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Whether you’re a fitness nut or have ever gone on any diet program, you might have wondered every now and then, how does alcohol affect weight loss? The body can use alcohol as a source of energy since its high caloric content of seven calories per gram, closely mirroring the caloric density of fat, at nine calories per gram.
Also, many alcoholic beverages may contain added sugars, making it easier for most people to increase their calorie intake. Therefore, it is recommended by experts to limit alcohol consumption whenever you want to lose weight.
When public holidays and weekends swing by, our social lives and calendars get a bit jam-packed, not only with friends and family but also with our bodies.
We indulge in delicious snacks and beverages that usually are associated with good vibes and good times. And if celebrations are the order of the day, we’re ready to share the bubbles. But did you know that not all alcohols are the same?
If you love indulging now and then, there are some alcoholic drinks you will benefit more from drinking because they have a few more health benefits than others, particularly where your heart and losing weight is concerned.
Some organic alcoholic drinks can help to lower heart disease, maybe lower your risk of diabetes or reduce the risk of stroke – done in moderation, of course.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out, though, that it is not suitable for you when you binge on alcoholic drinks over weekends and maybe even weeknights. We all love to let loose now and then, especially when we celebrate, but do it responsibly.
What Are The Ingredients In Alcohol?
So are there any toxins in those favorite beers, wines, and liquors that you love? We all know that alcoholic beverages have some health benefits, but many people who live healthy lifestyles believe that just the occasional drink is all fine.
What these drinks contain, though, is not always that easy to tell. Unlike foods, not all alcoholic beverages are regulated by the FDA in the US. Some fall under the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau umbrella–which means different rules around labeling.
Allergens found in beer
Let’s look at some common allergens found in beer, for example:
- Gluten and wheat
- Food Dyes
- Peanut ingredients
Accepted ingredients in beer
- Genetically modified corn, rice, and sugars
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Propylene Glycol
- Calcium Disodium EDTA
- Natural Flavors (which we know aren’t so natural after all)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Caramel coloring, artificial food dyes, and insect-based dyes
- Glyceryl monostearate and pepsin (which is used for foam control and head stability)
- Carrageenan; widely used in the food industry as a thickener; improving the quality of the beer
That’s more or less what is in your beer! Recognize any of those ingredients?
What about wine? The Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau also regulates the labeling of wine. It appears that not as many suspect ingredients appear in your merlot or Sauvignon Blancs.
But look what naturopathic nutritionist Frank Cooper says about toxins in wine. He says: “Chemicals that are permitted by law for use in winemaking include pesticides, herbicides, equipment cleaning chemicals, and sulfite preservatives.
Ouch! These chemicals are slipped into your wine either during the growing of the grapes or the production process. Unless, of course, the wine that you buy is organic, coming from traditional winemaking practices.
If not, you can expect a top preservative to be in your wine known as Sulphur Dioxide. Have you ever bought cheap wine which gave you a headache drinking it? You might want to check out the ingredients and preservatives used.
How Does Alcohol Affect Weight Loss
Before we look at the best alcoholic drinks to look at if you are trying to lose weight, here are a couple of reasons why alcohol can impede your weight loss and what you should drink instead.
1. Alcohol is often just “empty” calories
We often refer to alcoholic drinks as “empty” calories because they might provide the body with calories; but with very few nutrients, if any. Drinks containing mixers, like fruit juices and sodas, will include even more calories.
2. You gain weight when alcohol is used as your primary source of fuel
When you consume alcohol, it is at first burned as a fuel source before being used as anything else in your body. This will include glucose from carbohydrates and lipids from fats. When your body uses alcohol as its primary source of energy, all the excess glucose and lipids end up as adipose tissue.
3. Your organs can be affected by alcohol
We know that the primary role of your liver is to detox your body, to filter away any foreign stuff that enters the body, like alcohol and drugs. The liver also metabolizes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the body.
Anything in excess, like what we might be doing with alcohol, can lead to something known as alcoholic fatty liver. That means you damage your liver, which will affect how your body metabolizes and stores fats and carbohydrates. These types of changes make it extremely difficult to lose weight.
4. Alcohol enhances belly fat
You must have heard of “beer belly” before. Any foods that are high in sugar, such as what is found in candies, sodas, and even beer, are high in calories. All the extra calories you might not even believe can be found in drinks are stored as fat around, particularly your waistline, and increase your weight. Studies suggest that alcohol can trigger hunger signals in the brain, leading to an increased urge to eat more food as well.
5. Alcohol and sex hormones
It is old knowledge, albeit true, that when you take in alcohol, you can affect the hormone levels in the body, particularly testosterone levels. Testosterone is the sex hormone that processes metabolism, muscle formation, and fat-burning capabilities.
When you have low testosterone levels, it could mean the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in men. Low testosterone levels also affect the quality of sleep, particularly in older men. Research shows that alcohol can increase the periods of wakefulness during the time of sleeping.
When anyone is sleep deprived, it can lead to hormonal imbalances, which are related to hunger and energy storage. Sometimes that glass of wine that you love before dinner or at a barbeque can increase your feeling of hunger.
Alcohol is a very powerful appetizer. The more you drink, the more you just want to eat. A major reason for this is that alcohol causes the brain to release dopamine. That’s the pleasure and addiction hormone.
So, the more you drink, the more you are stimulating the release of dopamine, resulting in that relaxed mood, with the desire to eat and drink even more, with that hunger feeling lasting around 24 hours after drinking.
6. Alcohol affects digestion and nutrient uptake
Many people indulge in alcohol because they suffer from social anxiety – alcohol helps them lose some inhibitions. It might help with that, but it also inhibits proper digestion in your body, affecting its function.
Alcohol can cause stress on the intestines and the stomach, leading to decreased digestive secretions as well as the movement of food through the digestive tract.
Digestion secretions are essential for healthy digestion because they break food down into micro and macro-nutrients that are absorbed and used by the body. This all affects the metabolism of organs that play an important role in weight management.
Best Alcohol to Drink When Trying to Lose Weight
So if you’re going to be doing some drinking over this weekend, then do so in moderation – try one of these five alcohols since they’re better for you if you are trying to lose weight:
Champagne comes with a boost of nutrients in it. It’s got phenolic acid in it and has proven that it actually helps to improve your memory. Champagne also has polyphenols in it, which is good for helping to reduce blood clots.
Regarding calories, Champagne is far better than wine to drink, too, as it has far less sugar than wine. Look out for the Graham Beck Brut Zero bubbles.
Red wine is actually rather good for you, and that’s thanks to its antioxidants and resveratrol. If you are trying to keep your weight down, drink the lighter styles like Pinot Noir.
Some think that white wine is better than red wine, but if weight loss is on your mind, then it’s the calories you have to think about – both red and white wine contain more or less the same amount.
A lot of bars serve wine in large goblets that can often hold up to around 8 ounces of wine or even more. If you have a generous bartender, you could end up consuming over 150 calories in a single glass of wine! Your best bet would be to ask about the serving size. Ask the bartender for a smaller glass with some water on the side.
You also get low-calorie wines; one that comes to mind is Cense from Weight Watchers. Each 5-ounce serving offers you only 85 calories. Bon Affair is a bottled wine spritzer – it’s got only 300 calories per bottle, not glass. But that doesn’t mean that you just down the whole bottle – a single glass will be about 60 calories.
Move over, gin! Because Vodka is lower in kilojoules than some other spirits. If you want to avoid the excess sugar because you are trying to lose weight, mix your Vodka with sparkling water with a dash of fresh orange or lime juice. This also helps you to stay hydrated, and the fruity flavors help to take away from that sharp alcoholic flavor.
One shot (about 3 Tablespoons) of vodka contains 97 calories (0 sugar, 0 carbs)
Best drinks: Vodka soda.Vodka and soda. Zero calorie seltzer may be a basic ingredient, but it also helps you stay within your calorie limit. Squeeze in some fresh fruit for a little more gusto.
Windhoek Light is a light beer, light in kilojoules as well. A bottle will have only 300kJ per bottle and only 2.4% alcohol. Castle Lite is another one. Only 4% alcohol present at 413kJ a bottle.
Calories in beer are a little bit easier to manage because beer usually is served in standard 12-ounce cans or bottles, so you know what you’re getting into.
Even draft beers from a bar are generally served in standard glasses. Calories in beer can vary, though. Here is a list of beers and their calories. Generally, though, the lighter-colored beers have fewer calories. If you are dieting, though, 125 calories are still quite a lot of calories.
Bud Select 55 contains only 55 calories in a 12-ounce can.
Amstel Light is a favorite among many beer drinkers, and it contains just 95 calories per 12-ounce bottle.
While out celebrating and you want to down some shots, choosing Tequila is your best bet. The other spirits are usually sugar-packed, having delicious coffee-chocolaty flavors, but not ideal if you are trying to lose weight.
There is Agavin in Tequila, which is a natural form of sugar fructose called a fructan. This helps to lower the triglycerides and cholesterol levels in your body. Try and drink enough water in-between, and don’t drink your Tequila on an empty stomach.
One shot contains: 105 calories (0 carbs, 0 sugar)
Best drink: Paloma
Stay away from the frozen drinks
Why so? They usually are the ones laden with all the sugar. The bottom line is, if you are watching your weight, stay away from frozen drinks.
Here’s an idea of the number of calories that are in your drinks if you are watching your weight:
One shot contains: 97 calories (0 carbs, 0 sugar)
Best drink: Rum and diet coke
One shot contains: 105 calories (.03 grams of carbs per ounce, .03 grams of sugar an ounce)
Best drink: Manhattan
One shot contains: 110 calories (0 carbs, 0 sugar)
Best drink: Gin martini
Don’t mix your drinks
Stay away from mixing your drinks. Try and keep to just one alcohol instead of mixing them up. Once you take on more than just one type of drink, you add on the calories big time.
Mixing your drinks is actually the riskiest option for dieters because there is more than just one ingredient involved.
Most hard liquors contain roughly 100 calories a shot (a shot is around three tablespoons).
But it’s also the mixers that cause problems for dieters. If you include orange, for instance, you simply add more calories. And then there are the other juices that you might add to drinks such as margaritas or daiquiris – these tend to be very high in calories, let alone sugar.
You also get the “skinny” cocktails, which some brands will advertise as being so low in calories. But take note of your serving for a minute. For instance, the Skinny girl brand pre-mixed cocktails contain just 75 calories per serving, but then the serving is only 1.5 ounces – about the size of a shot glass.
A Cosmopolitan Martini from Empower Cocktails consists of only 40 calories. When drinking, you are not likely to pour a drink that is just 1.5 ounces. If you are watching your weight, you can blend these with sparkling water and pour over some ice to control the calories and alcohol concentration.
If you prefer your cocktails to beer or wine, your best cocktail as a dieter is probably the one you will make yourself. Try and use fresh ingredients and measure out every addition so you know exactly what goes into your glass.
Check out these boozing tips if you are interested in losing weight
Keep it simple with booze
If you take your gin or vodka neat by adding some zesty orange or lime juice, your waistline will look slimmer than ever if you were to go with something like the standard G&T with all the added sugars.
You might well have been told repeatedly that losing weight and alcohol don’t go hand in hand, and saying that is partly true. Suppose you plan your consumption and practice in moderation with your drinking habits. In that case, you can still incorporate some alcohol into your life without negatively affecting your fat-losing priorities and your social activities with your friends.
Alcohol might not physically help you lose fat, but it’s not going to be the thing that automatically shuts down your body’s ability to lose fat or build lean muscle and stay thin.
A bit of alcohol drinking does have some positive benefits, such as reducing stress, having fun, and socializing with friends. If you are trying to lose weight and counting calories, tracking how many nutrients go into the food you eat, you will know how imperative it is to also pay attention to the calories that are in your drinks.
Because sometimes the drinks you have with your diet might completely be the undoing of your diet – ever think of that? And alcohol is not exempt. Basically, alcohol contains seven calories to every gram.
And the calories in alcoholic drinks are usually rather high, despite whether you are drinking beer, wine, or cocktails. Drinking booze can sometimes affect your willpower too, and if you are out wining and dining and feeling a bit tipsy, you might not make the right food choices.
Good Alcohol Substitutes
Some will say that the best booze for dieters is none at all, and studies show that people’s desire and consumption of savory foods increase when we take in a moderate amount of alcohol consumption.
If you choose to forgo alcohol, you might find that it was a smart move when you are trying to slim down. That doesn’t mean you must stay home and miss all the town’s fun, activities, and night.
You can still have fun with your mocktails, the newest trend in fine restauranteering and bars. Check out a place such as the Wayfarer, which is an upscale American grille.
It offers a whole cocktail menu that is devoted to drinks minus the alcohol. And believe it, the choices are just as sophisticated as all the other options on the menu. Choose from delicious titles such as Cucumber Fizz, Kiwi Sour, or Berry Fusion – very cool, very trendy.
It might sound like alcohol could ruin your chances of attaining that beach body forever, but you don’t have to fear it because watching your weight doesn’t necessarily mean cutting alcohol entirely out of your diet. We have shown you ideas for drinks and tips as well.
Simply, there are a dozen ways to cut calories and slim down, and making better booze choices will make your diet much more effective.
When it comes to drinking, remember portion size does matter, and just because a cocktail is low in calories doesn’t mean you should lay it on. Savor your drinks and then switch over to the other delicious mocktails – that will keep you on the right track going home and your diet.