Here’s the deal, just like eating french fries, gelato, waffles with syrup, strawberries and whipped cream, alcohol is one of those “foods” that if you have it every day you will gain weight. I have a number of my friends, clients, and myself included that “don’t count” alcohol. When I ask how their nutrition is they’ll say, “Oh, I eat REALLY well! Lot’s of vegetables, lean meats, cheese from time to time but I hardly ever have sugar.” “Awesome!” I think, this person is doing great! “So how many drinks a week would you say you have? Be honest.” At first they answer one or two and then they stop and really think about it when I ask how many they had in the last seven days. “Well, I went out to dinner with friends on Friday night and we had a few glasses of wine (+3) and then we went out to a bar afterwards and I had a couple cocktails (+2). Saturday we went to a friend’s beer garden and I had a few beers (+3) and then on Sunday I had a just a few mimosas on the rooftop at brunch (+3). I didn’t drink on Monday though! Tuesday my husband and I shared a bottle of wine with dinner (+2.5). Wednesday I had to go to a Happy Hour for work so I had a beer (+1). Thursday a friend was in town for a work trip so we grabbed a margarita (+4). 18.5 drinks later it starts to sink in why that “stubborn belly fat” won’t go away. What if you had 18.5 servings of gelato a week, what if you only had 10! That would STILL be a lot. Alcohol counts people! And it doesn’t get canceled out when you hop on the elliptical for 45 minutes nor does a 45 minute spin class make it disappear. That beer gut, wine cellar, cocktail jiggle likes it there around your mid-section and it doesn’t have any intention of going anywhere as long as you keep feeding it.
Here are the facts:
1. ALCOHOL SUPPLIES ALMOST TWICE AS MANY CALORIES PER GRAM AS PROTEIN & CARBOHYDRATES.
Now remember, calories are our bodies energy source, our fuel. Here is a non-scientific way of understanding these fuel sources. I want you imagine that your body has fuel tanks for Protein, Carbohydrates, Alcohol and then you have one tank for Fat that is expandable. Here’s the deal, similar to your car each gas tank can only hold so much before it spills over. In your body’s case, it spills into the expandable Fat tank. Protein and Carbohydrates have 4 cal/g so those tanks don’t necessarily fill up AS quickly but guess what, Alcohol has 7 calories per gram! Only 2 less calories than Fat.
So what happens when you eat and drink too much? Your Protein, Carb and Alcohol tanks will fill up but guess what doesn’t, your Fat tank. That sucker gets to keep expanding and makes room for any excess calories that you ingest.
Oh, and don’t forget:
• Calories from alcohol lack the nutrients beneficial for a healthy metabolism and will therefore hasten fat storage.
• Most alcohol calories are quite concentrated compared to foods causing you to drink more calories than you would ever be comfortable eating.
• If you drink alcoholic beverages that contain other calorie sources, you get a double or triple calorie whammy! Cocktails can have fats and wine and beer have carbohydrates. Guess what carbohydrates do, release insulin. Insulin speeds up fat storage so those carbs in that beer and wine actually helps your body store any fat cells QUICKER! Hello body fat!
An example of how many calories can be easily consumed can be seen with a small glass of wine: a 5-ounce glass of wine will typically contain 110 calories, 91 of which come from the alcohol itself (13 grams), with the remaining five grams coming from carbohydrates. Beer contains more carbohydrates (although many of the “Lite” beers have a carb content similar to a glass of wine) and less alcohol than wine, but is seen as being more fattening, due to its higher energy content. Remember, this energy is being used to quickly pack all those fat cells all over your body instead of using them up for energy in that spin class.
2. ALCOHOL LOOSENS YOUR INHIBITIONS
No surprise here! The more you drink, the less most people are concerned about what the alcohol is doing to their bodies. You’re relaxed, you’re happy and so you drink! More drinks = more calories = more body fat.
Now you’re drunk and you’re hungry since that alcohol has little to no nutritional value so you chomp down a few slices of pizza to “help sober you up”. More fat and carbs to help your body store all that excess fat, goody goody!
3. ALCOHOL CAN DAMAGE THE STOMACH, KIDNEYS, AND LIVER
Now let’s forget for a moment that six pack you keep working on in the 15 minute ab class is quickly being buried by every drink you have and focus on something more important. Those organs that you can’t show off at the pool are seriously hating you right now.
Alcohol is a by-product of yeast digestion so it can have an irritating effect on the lining of the stomach and gradually weaken the kidneys and liver which can lead to serious health problems, even death.
Let’s go back to that six pack of abs you want. Any weakening of the stomach will lessen the rate and efficiency of food digestion. What’s this mean? You’re slowing down your metabolism and weight loss ability!
Want a healthy body composition? (Nod your head yes, this is your ratio of fat/bone/muscle). The liver is crucial to maintaining a healthy body composition. It processes toxins and breaks down FATS (your beer gut!) for fuel. Alcohol is most destructive during the liver’s detoxification process.
Moral to this story, don’t beat up your kidneys and liver, they’re trying to help those abs you so desire to pop out.
4. ALCOHOL LOWERS TESTOSTERONE
Boy’s AND Girls just when you didn’t think it couldn’t get any worse, alcohol actually makes you LESS buff, toned, ripped, cut. You know that chest or ab workout you just did, that wine just laughed at those muscle fibers trying to rebuild so you can look “lean and toned”.
Testosterone, a natural fat burner, is reduced every time you drink. Not only that but testosterone is also a anabolic hormone which helps you build muscle.
So: Alcohol = Less Testosterone = Fewer Muscle Gains (bye bye abs)
AND Less Muscle = Lower Metabolic Rate!
A lower metabolic rate means it’s going to be a LOT harder to lose fat. If you have a higher metabolic rate, you will burn more calories even when you’re laying around on the couch. So interfering with testosterone production (drinking alcohol) indirectly causes the body to lower its metabolic rate and directly prohibits testosterone from exerting it’s powerful fat burning effects.
5. ALCOHOL INCREASES APPETITE
We discussed this just briefly in point 2, alcohol can increase appetite, making your calorie consumption for the night far worse. A Canadian study showed that alcohol consumed before a meal increased caloric intake to a far greater extent than did a carbohydrate drink. Also, researchers from Denmark’s Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University showed that if a group of men were given a meal and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, alcohol, rather than a soft drink, would increase the amount of food consumed. Why do you think it is that restaurants bring you your drinks first…
MORAL OF THE STORY:
If you’re one of the few who decides to cut alcohol out of their life completely, good for you! I’m proud of you. For the rest of us who enjoy a glass or two of wine at night, margaritas with friends or a lovely cocktail hour before a show here’s what you can do.
1. Moderation: This will look different for everyone depending on your health but if you’re generally a healthy adult, I recommend no more than an average of 3 drinks per week. Remember, you wouldn’t have 5 pints of ice cream a week. Or at least you shouldn’t.
Personally I try to not drink more than twice a week and very, very rarely in excess (more than 4 drinks). If I know that I’m going to be drinking more one week, on vacation for instance, I’ll try not to drink before vacation and I’ll definitely take a break from alcohol for a week or sometimes two, post vacation. Some weeks I’ll have no alcohol while others I’ll have 4 drinks and maybe 4 times a year I’ll have 10+.
2. Alcohol choice. I’m sorry beer drinkers, but beer is one of the worst options.
Best to Worst
Hard Alcohol: Drink on the rocks and the clearer the better.
Wine: Red is better than white and as they contain more alcohol generally people drink less than beer.
Beer: Light beers are better than dark beers and much better than cider’s and other sugary malt beverages. But be careful sometimes light beer can be worse as people end up drinking more to get the same buzz as regular beer.
Mixed Drinks: The sugary ones are the worst! Juices, sodas, syrups and mixers. Stick with club soda and a lime.
For more specifics, check out this link.
Now go enjoy your weekend and remember, alcohol counts.