By Rennie Aranda, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
Alcohol is a part of many social occasions, from holiday parties to birthday celebrations, to family dinners and sporting events. Does being healthy mean abstaining from alcohol altogether? Is it possible to keep your figure and have your drinks too?
Numerous scientific studies have shown that people who drink in moderation can still keep their figure and enjoy alcoholic beverages. The key word is moderation. You can still go out with your friends without the guilt of extra calories from drinking. However, maintaining a healthy weight goes beyond moderate drinking. You still need to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your overall regimen toward a healthy lifestyle. With that in mind, there are also healthy alternatives and easy guidelines to follow so you can have your cocktail and drink it too!
HOW ALCOHOL CAN CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN
First off, let’s think about the main subject at hand, alcohol. The key to keeping alcohol in your diet is understanding how it is processed in your body. When you consume beverages with alcohol, your body has to convert the alcohol into other substances since your body cannot store or remove alcohol in its pure form. Once converted, substances broken down from alcohol can be eliminated from the body. The liver is the main place where alcohol is converted into these substances.
Alcohol does not directly slow down metabolism, but drinking alcohol can contribute to weight gain. The substances that alcohol is broken down to are burned off before your body can burn calories from other sources such as carbohydrates, proteins or fats. In addition, alcohol consumption impairs your body’s ability to burn fat as a source of energy, leading to possible weight gain with the extra calories not being burned off.
Calories provide energy for our bodies to function and come from carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. The difference is, unlike the other three sources, alcohol does not carry any nutritional value. For each gram of carbs, protein, etc., you get a set number of calories. For 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein, you get 4 calories. For 1 gram of fat, you get 9 calories. Alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram, which is almost as many calories as fat and almost double the caloric content of carbohydrates or protein. That means you might have to put in almost double the effort to burn those pesky calories.
Consider this… A 150 lb person would have to brisk walk about 4-5 miles to burn off about 300-400 calories (such as in a fast food double hamburger), which is the same number of miles to burn off about two regular beers.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR FIGURE AND YOUR DRINKS TOO!!
Although consuming alcohol may make it harder for you to lose weight because of the increased number of calories you consume, it won’t necessarily impair weight loss as long as you otherwise follow a low-calorie diet or as long as your caloric intake is the same. This is not to say replace your more wholesome, nutritious foods with alcohol. If you are drinking on a daily basis and your weight remains stable, you’re probably not getting enough nutrients. Limit alcohol so you can get enough real food. If you want to have an occasional drink with your friends or family, you can still practice a healthy lifestyle by incorporating a healthy diet and exercise so that those extra calories from alcoholic beverages won’t result in weight gain.
Follow some of these tips for calorie reduction, staying safe and healthy, and making the best choices when you’re out enjoying drinks with your family and friends:
– Drink in moderation. This is defined as one drink a day on average for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink is equivalent to a 5 oz glass of wine, 12 oz beer, or 1.5 oz 80 proof liquor.
– Drink water for thirst. Drink a full glass of water before your alcoholic beverage – Wine, beer and hard liquor do NOT quench thirst.
– Alternate one non-alcoholic beverage (sipped slowly) with each alcoholic drink. A sparkling water with lime is a good drink to have in between, especially if you are watching calories. When you begin to feel buzzed, stop or take a break.
– Skip binge drinking. Some dieters believe that if they save all their drinks for the weekend, they aren’t consuming the same number of calories. Regardless, calories add up. In addition, binge drinkers end up developing conditions that may impair weight loss or maintenance.
– Drink on special occasions. Consider having a few drinks to celebrate a special occasion or when meeting friends or family for dinner instead of having one or two drinks every weekend.
– Choose the right booze. Look for drinks that contain the lowest calories. Keep in mind that many mixed cocktails can contain more calories than the alcohol itself. A 5 oz glass of wine can contain up to 120 calories. Don’t be fooled by the small shot glasses either. They can contain 60-100 calories per shot that can soon add up. Beer contains the highest amount of calories since it may have sugar (e.g. maltose) and carbs (i.e. cereal grains), providing about 150-200 calories and possibly leading to the renowned “beer belly” if consumed in high amounts. Choose a sugar-free mixer if possible or anything with the word “skinny” or “light”. These drinks may contain less calories than their regular counterparts. Stay clear of any sugary mixer or juices, which are likely to be high in calories.
– Stick to proper measurements. Keep track of drinks by sticking to the standard size of one drink at a time. With supersized beer mugs or fancy cocktail glasses, your “one drink” may be 2 or 3 in disguise.
– Balance your alcohol intake with a natural, low-sugar, low sodium diet. Eat as cleanly as possible throughout the week, consisting of whole, natural ingredients such as fresh produce, whole grains and lean protein to maintain a healthy weight. It is especially important to eat a well-balanced meal before your drink alcohol. Never drink on an empty stomach as this may lead to binge eating or poor food choices.
– Boost hydration while drinking and the following day. Flush your body of toxins by drinking more water every day, especially since alcohol can have a dehydrating effect on the body. Match every alcoholic beverage with an 8 oz glass of water. Finish the evening with a non-alcoholic drink, ideally a glass of water, to prevent hangovers.
– Add exercise into your daily routine after a night of drinking. 30 minutes to 1 hour of exercise can help shake the “alcohol fog” as well as boost your metabolism.
HOW TO GET SKINNY LIBATIONS
Want to learn more about how to have your cocktail and drink it too?
SIGN UP (below) for our free email series “Skinny Libations” and get the skinny on how you can sustain a healthy lifestyle while enjoying a few libations with friends!
When you sign up, once a month, you’ll receive our tips and tricks for keeping it social while keeping your figure, which will include:
1.) Healthiest Choices at Happy Hour – Choosing the best choices at the bar!
2.) 12 Hangover Myths– What you should know!
3.) Skinny Cocktails – Skimp on the calories, not the taste!
4.) What’s on tap– Best way to beat the “beer belly”!
5.) Wine and Dine – Sip, nibble, and nosh your way into good health!