Alcohol is a very controversial subject when it comes to weight-loss and health too. We hear all sorts of news reports and magazine articles about how alcohol in moderation is basically a healthy indulgence. But is this really true? What counts as moderation? Does this work for everyone? These are all the questions I set out to answer. What I found was not exactly what I hoped or expected to find.
There are many aspects to alcohol that we have to consider; calories, metabolism, quantity, antioxidants, and its’ effect on sleep. Each plays a role in a very confusing web of possible effects alcohol can have on your weight loss efforts.
Many people don’t realize that in comparison to other food sources alcohol is very high in calories per gram. It also offers no nutritional value therefore making it useless. Carbohydrate and protein equal 4 calories per gram. Fat equals 9 calories per gram. Alcohol is closest to fat coming in at 7 calories per gram. So you can see how this adds up! Calories are one thing to talk about but what about comparing that to what you are actually drinking?
- Chardonnay 120 calories
- Cabernet 120 calories
- Budweiser 145 calories
- Guinness 176 calories
Here is a great list of beers and their calories.
Margarita, Pina Colada, White Russian around 300 calories
It’s not just the calories from the drink you are sipping on. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and consumption states that on the days that people drink they consume about 300-400 calories more than non-drinking days. Also it was noted that their diets tended to be less healthy on the days of drinking. This could be from the lowered inhibitions, or the availability of unhealthy foods. I think everyone’s situation could be different. But it is something to think about.
According to Spark People alcohol is not only useless calories, but it is also metabolized differently than other food sources. It is given immediate priority because it is viewed as a toxin. When the body is busy processing alcohol it is not processing carbohydrates and fat. This makes it possible for your body to then convert these calories to fat and store them in the body. We certainly do not want that!
It is also important to notice that Men metabolize alcohol better than women because they have more of an enzyme called dehydrogenase. So in theory women would be more likely store unprocessed calories as fat. I know it’s just not fair.
In 2004 the Journal of Obesity Research found that moderate drinkers actually gained less than non-drinkers. What?! I had to read that twice!
However, drinkers who drank more during a drinking session but less often actually had INCREASED BMI’s. This was found in a 2005 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology that looked at data from 45,896 drinkers. An example of this would be if you drink 4 drinks on Friday but none during the week. According to this study than you would probably gain weight. So if you can have just one small glass of wine most nights of the week than you will probably not experience weight gain. However, if this turns into a whole bottle kind of night (yeah we know it happens) than your waistline may be effected.
Doctors have claimed that the flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits. Research is showing resveratrol may help to decrease damage to blood vessels and reduce bad cholesterol, and even possibly prevent blood clots. It may even help prevent diabetes and obesity. Keep in mind that most of this research has been done on mice. It is also SUPER important to realize that to get the same dose/effect response in humans; we would have to drink 60 Liters of wine a day. If you read the paragraphs before this one then you would know that more than 4 glasses a day would increase your BMI so this is not a healthy option.
Many companies are making supplements containing resveratrol. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, most of the resveratrol in them cannot be absorbed by the human body. So we’d be throwing away our money. Save your money so that you can enjoy a glass of wine a night instead of tasteless stupid pill 🙂
According to Science Daily, when reviewing all known scientific studies on the impact of drinking on nocturnal sleep, the verdict is that alcohol shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, increases deep sleep, and REDUCES REM sleep. Why is this important? REM sleep is when you dream, it is associated with restoration, and can effect motor skills. We all know that people who sleep well tend to have healthy body weights. So if you have problems sleeping or are not feeling rested then alcohol may not be healthy option.
Putting it all together:
In all honesty I’m not completely against it or for it. I do see that most people will not have any negative effects with one glass of beer or wine a night. I do feel like those of you who are looking to lose those last 5-10lbs could benefit from the reduced calories and reduced likelihood of overeating while drinking or storing excess calories as fat. However, I know that everyone is different. If you know that it’s going to be either a glass of wine or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream then of course just have a glass of wine! So make your choices wisely when choosing a drink and think twice about having a second. Try not to indulge in the unhealthy snacks that go along with drinking and don’t forget the effect it will have on your sleep that night.