Most of what you read suggests drinking alcohol and losing weight do not go together. For the most part that is true, however when done in moderation, you can drink a little alcohol and still lose weight.
Let’s first tackle the moderation part by defining a “drink”. A drink can be 5 ounces of wine, 1 1/2 ounces of an 80 proof/40% alcoholic drink such as whiskey or vodka, or 12 ounces of beer. Generally speaking each one has about 150 calories. Mixed drinks can have significantly more calories due to the sugary “mix” added to the alcohol.
For women, moderation means one drink per day; men can have up to two per day. Drinking alcohol becomes a problem affecting weight loss when it is not done in moderation.
What Happens When You Drink Alcohol?
Knowing how the body metabolizes alcohol helps explain why excessive drinking sabotages any weight loss plan. First, alcohol is recognized as a toxin in our body, therefore after one drink our liver gives the alcohol priority and it starts to break it down, use it as energy, and get rid of it. After as little as one and a half drinks, your liver has shut down as much as 75% of its fat burning so it can concentrate on breaking down the alcohol.
So not only is your body not burning stored fat while it is breaking down the alcohol, it is not burning the calories from the food eaten while drinking. Drinking in excess diminishes your reasoning ability, which not only leads to eating food while socializing, but eating too much of the wrong type of food – food not good for you, such as high calorie/high saturated fat appetizers or meals.
It is not uncommon for the calories you eat while drinking to equal or exceed the calories consumed from your drinks. Because your body is burning up the alcohol, the calories in food gets stored as fat, plus your body is not metabolizing the store fat it would have otherwise burned had you not been drinking. This is the main reason drinking in excess raises havoc with weight loss – consuming calories in excess and not burning them off.
Health Benefits of Alcohol in Moderation
However when done in moderation, alcohol and weight loss can cohabitate; actually there are some health benefits derived from alcohol, such as a decreased risk of:
- Heart disease
It can also improve your immune system, raise your HDL- the “good” cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
As you can see, drinking in moderation can have some positive health benefits and still not derail your weight loss plan. The key is to know where the line is and having the reasoning ability (and will power) to not cross it. By factoring in the calories of your drinks into your daily intake, you can avoid sabotaging your weight loss plan.
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