Alcohol is always one of my least favorite topics to talk to clients about. Why? Because I feel as though I am the messenger who has to let them know this earth shattering news: alcohol will significantly decrease your rate of weight loss.
Alcohol is what we call “empty calories,” meaning it provides calories without nutrients. This means that your body can not extract anything beneficial from it, and it will not trigger any feelings of satiety. Protein, carbohydrates, and fats provide 4, 4, and 9 calories per gram, respectively. Your body recognizes and does well with protein, carbs, and fat. However, alcohol comes swooping in at 7 calories per gram and throws a wrench in our digestion. In fact, alcohol reduces the rate of digestion by up to 50%! When present, it becomes the main focus to be processed by the body, so the digestion of the other food that you are consuming or have not yet digested is now on the back burner. The liver, which is responsible to break down the food and drinks we consume, is heavily taxed by removing alcohol from the body. This also results in a decreased rate of calorie burning, usually turning the excess calories quickly into fat, since the body can not take any nutrients from those calories.
Alcohol lowers blood glucose levels which increases cravings. When was the last time you ordered a kale salad with your beer? Usually, alcohol shows up next to wings, burgers, pizza, or less nutrient dense options. This is a big deal because THOSE are the foods that are going to be digested less efficiently alongside the alcohol. Double whammy. Hence the “beer belly.”
Studies show that alcohol consumption can raise estrogen and SHBG levels, which lowers testosterone. Testosterone is a powerful hormone in charge of fat loss in both men and women. This leads to hormone dysregulation, a lowered metabolic rate, difficulty losing fat (especially visceral, or abdominal fat), and hampered ability to gain muscle.
Lastly, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it will cause the body to urinate more frequently, resulting in dehydration. This is why it is so important to chug not alcohol, but water after having one too many drinks.
But isn’t having a glass of wine the same as going to the gym?
Wine has antioxidants, polyphenols, and resveratrol (which has been proven to decrease risk of all sorts of disease and signs of aging)… in moderation. Doctors agree that moderation looks like one glass a night for most women, and no more than two for most men. However, fitness experts suggest no more than 2 glasses a week if the goal is weight loss.
If you can not pull away from the liquor cabinet, let’s try changing the types of alcohol we are consuming. Opt for less SUGAR in your beverage, like a vodka seltzer with lemon or lime. Always ask to skip the simple syrups or added sugars.
For a list of “healthier” beers, check this link below: