Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Q & A: Which is more fattening - beer, spirits or wine?

Which is more fattening - beer, spirits or wine?

Each of these have roughly the same calorie content (about 90 - 100 calories): Half a pint of ordinary beer or lager, a double of spirits, or a small glass (about a fifth of a bottle) of wine. You will see then, that whichever tipple you prefer doesn't make a lot of difference, calorie-wise, unless you are likely to down significantly more of one than the other in the same length of time. For example, I would find it easier to down a glass of wine than a half pint of beer for the same calorie content - but you may be different.

And if you enjoy spirits, and could get by on a single with a low-calorie mixer (e.g. a Scotch and low-cal ginger) you could have two of those for the same calorie value as the glass of wine.

But when thinking about alcohol you also need to consider how many 'units' you're drinking (for your health's sake) and how many milligrams of alcohol you are putting in to your bloodstream (for your driving's sake - and may your driving license's sake).

Does beer drinking really cause a 'beer belly'?

A beer belly is a fat stomach by another name. Whether you take in too many calories via pints of beer or via too many takeaways or too much food on your plate too many times a day, and thus create a 'positive calorie balance' - you will eventually put weight on. It is just that a lot of men do get fat through too many 'beer' calories (e.g. five pints in an evening are around 1,000 calories, so if this is in addition to a normal adequate diet, the beer will put weight on fast).

The reason that in many men the extra pounds of fat seem to end up on your stomach rather than elsewhere is twofold. One, men are more prone to put weight on their midriff's than women are (men tend to be 'apples', women, 'pears'). And two, when anyone puts weight on, it tends to go first to the upper body (face, chest, belly) and last to the lower body. So when you are gaining weight around your middle you are in fact also gaining in on your face and maybe chest - but it is always the belly that you and other people notice. If you carry on gaining weight, you will also gain it in other areas of your body, but, being male, it is the belly that will stand out!

Can any man have a 'six pack'?

In theory, I suppose most men can. But in practice, not really. What is known as a 'six pack' is the outline of the divisions of the rectus abdominis muscle which run down either side of the centre of the stomach from rib cage to 'belly button' (in fact there are four 'divisions' on each side, so really it should be called an eight-pack).

All men have this muscle - but it can be seen in so few men because it is usually covered by a layer of fat, and is rarely exercised enough to be well-defined in any case. Those young men who work very hard and very regularly on their stomach muscles, have a low body fat percentage and who do achieve a 'six pack' can feel justifiably proud of themselves. For most males, the effort required to get that sought-after physique is just too much and there are more important things in life to do.

Men don't actually need to be that honed and toned in order to be healthy - you just need a reasonable waist circumference (CLICK HERE for more information) and an absence of obvious 'pot'.

If you do decide to 'go for it' - don't wait around too long. The older and flabbier your stomach gets, the harder it will be to convert!

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