Alcohol and weight loss are intertwined, and being aware of how alcohol consumption can affect your progress is crucial for achieving your weight loss goals.
Ever since the human population started fermenting grapes to make wine , drinking has been part of the human experience. We have used drinking as a way of celebration on every occasion. We have been celebrating occasions and commiserating the hard times over liquor. Over the years it has become a part of our culture knowingly or unknowingly.
Also,If you have believed that a glass of wine is good for your health, you are not alone. Multiple studies over years have suggested that light to moderate drinking is good for your cardiovascular health. However, more recent studies have called off older findings saying that “the safest amount of alcohol to drink is none”.
As a society we have grown and learned over the years, we’ve become more aware of the dangers alcohol presents to physical and mental health.
However, Over the years partying late into the night,consuming alcohol and junk foods has also resulted in weight gain among the population.
Today let’s dig deeper and understand how alcohol affects weight loss.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol can be considered as a macronutrient as it gives 7cals/gm like fats, carbs, and proteins however, alcohol is not essential for survival or functioning of the body and is in fact regarded as a toxin by the body.
Also, the calories we get from Alcohol are considered to be EMPTY calories. Empty calories because while it gives 7 cal/gm it essentially carries ZERO nutritive value. Also, metabolism of alcohol is associated with production of acetaldehyde which is highly toxic and a known carcinogen.
WHO defines Alcohol as “a psychoactive substance with dependance producing properties.”
How many calories do we get from Alcohol?
So whenever we are consuming a particular alcohol how many calories are we getting? Let’s understand this.
Whenever we choose a drink its label mentions the concentration of Alcohol present in it.
For eg. if a bottle of whisky reads 44% Alcohol by volume (AVB) it means that it contains 44% pure Alcohol.
Now to calculate the calories we are getting, the first thing we need to know is the quantity we are consuming ..For an instance if we are having a 30ml serving then, 44% of 30 ml makes it 13.2 ml of pure Alcohol.
Now,1gm = 1.26ml of pure Alcohol. So 1.26ml of Alcohol has 7 calories. So each ml of Alcohol will have (7/1.26= 5.5cal). From this one serving in the above example we are getting (13.2*5.5 cal) around 73 calories .
And higher the AVB % in a drink , the more time the body will take to metabolize..
How does our body metabolize alcohol?
Our body recognizes Alcohol as a toxin and prioritizes its digestion and metabolism. The moment we ingest alcohol, our body, especially the liver’s primary goal is to flush out these toxins from the body as soon as possible.
The energy which gets produced by metabolizing alcohol is used by the body which in turn slows down the metabolism of other macros in the body. Alcohol is a toxin and our body is unable to lose fat or build muscle when it is present in the system. Both these processes take a backseat while our body prioritizes flushing out alcohol from the system.
Alcohol affects our Decision making/Rational call- Especially around Food
There are multiple indirect reasons why alcohol and weight loss don’t go together. For example, when you drink, it lowers your inhibitions, which means you’re going to be paying less attention to what and how you’re eating, and you might reach for those extra servings of food which you wouldn’t otherwise.
A study found that research subjects ate about 11% more after an alcoholic drink than those who did not consume alcohol. They also consumed more high-fat, savory foods under the influence of Alcohol. While following a healthy diet doesn’t mean eliminating high fat or high calorie foods altogether, the goal is to consume in moderation, which can be a challenge to maintain when under the influence of alcohol.
So overconsumption of Alcohol impairs your judgment and hunger cues. It triggers hunger signals in the brain and increases your appetite when it comes to food and that’s the reason people tend to eat more when drinking.
Not only does it impair your judgment and hunger cues hindering the progress in your weight loss journey, it also negatively impacts other parameters like the next day we experience hangovers with symptoms of fatigue,nausea, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, stomach pain etc.
Experiencing a hangover
Whenever we consume alcohol we introduce an irritating substance to the body and it has to eliminate it from the body. When the liver metabolizes Alcohol to acetaldehyde,a highly toxic substance known as carcinogen is produced.Then, acetaldehyde is further metabolized down to another, less active byproduct called acetate, which then is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for excretion. The presence of the toxin acetaldehyde gives us the feeling of fatigue and weakness. The higher the presence of this toxin in the body, the hangover gets worse. We see so many people throw up when they over consume alcohol because vomiting is your body’s response to the excess toxins.
Alcohol and Sleep
Alcohol directly impacts the quality of sleep. In 2018, a study was conducted on 4,098 individuals to measure the impact of alcohol on the autonomic nervous system during sleep..A lower intake of alcohol (0.25gm of alcohol /1 kg of participant’s BW) resulted in the sleep quality dropping by 9%. Whereas higher alcohol intake worsened sleep quality to about 39%. Deprivation in sleep leads to imbalance in hormones related to hunger, satiety and energy storage. Research has also shown delayed muscle recovery as alcohol post workout slows down MPS.
Alcohol can not only impact our weight loss journey but also negatively affects overall health in terms of fatty liver, higher triglycerides and sometimes brain degeneration too.
Alcohol doesn’t really help us in any form but we understand in today’s modern world where alcohol has become the center of every social gathering and events, it is difficult to forgo the consumption of it altogether.
Below are a few tips that can help you cut down Alcohol consumption in social gatherings and help you with your weight loss goals:
- Set Drinking limits: Choose moderate drinking as up to 30-60ml drinks or 1 pint beer in an event . Also make sure to have sufficient water and also some salads and protein rich foods before you start drinking to reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
- Use smaller glass: Portion control is important for losing weight and it holds true for beverages as well.
- Opt for zero calories mixers: Opt for diet cokes/soda/water as mixers to your alcohol instead of fruit juices/cold drinks. It helps us save calories.
- Alternate alcoholic beverages with water/ zero calorie drinks: Doing this can help you consume less alcohol within the timeframe.
- Opt for wine or other low alcohol beers over cocktails or other mixed drinks.
In conclusion, alcohol consumption can hinder weight loss efforts due to its empty calorie content, impact on metabolism, impaired decision making, and potential for overeating. Being mindful of alcohol intake and making informed choices can help support weight loss goals. Moderation, portion control, and opting for low-calorie alternatives can be effective strategies. However, it’s important to note that alcohol should be consumed in moderation, as excessive intake can have detrimental effects on overall health.
By understanding the relationship between alcohol and weight loss, individuals can make informed decisions to strike a balance between enjoying social occasions and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.