Drinking alcohol is a favourite pastime for most, both socially and culturally.
Some studies even suggest that alcohol can have health benefits.
For example, red wine may lower your risk for heart disease.
However, alcohol also plays a large role in weight management.
Anyone looking to drop body fat may want to consider skipping those shots at the weekend!
- ALCOHOL CONTAINS LOTS OF CALORIES
Alcohol is an often-underestimated source of calories: 1 g of alcohol = 7 calories. To compare, consider that carbohydrates and proteins contain 4 calories/g, and fat a whopping 9 calories/g. This means a half litre (17 ounces) of beer has more than 200 calories. A piña colada weighs in at nearly 400 calories due to the cream. To work off this amount of calories, you would have to run for about an hour.
What’s more, people tend to eat hearty, high-calorie foods when they drink alcohol. Since your liver is busy metabolizing the alcohol (with the help of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase), the extra calories are stored directly in your fat cells. What’s the result? You gain weight.
- ALCOHOL SLOWS DOWN YOUR RECOVERY
You are definitely not doing you or your body any favours especially if you drink after training. Alcohol delays the process of restoring your glycogen stores (carbohydrate reserves). This has a negative impact on your recovery after intense physical exercise.
- ALCOHOL DEHYDRATES YOUR BODY
Alcoholic beverages promote the excretion of water via your kidneys. Valuable salts are lost due to this increased need to urinate. This can really wreak havoc on your mineral balance and increase the likelihood of muscle cramps.
Rule of thumb: Whenever you drink a glass of wine, follow it up with a glass of water. Or go with a wine spritzer.
- ALCOHOL IMPACTS YOUR SLEEP
Consuming large quantities of alcohol has a negative impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep. A good night sleep is crucial if you are looking to improve your performance in the gym because it gives your body the time it needs to rest and recover. However, some studies show that a good glass of red wine can assist in a restful sleep.
- ALCOHOL CAN CONTRIBUTE TO EXCESS BELLY FAT
The “beer gut” isn’t just a myth.
Foods high in simple sugars, such as those found in candy, soda, and even beer, are also high in calories. Extra calories end up stored as fat in the body.
Consuming foods and drinks high in sugar can quickly lead to weight gain.
We can’t choose where all that extra weight ends up. But the body tends to accumulate fat in the abdominal area.
- Alcohol affects judgment calls… especially with food
Even the most die-hard diet fan will have a hard time fighting the urge to dig in when intoxicated.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can lead to poor decision-making in the heat of the moment — especially when it comes to food choices.
However, the effects of alcohol surpass even social drinking etiquette.
A recent animal study, found that mice given ethanol over a period of three days demonstrated a significant increase in food intake. This study suggests that alcohol can actually trigger hunger signals in the brain, leading to an increased urge to eat more food.
Best alcoholic drinks for weight loss
This may all sound as if alcohol is ruining your chances of that beach body. But fear not — watching your weight doesn’t necessarily mean having to cut alcohol entirely out of your diet.
Rather than reaching for drinks high in sugar or calories, enjoy some of these 100-calorie options instead:
Calories: 100 calories in 1.5 ounces of distilled 80-proof vodka
Alternative cocktail: Choose low-calories mixers such as club soda and avoid overly sugary juices.
Calories: 100 calories in 1.5 ounces of 86-proof whiskey
Alternative cocktail: Ditch the coke and take your whiskey on the rocks for a low-calorie alternative.
Calories: 115 calories in 1.5 ounces of 90-proof gin
Alternative cocktail: Aim for something simple, such as a martini — and don’t skip the olives, they contain beneficial antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Calories: 100 calories in 1.5 ounces of tequila
Alternative cocktail: The best part about tequila is that the customary tequila “shot” is just salt, tequila, and lime.
Calories: 100 calories in 1.5 ounces of brandy
Alternative cocktail: This drink is best served as an after-dinner digestif and a good brandy should be enjoyed slowly to savor the subtle fruity sweetness.
The bottom line
While cutting alcohol completely out of your diet isn’t necessarily the only way to lose weight, there are many improvements that can be made in your health journey by simply cutting back on the booze.
You can enjoy a healthier body, improved sleep, better digestion, and fewer of those excess “empty” calories.
And if you do plan to drink, enjoy a vodka or whiskey on the rocks — and skip the soda!