We all know that a balanced diet and regular exercising are the way towards a slimmer body, with drinking more often than not being shunned for its negative impact on slimming efforts. But what is the actual truth about alcohol and weight loss? Are all liquors equal when it comes to ’storing’ body fat? Will a glass of wine ruin all your hard work and determination? Can you drink and still enjoy a stunning figure? Let us find out.
How does alcohol affect your metabolism?
The first step towards knowing where your relationship with alcohol should stand in terms of weight loss is to understand the mechanisms involved in the ‘behind the scenes’ of your organism.
As you might know by now, ‘alcohol’ is the umbrella term used to represent all types of beverages which contain a compound named alcohol ethanol (or ethyl alcohol). This is the primary element that causes different levels of intoxication, from the pleasant ‘buzz’ you get when drinking a few glasses to more serious repercussions such as neurotoxic effects when ingested in exaggerated quantities.
It is no secret that alcohol has been produced and consumed by humans since prehistoric times for its ‘feel good’ properties since ethanol can be considered a psychoactive drug that alters both mood and perception. Nowadays, nutritionists are less concerned with this aspect and more with how alcohol influences our health and waistline as well.
One main issue with alcohol consumption is that it quickly makes you dehydrated. For example, many hangovers cures frequently recommend getting your fluid readings in check the following morning in order to reduce symptoms such as headaches and nausea. Aside from being a nuisance to deal with, this same dehydration is responsible for significantly slowing down your body’s ability to burn down fat deposits for energy.
Another way alcohol hinders weight loss is by meddling with your blood sugar balance. In an attempt to rid itself of the ‘toxic’ presence brought about by alcohol consumption, your organism focuses mainly on this priority and pushes aside other important activities like glucose production. In the absence of normal glucose levels, your metabolism falls behind on its normal efficiency and starts experiencing glycemic fluctuations which can even be dangerous to your health (especially if you suffer from problems like diabetes).
Moreover, alcohol can cause liver and pancreas toxicity over time, with severe degradation leading to such conditions like cirrhosis (which can even be fatal) and pancreatitis. Considering that these two organs are responsible for producing important digestive enzymes, it is no wonder that your gastrointestinal system ‘suffers’ and has a more difficult time absorbing nutrients and burning calories properly.
As a consequence, these and many more other factors (increasing appetite, decreasing energy, etc.) can be attributed to alcohol and its negative influence on weight loss endeavors.
Can you drink alcohol and still lose weight?
As surprising as this question might seem at this point, the answer is ‘yes’.
It turns out that more and more research focused on the outcomes of normal alcohol consumption in different categories of people have demonstrated an actual increase in metabolic rates rather than a lagging of their normal functions.
For instance, moderate consumption of red wine has been linked to fewer fat adhesions, especially with regards to the cardiovascular system. This paradoxical situation can be attributed to a specific compound found in certain alcoholic beverages – resveratrol – that acts as a powerful antioxidant and lipid moderator over time.
In addition, it is obvious that drinking smaller quantities of alcohol more often is better than resorting to excessive drinking once or twice a month. Investing into a stable eating regime where alcohol is included will allow you to become more aware of what you are putting into your body and remove the temptation of overindulging in ‘spiked’ beverages when you are going out with friends over the weekend, let’s say.
What are the best drinks for weight loss?
- Red wine – as previously pointed out, red wine contains numerous antioxidants and nutrients which can help your body delay cellular degradation. This translates into a generally improved metabolic rate and energy employment (instead of storage in the shape of fat). Moreover, accompanying your dinner with a glass of red wine can improve your mood and even help you make healthier choices for your meal (since most red wines pair best with salads and greens, dairy, and lean meats like fish or poultry). One serving of red wine contains around 125 calories per 5oz (~150ml).
- Straight liquors – whether it’s vodka, rum, gin or whiskey, your figure will be better off if you enjoy these alcoholic drinks with no additions or chasers. Combining them with sugary syrups will only make their caloric numbers skyrocket per serving and even mask their alcohol content (making you drink more and suffer the consequences afterward). In general, these liquors contain ‘empty calories’ (no sugars, carbohydrates or nutritional value). For instance, one shot of vodka/ rum has around 97 calories, one of whiskey/bourbon/ scotch/ tequila around 105 calories, and one of gin 110 calories.
- Champagne – while this drink has more often than not been associated with high society parties and exorbitant prices in the past, it has indeed become more affordable and commonplace in the past years. Although still a bit pricier than your average buzz-worthy drink, you can rely on brands like Moët and Laurent-Perrier to simultaneously enjoy a good quality and price-friendly champagne. With a glass of champagne (4oz./ 120ml) containing just 89 calories, you will want to invest in something that will make your nights more special and still keep your weight conscious.
- Protein beer – this type of beer is a new introduction to the alcoholic scene in the sense that it takes your traditional beer-drinking experience and adds a kick of health to it. It was created by a UK-based company and aimed more specifically at body builders and those who enjoy regular working out sessions. Each bottle of this beer contains 92 calories and almost 22g of protein, as well as fewer carbohydrates. So you will get the same taste as normal beer, minus the ‘beer belly’ that otherwise accompanies it!
What alcohol should you avoid to lose weight?
- White wine – even though white wine contains around the same number of calories as red wine, it does lack some of the health benefits of the latter. Because white wine is produced in the absence of the grape’s skin, it does not contain important phenols like resveratrol and tannins (which give red wine its rich color), meaning that you get less nutritional advantages in the end. White wines are also more sugary than their red counterparts, which then translates into slower metabolic functions and a poorer processing of nutrients and toxins as a result.
- Cocktails – did you know that cocktails are one of the most calorie-filled drinks you could be indulging in? For example, a Long Island Iced Tea contains over 400 calories, a Mojito around 250 calories, while Piña Coladas and Margaritas pack approximately 300 calories each. The list goes on depending how sugary or complicated your drink of choice might be (mixing more than a couple of different liquors, let’s say). Not only do these drinks mask tons of calories behind their taste and appeal, but they also make you want to drink more with each to sip – to the downfall of your waist size.
- Beer – the term ‘beer belly’ is used to describe beer aficionados who consume this alcoholic variety in larger quantities over extended periods of time. While one extra bottle over the weekend won’t necessarily bloat you up forever, it is worth mentioning that beer has been known to inhibit the elimination of abdominal fat deposits (hence the aforementioned phenomenon). Normal beers have a caloric count of up to 180 calories per bottle, while radler beers (which contain lemon or grapefruit flavors) can stack 210 calories per bottle.
- Cider – this alcoholic drink has become a popular choice in more recent times, being traditionally produced by fermenting apple juice. Although bubbly and boozy enough in its own right, it has been shown that a serving a cider amounts to 210 calories on average and nearly the entire quantity of sugar recommended for an adult in a day. These numbers can increase depending on whether you choose to drink normal cider or other flavors (like cherry, blueberry, elderflower, etc.) that contain added sugars and preservatives.
Tips & tricks for losing weight with alcohol
- Never drink on an empty stomach – have you ever thought about skipping a meal so that you could enjoy an extra glass that night? If so, then you might have just made a terrible choice for your body and weight alike. Drinking on an empty stomach is detrimental to your health due to multiple reasons, including a faster inebriation time frame, poorer alcohol processing, and more intense hangovers the next day. The ideal way of drinking smartly is by making sure you eat the right foods while enjoying alcohol, so as to avoid sugar ‘crashes’ and cravings by already providing your system with the energy it needs to process alcohol in the first place. For example, lean meats and fish abound in protein, vegetables and legumes contain lots of dietary fiber, while avocados and nuts constitute a good source of healthy fats.
- Prioritize drinks – as evident from the two lists before, not all drinks are created equally. As a result, the more sugar an alcoholic drink contains, the greater your glycemic imbalance will be after its effects wear off and the more intense your cravings for unhealthy foods. Stick to red wines, beer, and unadulterated liquors for a better handle on your caloric intake. While some of these options are acquired tastes, they are a much healthier alternative than downing endless sugary cocktails and regretting their weight gaining aftermath.
- Treat your hangovers correctly – if you do happen to get one drink too many on a night out with friends, then you should know that how you treat your hangovers can also have a say in how you gain or lose weight in the future. Firstly, don’t give into your body demanding rich and fatty foods, since this is your organism trying to recover from processing the ‘toxins’ in alcohol and therefore craving the highest source of calories it can find. Instead, focus on rehydrating yourself with plenty of fresh water and restoring your energy with healthy proteins from cereals like oatmeal. Different combinations of fruits and/ or vegetables can also provide moisture, as well as the fiber your gut needs to bring back gastrointestinal processes to normal.
- Practice moderation – like with all things in life, learning how to achieve a balanced lifestyle can aid you in reaching any goal – weight loss included. While some people benefit from completely cutting off the alcohol from their regular regime, others thrive best knowing that they can enjoy a glass from time to time. It is up to you, your state of health, and your personal preferences to determine what works best regarding alcohol consumption. Start by setting a limit for each night you go out or drink during dinner time and stick with it, no matter how hard it might seem. One thing is for sure – the happiness you will feel looking at the scales will definitely be more long-lasting than the one given by an extra shot or cocktail.
Alcohol and weight loss – does it work or not?
No matter how you put it, the relationship between alcohol consumption and weight loss will always remain a tricky one. The bottom line is that excessive drinking will cause you a number of health problems (out of which weight gain might be the very least of them), while moderate alcohol consumption can have a positive impact on your physical and psychological state alike.
Overall, the key is to make alcohol and your outward appearance two aspects of your life that coexist by knowing when, what, and how much to drink in order to keep your figure in check, yet still have a good time at the end of the day.