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Health Tips for Alcohol and Weight Loss

Author: Cara Walsh

August 09, 2017

Health Tips for Alcohol and Weight Loss

Author: Cara Walsh

August 09, 2017

Most people think that when they go on a diet, alcohol is the first thing that has to go. And for many, this is probably one of the most difficult parts of trying to lose weight. Drinking is a social activity and is often associated with having a good time or relaxing. And many people savor their glass of wine at night after or with dinner.

Unfortunately, alcohol can be high in calories and sugar. Frequent drinking can cause those extra calories to add up to extra pounds on the scale and impede weight loss. Whether you are in the maintenance phase of the program or still trying to lose weight, this guide will help you to make the best choices possible when consuming alcohol. And just remember, everything can be enjoyed, but in moderation.

How does alcohol affect the body?

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can all be broken down by the body and used for energy, or for storage. Alcohol contains more calories per gram than both carbohydrates and proteins and has absolutely no nutritional benefit. It cannot stay in its natural state in the body and therefore must be metabolized immediately or it is used to produce fat. The body is unable to breakdown alcohol and fat at the same time. When someone has a drink, the fat-burning metabolism must be put on hold in order to break deal with the alcohol. Alcohol is broken down and excreted by the liver.

What are the positives?

Small amounts of alcohol can lower the risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Resveratrol, found only in red wine, has been shown to prevent damage to blood vessels, increase HDL (good Cholesterol), reduce cholesterol levels and can reduce the risk of blood clots. Some studies show that 12 oz of beer per day can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. A 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drank moderately actually gained less weight than women who completely abstained from drinking.

Good to know: There is no difference between the calories found in beer, wine or spirits. There seems to be a belief that drinking red wine is the healthier option, but consider this: On average, a 5 oz glass of red wine is 122 calories. One glass of wine every night for a week = 854 extra calories that week. In one month, that is equal to an additional 3,416 ‘empty’ calories or 1 lb of weight. One lb of weight gain per month will add up to a 12 lb weight gain in one year! Also, there is no distinct difference in the calorie level between high end and inexpensive hard liquors.

What are the negatives?

Alcohol consumption leads to intoxication—physical and mental changes due to alcohol intake—and dehydration. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and causes you to make poor choices that you wouldn’t when sober. Weight gain isn’t just associated with the calories from the alcohol you drink, but also from the food you eat while drinking. Consider that slice, or two or three, of pizza that you ate after a night of drinking. Those calories can quickly undo the good progress you made during the day. It also places stress on the liver because it has to work to break down toxins quickly. Drinking alcohol in excess has been linked to some serious health conditions, like obesity, hypo/hyperglycemia, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

How much should I drink?

It is recommended that women drink no more than one serving per day and men consume no more than two servings per day.

What is does ONE serving look like?

The amount in one serving of alcohol depends on the type of drink: one serving of hard alcohol is 1 ounce, one serving of wine is 5 ounces and one serving of beer is 12 ounces.

Healthy Tips for Choosing Alcoholic Beverages

Health Tips for Alcohol and Weight Loss

You don’t have to completely abstain from alcohol if you decide that you want to continue drinking the occasional adult beverage. The key is to drink lightly or in moderation. Here are some tips for minimizing the impact of a fun night out:

1. Sip your drinks slowly! Choose drinks that you can drink slowly over a period of time. Drinking too quickly can cause you to feel intoxicated or take in more calories than you planned for.

2. Eat a Meal. Make sure to eat a meal prior to drinking alcohol. Drinking after eating food gives your body a chance to process the alcohol. In addition, eating healthy snacks while drinking prevents the munchies later on and helps to keep you from drinking too much.

3. Drink water. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes you to lose water. Staying hydrated is important to keep you from feeling hungover and also keeps you from drinking too much. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with water to make sure you stay hydrated.

4. Keep Track. It can be really easy to lose track of how much you’ve had to drink when out with friends or family. But you it is important to be conscious of how much you are drinking. If you need to, physically write it down on a piece of paper to make it easier. You should aim for no more than one drink per hour.

5. Plan ahead for munchies after drinking. Let’s face it, it’s normal to be hungry after a night of drinking alcohol, and many people pick up a slice of pizza or other fast food meal because it’s quick and easy. However, this is a very easy way to derail your diet. If you know that you tend to get hungry after a night out, plan ahead with a healthy snack or meal that you are excited about eating.

6. Make a plan. If you plan on having a drink with dinner or a few drinks after work, make a plan to prepare for the extra calories during the day. Make sure to increase your intake of vegetables and lean proteins. And of course, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to minimize the risk of dehydration.

7. Choose healthier drinks. There are healthier options when it comes to your drink of choice:

  • Use low or no calorie mixers such as club soda or diet soda
  • The fewer ingredients – the better!
  • Avoid using flavored vodkas or spiced rums because they tend to contain extra sugar
  • Choose drinks with no added sugar or salt (even on the rim!)
  • Avoid juice mixers
  • The beer with the lowest calorie count is Michelob Ultra with 64 calories

Check out these common drinks and their calorie-saving versions:

Original Version Lightened Up Version
Regular Margarita: 400 kcals Skinny Margarita (sub lime juice): 100 kcals
Rum and Coke: 260 kcals Rum and Diet Coke: 92 kcals
Gin and Tonic: 255 kcals Gin and Diet Tonic: 65 kcals

Suggestions from the popular book: Drink this Not that!

  DRINK THIS NOT THAT
Beach Cocktail Mojito: 160 calories, 15 g sugar Long Island Iced Tea: 700 calories, 40 g sugar
Classic Cocktail Bloody Mary: 150 calories, 10 g sugar Pina Colada: 625 calories, 70 g sugar
Beer Guinness: 130 calories, 1o carbs Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: 175 calories, 12 g carbs
Cocktail Cosmopolitan: 150 calories, 12 g sugar Margarita: 500 calories, 32 g sugar
Light Beer Beck’s Premier Light: 64 calories, 4 g carbs Bud Light: 110 calories, 7 g carbs

Alcohol doesn’t have to be a diet-breaker. If you plan ahead, you can easily stay on track with your healthy lifestyle!

About the Author:

Cara Walsh
Counselor at The Carmel Mountain Ranch Medifast Weight Control Center

Cara Walsh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Weight Control Counselor. Cara received her bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from San Diego State University and completed her dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian through the Utah State University. Cara is currently completing her Masters in Dietetic Administration through Utah State University. Cara has always had a passion for healthy eating and cooking. She loves to focus on how food can heal and provide nutrition-while tasting delicious. Cara thrives on helping others reach their full potential nutritionally. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going to Pilates and running the boardwalk on the Pacific Ocean with her son and husband.

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