We put 10 of the most common nutrition questions to Prof Grant Schofield and Dr Caryn Zinn. Here’s Question 9: Does alcohol contain a lot sugar?
This is one of the biggest myths out there. People think that when drinking alcohol, they are accumulating lots of sugar and lots of carbohydrate. However, the reality is that there is not a lot of sugar in alcohol, because the sugar has been fermented in the process when you make alcohol. A bottle of beer or a standard glass of wine might have anywhere between 3-6 grams of sugar, so between one or two teaspoons.
But here’s the most interesting thing, I think – people don’t realise that it’s the alcohol calories that are the problem, not necessarily the sugar calories. One gram of carbohydrate gives you four calories – that’s sugar. One gram of protein gives you four calories. One gram of fat gives you nine calories. But get this, one gram of alcohol gives you seven calories. And when you look at a bottle of wine, which is about 13% alcohol, you’ve got the contribution from alcohol calories, that contributes to your total calorie intake. When weight loss is concerned, people need to factor in those alcohol calories, not as sugar, but as alcohol calories.
There are a couple of other points that we need to make. Sometimes you mix your alcohol with stuff that is sugary, for example vodka and Red Bull. But even a classic one, like gin and tonic – there are so many different gins this summer – is a killer when it comes to sugar. Tonic water has about as much sugar as Coke.
There are some lower-sugar tonic and diet tonic alternatives now. Not ideal, but better.
It’s the alcohol combined with the sugar that is the perfect storm.
A few other things on alcohol:
- Alcohol makes you more insulin resistant.
- It makes you more prone to being metabolically dysregulated.
- It makes your sleep worse and you lose your dream sleep. Dream sleep is particularly important for good health.
- Alcohol ruins your willpower. So, if there’s other junk food around while you’re drinking alcohol, you’ll be less able to resist it.
Caryn recommends trying to have more than half the week alcohol free. So, four to five alcohol free days in the week.
Grant would rather do a long stretch of being 100% alcohol free.
Take your nutrition knowledge to the next level. Prof Grant Schofield and Dr Caryn Zinn are the lead instructors in the Certificate in Advanced Nutrition.
The Certificate in Advanced Nutrition:
- is designed to give you a university-level education in nutrition at a fraction of the cost.
- gives you a solid foundation in the science and practice of nutrition including low-carbohydrate and keto diets, fasting, weight loss, gut health and allergies.