Tag Archives: alcohol and weight loss

Can I Drink Alcohol While Trying to Lose Weight?

One of the questions that we’re asked often is: how bad is alcohol really for weight loss? Can I still drink when I’m trying to lose weight?

alcohol

With the summer, and more outdoor events and cookouts approaching, we figured now would be a good time to answer this question for you. For those of you who are just looking for the short version, the answer is yes, you can still drink when you’re trying to lose weight, but the key is to be selective with what you’re drinking and how much you’re consuming.

Fox News Magazine estimates that 36 percent of men and 21 percent of women consume alcohol each day. It’s also estimated that approximately 45 million Americans are trying to lose weight. With these numbers, it’s a pretty good guess that many of these people who drink daily are also trying to lose weight.

When starting a weight loss plan, you’ll often find alcohol on the “no” list. Because alcohol is full of empty calories – meaning it contains calories with no real nutrition – it’s best to avoid it completely, but if you’re able to consume it in moderation, you’ll still be successful with your weight loss goals.

Counting the Calories

Alcohol itself contains 7 calories per gram — almost double the 4 calories per gram from protein and carbohydrates and 2 calories short of the 9 from fat. Unlike the other calorie-containing nutrients though, alcohol doesn’t offer you anything else, like vitamins or minerals and it doesn’t provide a feeling of satiety, meaning that no matter how much you drink, you won’t feel full.

In addition to the calories in the alcohol itself, many cocktails contain mixers like soda or sugary syrups that pack a wallop in both calories and sugar. It’s easy to take in 200 to 300 calories in one mixed drink. While a 4-ounce glass of red wine contains 95 calories, a margarita packs a whopping 550 calories. One of those a day in addition to your regular meals and you could put on a pound per week.

Lowered Inhibitions

It isn’t just the calories alone that make alcohol a questionable choice on a weight loss plan; it’s alcohol’s tendency to lower inhibitions. After you’ve had a few drinks, you’re more like to choose foods that you’re trying to stay away from. Pizza at midnight may not be a good choice, but when your judgment is clouded by alcohol, you may be less likely to realize that.

Metabolism Mix-Up

The metabolism of alcohol also disrupts the way your body burns fat. As you can imagine, a properly working metabolism, especially when it comes to fat-burning, is vital to your weight loss success.

Normally, the liver metabolizes the calories from fat and allows you to use them for energy. When you drink alcohol, your liver prioritizes its breakdown over the metabolism of fat. As a result, your body uses the calories from the alcohol as energy and stores the fat, which can prevent weight loss – and even cause weight gain.

Drinking Smartly

We’re not here to blow your buzz and tell you that alcohol is completely off limits, but if you do decide to indulge here and there, make sure you’re making smart choices. Don’t drink more than the recommended amounts – no more one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Remember, a drink is defined as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Choose wine, light beer or a low-calorie mixer, such as club soda, over juice or cola. Avoid fancy cocktails like margaritas, mojitos, and Long Island Iced Teas, which typically have lots of added sugar. Always eat a satisfying meal before indulging in some cocktails. Some people are tempted to skip dinner to save on calories, but this can backfire. You’ll feel the effects of the alcohol more quickly and be more likely to binge on unhealthy foods later.

Get Choosy With Your Holiday Cocktails – How to Indulge with Breaking the Calorie Bank

The holiday season isn’t just a time where food abounds; it’s also a time where the liquor

Eggnog alone has 223 calories and 11 grams of fat per cup. Skip it!
Eggnog alone has 223 calories and 11 grams of fat per cup. Skip it!

flows like water. Everywhere you look there’s fancy schmancy holiday cocktails – peppermint this or eggnog that – and while it all sounds delicious, having just one of these concoctions can easily put you over your calorie needs for the day. The good news is that it’s possible to indulge a little bit; you just have to know which drinks to choose and which ones to skip.

Alcohol and Weight Gain

Alcohol doesn’t make the cut on many weight loss diets and that’s for good reason. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and in most cases, these are empty calories. This means that every time you throw one back, you’re racking up the calories without getting much else in terms of nutrients. Because alcohol doesn’t fill you up, you’re basically just adding extra calories to your day, which can translate to weight gain over time. A couple of regular beers can cost you 300 calories and a boatload of carbohydrates.

The other reason alcohol is prohibited from a lot of weight loss diets is because it lowers your inhibitions. You might go into the night with every intention of sticking to your diet plan, but after a glass or two of wine, you’re more likely to throw caution to the wind and reach for those appetizers or choose more “comforting” foods like pizza and pasta over a salad. There’s also a greater chance that you’ll be calling up that delivery guy at 2 AM.

Making the Right Choices

While we don’t condone overdoing it on the alcohol, indulging in a couple of cocktails here and there is almost an unavoidable part of the holiday season. The good news is that there are some “better” choices you can make and some tricks of the trade that you can follow so that you can enjoy yourself without seeing a huge difference on the scale.

  • Skip the creamy concoctions. If something is creamy, thick, and smooth, there’s a good chance it’s loaded with calories and sugar. It’s not just the calories from the alcohol you’re getting, it’s extra calories from things like cream, chocolate, and eggnog.
  • Be careful with mixed drinks. While you’re only getting about an ounce of alcohol in a mixed drink – which contributes about 70 calories – the fruit juice, soda, or simple syrup that it’s mixed with is loaded with calories and sugar. If you do prefer a mixed drink, ask for vodka and soda with just a splash of cranberry juice, plenty of ice, and a squeeze of fresh lime.
  • Rethink the Beer. Beer isn’t the worst choice – especially on a holiday drink menu – but regular beers are loaded with carbohydrates and contain a decent amount of calories. Choose light beer instead.
  • Go for wine or champagne. Wine and champagne are typically lower in calories than mixed drinks. They also tend to take longer to drink because you sip them slowly. Bonus points: dilute your wine with some sparkling water and make it a spritzer. You can double the drink for half the calories.

Other Tips

Now that you have a better idea of how to navigate the drink menu, there’s some other things you need to know about drinking while you’re on a weight loss diet.

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Some people fall into the trap of thinking that if they skip dinner, the calories from the drinks they have won’t matter as much. Unfortunately, drinking on an empty stomach can have disastrous effects – you may end up drinking and eating more and you’ll likely feel the effects of the drinks faster. Instead, have a healthy, balanced meal before heading out to your cocktail party.
  • Drink at a pace of no more than one drink per hour. This gives your body time to adjust to the alcohol and helps reduce the chance that you’ll end up drinking to excess.
  • Alternate drinks. It’s easy to drink 2 to 3 cocktails when you’re spending an entire night at a holiday party. Save yourself some calories by alternating cocktails with water. Have an alcoholic beverage then sip on some water with a squeeze of fresh lime before ordering another. Make sure you drink at least one glass of water for every cocktail that you have.