enjoy the experience to the fullest.
Where is that drink taking you?
We all know that a healthy lifestyle involves drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all. However, many are unaware of the effect that alcohol can have on your weight.
Are you getting frustrated with eating healthily and exercising but still not seeing the weight come off? Your alcohol intake may be what’s weighing you down- literally. Don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you must cut out all alcohol- That would be plain cruel. What we are going to do is dispel some of the myths around alcohol and allow you to make informed choices about how much alcohol you drink.
Dietitians refer to alcohol as providing “empty” kilojoules or energy. This is because alcohol is high in kilojoules (energy) but extremely low in other nutrients. The high kilojoule content is not helped by the fact that kilojoules in drink-form are less filling than foods, so you don't feel full, even if you may have had almost half a days calorie intake over a 'drinking session'!
So how many kilojoules are in alcohol? For you calorie counters out there is 29 kilojoules per gram of alcohol. And in easy-to-understand terms;
How much energy is in that drink?
One glass of standard beer (250ml) = 380kJ
One glass of soft drink (230ml) = 345 - 450kJ
One glass of white wine (100ml) = 345 - 395kJ
One glass of red wine (100ml) = 340 - 365kJ
One nip of spirits (70 proof, 20 ml)= 175kJ
One glass low alcohol beer (250ml)= 100kJ
One glass “diet” soft drink mixer (230ml)5
How big is that glass?
The scary thing is that these are typical bar measures, which are often a lot less than we would consider a serve to be. Spirits are generally served as a double (two nips). A 100ml glass of wine would mean that out of every bottle 7 1/2 glasses would be poured. And if you are a spirit drinker it is likely that your double nip is mixed with a high-kilojoule mixer.
Alcohol and your weight
Lets paint a picture…After a long day of work you take off your shoes, feeling very proud that you managed to get up early in the morning to go for a walk and also chose a salad for lunch, and then decide to relax with a couple of wines. Most New Zealanders pour around 150ml glasses of wine. Say you have just two of these over dinner and throughout the evening. You have consumed around 1084 kilojoules, which is the same as;
- One chocolate-coated ice cream
- One slice of pizza
- One McDonald’s hamburger
My guess is that many of you are making healthy food choices and are unlikely to follow your dinner and/or desert with one of these options.
Tips to help manage your weight if you drink alcohol:
- If drinking spirits choose water or soda water as mixer.
- Alternate your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water. This will slow you down and also help with the hangover.
- When pouring wine aim to get at least 5 glasses out of a bottle.
- When drinking beer choose low-alcohol varieties.
- Consume no more than two “standard” drinks a day, or 14 a week for women or no more than three a day, or 21 a week for men.
- Relax with a refreshing non-alcohol beverage instead. This also saves you money!
A healthy lifestyle is all about balance. Alcohol is ok to enjoy in moderation- just don’t forget that drinking too much of it may be what’s weighing you down.
How to combat cravings
We eat food for a number of reasons but surprisingly hunger is usually well down the list. People need food to survive. It provides the fuel for our bodies so that we can undertake physical activity and stay healthy. However, food can provide much more than fuel or energy for the body. It can also provide us with emotional comfort or a way of interacting with others.
Hunger is our basic ‘need’ for food whereas appetite is our ‘want’ for food. The feeling of hunger comes about through the body sending messages to the brain which in turn stimulate appetite. This results in us initiating the process of eating. The opposite of hunger and appetite are “satiation” and “satiety”. Satiation is the feeling of fullness during a meal which brings eating to an end. Satiety on the other hand, is the feeling of fullness we experience in-between meals, which influences when you eat your next meal.
Appetite is controlled by the balance between hunger and satiety and also many external environmental factors such as our moods, physical surroundings or the need for social interaction. Because of this, the ‘hunger’ message can often become confused and the sweet tooth craving takes over. How many times have we been out for coffee with friends and ordered a cake or muffin even though we weren’t physically hungry? I know I have!
With a bit of thought we can all begin to win the battle over those 3pm cravings. It’s time to start listening to our bodies and realising why it is that we are craving that piece of chocolate or other sweet treat.
Simple tips for winning the battle
Here a few practical ideas to help you combat those cravings:
Listen to your body. Are you physically hungry or are you craving something sweet because you are stressed or in need of comfort?
Look at other ways of fulfilling that need such as, taking some time out.
Try having a glass of water first. Sometimes we can confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger. The time taken out to fill your glass, can also be a good distraction.
Choose nutrient dense foods, rather than a candy bar. These not only provide energy but are also packed with other nutrients which our bodies need. Examples of nutrient dense foods to help satisfy a sweet tooth include: low fat flavoured milk, yoghurt, fresh, frozen or dried fruit or even some muesli bars (less than 600kJ per serve).
Choose sweet foods which help us to feel full. Foods with a low GI (Glycaemic Index) or high protein content have a high satiety. This helps you feel fuller for longer. Have some of these foods within easy reach. Maybe keep a bag of dried fruit in your desk drawer or a nut bar in your handbag.
Ensure that you eat regularly during the day – and that includes starting the day with breakfast. By eating regularly you are less likely to cave into your emotional and environmental appetite cues (such as stress or comfort) due to feelings of satiety.
Try reaching for a piece of chewing gum, instead of a piece of chocolate.
If you really must have some lollies, try the sugar-free hard boiled kind. These last longer if you suck on them, by which time the sweet tooth craving may have passed.
If your cravings can not be tamed, allow yourself a small bit first. There is no point telling yourself you’re not allowed chocolate as chances are you will end up pigging out on a few other foods before finally caving in and eating some chocolate as well! Try treast which are portion controlled so that you don’t eandup eating a large amount eg a mini size chocolate bar.
Don’t beat yourself up if you give in to your cravings as this may lead to a viscous cycle where you then end up craving even more, due to feelings of depression.