To Drink or Not to Drink?
When it comes to losing weight, cutting back on calories, limiting certain foods, and increasing exercise can make only so much progress if alcohol is still a part of your diet. But why is that? Even when selecting lower calorie beverages such as hard liquor and soda water or a light beer, alcohol contains empty calories that provide no nutritional value that our bodies now need to work to burn off.
While protein and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram, and fat is 9 calories per gram, they provide nutritional benefits whereas alcohol is 7 calories per gram, with no nutritional value. Our bodies naturally digest the foods we eat by first starting with carbohydrates, and then will begin to digest fat, and lastly protein. When alcohol is consumed, the liver will prioritize burning through the alcohol prior to burning the other macronutrients. That means that no matter what else is consumed that day and no matter how many calories you consume of carbohydrates and fats, your liver will prioritize breaking down the alcohol first.
If you were to consume one alcoholic beverage, for example a light beer that is 90 calories and has 3g of carbohydrates, your body will need to first break down the calories of alcohol before the 12 calories of carbohydrates, plus the remaining amount of carbohydrates consumed that day. If you were to have two drinks, your body would need to process double the amount of alcohol, and then it would begin to process 24 calories of carbohydrates from the beverage and the remaining amount from that day. This is also considering that you are not consuming too many calories that day, and for every 3,500 calories consumed on top of your metabolic rate (which is exercise plus your metabolism, learn more about your metabolism here), that can result in gaining one pound of body fat. What this means is for every time you consume an alcoholic beverage, and if you were to over consume calories not only from the amount of drinks consumed but also food, your body will burn through calories slower because it has to prioritize burning through the alcohol first, and may not be able to burn off enough energy in order to lose weight or body fat.
Alcohol stalls weight loss not only because of its calorie content and nutritional deficiencies, but also because of the lasting effects from consumption as well. Alcohol can also make an impact on hormone levels, sleep quality, and hunger levels.
Alcohol and Hormones
Alcohol interferes with glucose and the hormones that are meant to regulate glucose, as the liver does prioritize the breakdown of alcohol first. This results in insulin secretion and can lead to hypoglycemia if not eating properly, especially when drinking. Alcohol also causes cortisol levels to increase in the body after prolonged periods of heavy drinking, which is the stress hormone and can result in weight gain. Cortisol levels don’t only increase when drinking, but continue to increase while being intoxicated (1).
Alcohol and Sleep
While alcohol can have sedative-like effects and make one feel sleepy, it can actually disrupt a night of rest! When consumed, alcohol is absorbed in the bloodstream and takes a while for the body to metabolize. Depending on ones sex, age, height, and weight, alcohol may be metalobized slower in the body than others. Because of this, timing of consumption is also a factor when it comes to how alcohol will interfere with your sleep. If it takes a while to have the “sedative feeling” from alcohol, you would not want to drink too close to your bedtime as your body will begin to break down the alcohol and can lead to sleep disruptions (the same goes for eating too close to bed!). If sleep is continuously disrupted due to drinking, sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain (2).
Alcohol and Hunger Levels
After having a drink or few, you may start to feel loose and may not be paying as much attention to what you are eating. When drinking at a bar or at a social gathering, there usually tends to be a snack table and everything is starting to sound good, even though you just had dinner. Why is that? Alcohol stimulates nerve cells in the hypothalamus of the brain that increase appetite, when usually this part of the brain is activated during starvation mode (3). This is usually about when one begins to consume too many calories that consists of alcohol and carbohydrate-rich, fat-dense, high sodium foods. We crave salty foods when we drink because ingesting alcohol depletes our electrolyte storage (sodium among others) and so our bodies crave salty foods to make up for what we have lost. Over consuming calories, even if it is one day a week, takes about 2-3 days for your body to fully recover from its aftermath. This is another reason why alcohol and weight loss do not go hand in hand.
Avoiding alcohol when losing weight, and limiting alcohol consumption to be only on special occasions, has health benefits such as allowing the body to lose body fat, specifically visceral fat (the beer gut), which reduces risks of chronic diseases. You will also experience better sleep patterns, higher energy levels, reduced inflammation in the body, and even reduce your blood pressure!
Tips for Ditching Alcohol
Try swapping alcoholic beverages for mocktails such as ginger flavored sparkling water with lime in a mug to mimic a Moscow mule, or a 30/10 Fruit Drink with a fun umbrella! This also makes for a great way to get into the habit of drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated. When dining out, order an unsweetened iced tea or ask for a club soda with lemon over ice. After just one week of limiting alcohol, you will notice a difference in your body composition and you will feel great!
30/10 Weight Loss for Life is a comprehensive weight loss program that can help you achieve your goals and weight loss success! Get started with 30/10 Weight Loss for Life by visiting any 30/10 location or call us at (855)-937-3010!