A fresh start this spring

DATE PUBLISHED

12th March 2021

TOPICS

Lifestyle

Weight

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There’s no doubt about it, the coronavirus pandemic has put the nation’s health under a spotlight in more ways than one. And the thing is, many people across the country have been drinking a little more than they would usually would over the past 12 months, and eating less healthily too. Our latest research showed 16% of people were drinking more than normal and our 2020 Monitor showed 31% of people reported they’d gained weight since the onset of the pandemic.

With an easing of restrictions in sight, many people might be thinking about their health and perhaps about turning over a new leaf. The good news is that when it comes to managing our weight and looking after our health, there is one easy step we can take to help us stay on track – and that’s to cut down on how much alcohol we drink.

Cutting down, or even cutting out alcohol, alongside a balanced diet and routine exercise, can support a healthy lifestyle. So if you’re thinking about your overall health as we head towards warmer weather and the summer months, here’s what you need to know:

Watch out for the calories in alcohol

The calories from alcohol are often described as 'empty calories', meaning they have little nutritional value. What’s more, different alcoholic drinks have different calorie content. To give you an idea, a pint of lager contains about the same amount of calories as a slice of pizza or a large glass of wine the same as a bowl of ice cream. This means you can end up consuming more calories than you realise.

By choosing smaller glasses, setting yourself limits and drinking plenty of water in between alcoholic drinks, you can help yourself consume less alcohol overall. You could also try low alcohol or alcohol-free drinks, some of which contain fewer calories as well as less alcohol, or diluting alcoholic drinks with sparkling water.

Find out more about how alcohol affects weight loss.

How alcohol affects physical activity

With the winter months almost behind us, now is a great time to take advantage of the ever longer and warmer days and get outside for exercise. And as part of a balanced diet, exercise isn’t just good for weight management, it’s good for your overall mental and physical health.

The reality is that drinking alcohol can make physical activity harder. Drinking heavily before you try to exercise may interfere with your judgment and ability to exercise safely, while an attempt to exercise the morning after drinking heavily can be thwarted as your hangover can make you feel tired, nauseous and lacking in energy or motivation. To get the most from being physically active, make sure you have a drink-free day before any exercise.

Find out more about how alcohol affects sports performance and fitness levels.

Tips to help you cut back and achieve a healthier lifestyle
  • Stick to the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines: if you choose to drink, always drink less than 14 units of alcohol a week (that's typically 6 pints of beer or 6 medium glasses of wine)
  • Plan at least three drink-free days every week. Think about them in advance and plan what you will do instead – choose things that are positive for your physical and mental health like an after-dinner walk or a soothing bath (find inspiration here)
  • Switch to a low alcohol or alcohol-free drink – choose ones that have fewer calories
  • Don’t let alcohol get in the way of being physically active – it’s great for your mental health as well as your physical health, so make the day before exercise a drink-free one
  • Download our free app – it can help you track both the units and calories in your drinks