Pints of beer and cocktails are full of calories, which can be a problem when watching your weight. It is possible that the alcohol may cause you to make poor diet choices, as well.
A new study found that people ate less healthy food and consumed more calories on days they drank alcohol compared to days they did not drink.
Men and women in the study both consumed more calories from alcohol on days they drank, but the men also consumed more food calories on drinking days.
Rosalind Breslow, PhD, an epidemiologist in National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, and colleagues conducted this study to find out if the diets of people who drink are different on days they drink compared to days they don’t drink.
The researchers used data from a large scale health study called the NHANES, which took place from 2003 to 2008. The study used information from 1,864 adults over the age of 20 who drank, which they defined as having at least 12 drinks in their lifetime.
The participants wrote down their diet for two full 24-hour days. One day was a day they had been drinking. The other day was a day that they did not drink.
When analyzing the results, the researchers divided the group by sex. They accounted for differences in the day of the week that the diet was recorded.
The study looked at differences in energy, nutrition and food groups that were eaten.
The researchers found that on days that men drank, they consumed an average of 168 more calories from food and 264 more calories from alcohol than they consumed on their nondrinking days. The men also consumed higher amounts of protein, fat, potassium and sodium on their drinking days.
The men ate more meat, potatoes, oil and fat on the days they drank alcohol, but ate less fruit and dairy compared to non-drinking days.
The study found that women did not consume excess calories from food on their drinking days compared to their non-drinking days. Women consumed an average of 206 more calories on days they drank, but the calories were mostly from alcohol.
Women also consumed more fat, potassium and oils on days they drank. They drank less milk or other dairy products on their drinking days.
The authors noted that the participants were mostly moderate drinkers.
The authors said that comparing the diet of the same person on different days made their study stronger. However, they pointed out a weakness concerning the days on which the information was collected. Drinking days were normally on the weekend, while non-drinking days were usually mid-week. The researchers accounted for that factor, but they noted it was possible that the day of the week had an effect on the results nonetheless.
The authors said that future studies should consider weekend drinking compared to weekday drinking, social factors related to drinking and diet.
Eve Pearson, MBA, RD, CSSD, LD, wellness expert and founder of Nutriworks, noted that collecting only two days of diet records from patients may not be sufficient.
“If a client writes down their food recall before their appointment, there's almost always misinformation once I get them talking about their diet and the food recall they turned in,” Pearson said.
“In my reality, when my clients drink, they almost always make poorer choices, regardless of male or female, and therefore it would be no surprise that they consume more sodium, fat and calories on drinking days,” she said.
This study was published in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Cancer Institute and the US Department of Agriculture. The authors declared no conflict of interest.