How Calories In Alcohol Affect Your Body And Weight Loss?
Most of you must have tried to lose weight at some point in your life and if you drink regularly or even occasionally, it is obvious to wonder whether alcohol can hamper your efforts to lose weight or not.
The first step you will take before drinking that pint of beer you are holding after a long and tiring Friday is to google “ can alcohol affect weight loss?” or “can alcohol make you gain weight?” and will end up getting confused. Some of you will go a step further and use a calorie counter to find the calories in your drink and calculate how you will compensate them by running a few extra miles tomorrow.
Till now I have consulted three dieticians to lose weight and all three of them advised me to stay away from alcohol. One even gave me a list of particular drinks to avoid. But the fact is I have often cheated on my plans having a drink or two every weekend but almost always I have lost weight at the end of each week. Does that mean you can drink and still lose weight?
But before that let's delve a little deeper into what happens when you drink?
How Your Body Reacts To Alcohol
Approximately 33% of the alcohol consumed is immediately absorbed in the bloodstream and the rest goes to the liver, some of which is used by the liver and remaining circulates through the body. How fast your body will absorb alcohol depends on certain factors:
The concentration of alcohol in the drink: higher the concentration higher will be the absorption.
Whether your drink is carbonated(having carbon-di-oxide) or not: Sparkling wines are absorbed faster than unsparkling wines.
Whether your stomach is empty or not: always eat before or while you are drinking it will slow down alcohol absorption
Side-Effects of Alcohol
Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic i.e. it increases the production of urine ( this explains why you keep running to the loo after every pint of beer!!) and hence results in higher loss of water and salts from the body. This is what leads to a dry-mouth the next day.
Stomach Irritation: Drinking alcohol increases acid production in your stomach and causes irritation in the stomach resulting in vomiting and stomach ache. This can be enhanced by drinking on an empty stomach.
Hypoglycaemia: Alcohol reduces blood sugar level leading to weakness and light-headedness.
Congeners: Alcohol fermentation produces congeners which give it the flavour. Darker drinks like wine and whiskey have higher congeners than lighter drinks. Congeners increase hangover.
Toxins: Alcohol ingests toxins in the blood which circulate throughout the body. The liver breaks down these toxins into acetaldehyde which is further broken down to acetate which is metabolised by the body and removed as carbon dioxide and water. However, if you drink more than your body can process( 1 drink per hour) the acetaldehyde keeps accumulating in your body causing headache and sickness.
Sleeplessness: Alcohol stops the production of a substance called glutamine ( glutamine keeps you awake). When you stop drinking an excess of glutamine is produced which disrupts sleep and hence the next day you feel tired.
How Each Glass of Alcohol Affects You
(1 unit = 8g or 10ml of alcohol)
1-2 unit: Your heartbeat increases, blood vessels dilate which makes you feel warm and elated and you start feeling talkative ( Can totally relate to this!!)
4-6 units: Your brain is affected and you start behaving irrationally. You experience light-headedness, slow reaction, and coordination time.
8-9 units: Slurred speech, vision loses focus, reaction time further slows down and you get up the next day with a terrible hangover.
10-12 units: The level of alcohol is now toxic. You feel drowsy, depressed, nauseous and start vomiting. Indigestion and diarrhoea can also follow.
Over 12 units: Risk of alcohol poisoning. Can lead to passing out, seizures, coma, brain damage and even death.
These are just some short -term side effects of alcohol. A longer sustained consumption can severely affect your liver, mouth, stomach, brain, kidney, heart and pancreas
But What About Weight Loss?
If you are among those who can live with an inflamed or fatty liver but not a “beer belly” then right now you must be thinking “I already knew alcohol will harm my liver but at least it is not making me gain weight, right?”.
Umm...well its difficult to answer this question in a simple yes or no because till now there is no conclusive research which can definitively say that alcohol causes weight gain but neither can it say that alcohol will not cause weight gain. So now what? We come back to where we started. Don't worry I am not going to leave you with this confusion but lets first see even though science can't prove it still why most people who drink put on weight or stop losing weight?
Why am I Not Losing Weight?
This is because you don't treat alcohol as a contributor to your calorie intake!! I have seen people who are obsessed with “ low carb, low carbs, low carbs!!”.The key to losing weight is low carbs, they will follow Keto, Paleo and god know what but they are not ready to give up on drinking. Alcohol contains double the amount of calories than carbohydrates ( 7 calories per gram) and these calories do not even contain any nutritional value compared to those of carbohydrates, they are ‘empty calorie!!!’. It's better to have carbs that at least add some nutrition to your body.
Alcohol is a foreign element in your body. When you drink any alcohol your body senses this foreign entity and will start metabolising it first, leaving its fat burning process(which it uses to generate energy). Therefore not only are you consuming a high-calorie item but your body is also stopping its fat burning process to deal with the alcohol.
Also Read: PCOS and losing weight with PCOS.
Calorie Content of Some Alcohols
How to Have The Lowest Calorie Drinks
Simply avoid beer: Beer is everyone's favorite but it has a high amount of calorie (close to 200 calories) and is rich in carbs. So, unless you want to get all bloated avoid beer. What??? But I Iove beer!! Then go for the low-calorie ones.
Budweiser Select 55: 55 calories
Beck's Premier Light: 63 calories
Miller 64: 64 calories
Amstel Light: 95 calories
Anheuser-Busch Light Pale Lager: 95 calories
Michelob Ultra: 95 calories
Natural Light: 95 calories
Miller Light: 96 calories
Heineken Light: 99 calories
Corona Light: 99 calorie
Wine( Not That Good Either!!): wine is any day better than beer but it is also not a good option. If you want to go for wine it's better to have red wine than white wine or sparkling wine. Red wine is packed with antioxidants and is heart healthy.
Classic Spirits(On The Rocks Please!!): The best option you have are the classic spirits like vodka, gin, rum, whiskey or tequila. They have as low as 64 calories but don't mix them with soda or any other sugary drinks. If you were thinking of doing it you might as well drink beer and wine also. It's always better to have them on the rocks or add water, this will not add any extra calories to them.
Some Other Reasons Why Alcohol Makes Losing Weight Difficult
Gregory Traversy and Jean Phillip Chaput in their report on Alcohol consumption and obesity suggest some other factors that could be leading to weight gain due to alcohol consumption:
You are not a woman: According to the report, men drink three times more than women and also they drink mostly beer whereas women prefer wines. Beer is rich in carbs and has higher calorie content than wine.
Physical Activity: Chances are if you are working out or have an active lifestyle you are at lesser risk of gaining weight than people with a sedentary lifestyle.
Diet: People drinking beer and other hard liquor generally follow bad dietary habits compared to wine(Ladies time to hit the bar!!).
Not sleeping enough: insufficient sleep and alcohol intake together can contribute to an increase in weight. Alcohol consumption can also lead to insufficient sleep.
Also Read: How to eat healthy even at parties.
Binge drinking is one of the reasons which leads to weight gain but why I am taking this separately because it is the only reason for which there are conclusive evidence and research that state that binge drinking can lead to weight gain.
Drinking more than the recommended level is called binge drinking. The recommended level is 4 units per day for women and 6 units per day for men.
Martin R.Yeomans (University of Sussex) in his report “Alcohol, appetite, and energy balance: Is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity?” states that binge drinking can increase the chances of obesity. Also, we tend to eat more while drinking, so binge drinking leads to binge eating also.
The Final Verdict
Based on the various research results I went through although there is no conclusive answer to whether drinking and weight gain are positively correlated but a recent study suggests that no amount of alcohol is safe for consumption. However, as far as weight gain is concerned a moderate consumption ( 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men) along with an active lifestyle will not lead to any significant increase in weight over a short period of time, however, over years this may lead to significant weight gain.
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