Hi friends! I’m starting a new blog series: WTF Wednesday, where we will explore controversial/bizarre/unique nutrition topics. The aim of this feature is to clear up misconceptions and shed light on what’s happening in nutrition. If you have any requests for topics, feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here we go!
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WTF is “drunkorexia?”
Drunkorexia is an emerging trend, especially among college students, that involves combining diet-related behaviors with excessive drinking. These behaviors include restricting food intake, over exercising, or binging/purging.
The goal is to compensate for alcohol’s empty calories. Alcohol calories are not freebies-there are 7 calories per gram of alcohol, which means ~125 calories in 5 fl oz of wine, ~150 calories in a can of beer, and ~100 calories in a vodka shot. Not only is 7 calories per gram a fairly hefty amount (there are only 4 calories per gram in protein and carbohydrates), but there is essentially no redeeming nutritional value in alcohol, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. (however, red wine does have bioactive chemicals from the skin of grapes and beer has a small amount of B vitamins and certain minerals).
Drinking on an empty stomach leads to getting drunker faster, since there is no/not enough food in the stomach to help absorb the alcohol and slow down the transfer of alcohol into the bloodstream. This could lead to negative alcohol-related consequences, including nutritionally.
Alcohol impacts our nutrition in a few different ways:
- Drinking alcohol replaces the nutrient-dense foods you could be eating instead. Drinking also lowers inhibition, making that late night Taco Bell run seem a lot more appealing and can lead to over-eating. If you give me a glass of wine and cheese, you better hurry in and grab some before the cheese is gone ;).
- Alcohol lowers the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, such as thiamin, folate, and vitamin B12, which could up your chances of a nutrient deficiency. This is especially important if you are a vegetarian or vegan, since it’s difficult to get enough vitamin B12 without eating animal products (side note: take a B12 supplement if you do not eat animal products, please & thank you :)).
- Wonky things happen with metabolizing vitamins A and D when alcohol is thrown into the mix. Most Americans, especially women, have low vitamin D levels. If you choose to consume alcohol, get your vitamin D well before you have that beer.
- Alcohol is a diuretic – it causes you to pee faster! This leads to more zinc, potassium, calcium, folic acid, and magnesium ending up in your urine instead of being used in your body. Potassium and calcium are nutrients of concern, which means many Americans already do not meet their need.
If you choose to drink, counteract the drunkorexia:
- Stick to one drink per hour and alternate rounds with water, seltzer, or club soda. Ask the nice bartender to add in some lemon and lime wedges (even cherries) for added flavor, plus it looks pretty.
- Eat, eat, eat. Keep your regular meal times (especially on drinking days) and stock up on nutrient-dense meals. Make sure you have something in your stomach before that glass of wine. Center meals around veggies and add in a side of whole-grains and lean protein. Example: Bake salmon with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, toss in broccoli and mushrooms, and add 1/2 cup of whole-wheat couscous to your portion.
- Get your vitamins and minerals:
- Whole grains are a good source of thiamin, folate, and zinc;
- Vitamin D is found in eggs, salmon, and mushrooms;
- Vitamin A is in red/orange-colored fruits and veggies;
- Meat and shellfish have zinc;
- Potassium is found in fruits and veggies;
- Calcium is in dairy products, tofu, and broccoli;
- Vitamin B12 is in animal products (supplements are recommended for vegetarians and vegans);
- and dark leafy greens, nuts, and dark chocolate houses magnesium.
- Hydration is major key (thank you DJ Khaled). But seriously, when you’re thirsty drink water. Water helps with fluid balance and keeps our bodies running.
Let’s stop this trend before it fully catches on. Down with the drunkorexia, drink responsibly.