So you’ve been exercising regularly, and cutting back on your calories to meet your weight loss goals. Everything is going great with your new changes, but you notice the number on the scale isn’t moving much and your body isn’t changing shape as quickly as you’d hoped. There may be one more habit interfering with your weight loss efforts- -alcohol. Perhaps you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, have a couple of beers while watching the big game, or even cocktails on a Saturday night with friends. All common practices but they may be getting in the way of your weight loss efforts.
Alcoholic beverages have been enjoyed throughout recorded history. For some, a drink with dinner may be relaxing. Others may enjoy the inhibitions that alcohol can create to “let loose” with friends. Many people drink for the health benefits. After all, evidence shows that moderate drinking, especially red wine, may lower the risk of heart disease. No matter what your reasons are for drinking, alcohol can interfere with your weight loss goals.
Alcohol is a product of fermenting carbohydrates- both sugars and starches. This means it does provide calories. Specifically it provides 7 calories for every gram compared to 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein, and 9 calories per gram of fat. Drinking 4 (12 ounce) beers will supply 600 calories. To burn those calories, a person would need to walk non-stop for 3 hours. Skipping the cab ride and walking home may be a strategy but for most of us a 3 hour walk is a bit daunting even when we are in good shape.
Although wine contains fewer calories than beer, this can also lead to extra calories. Having a glass of wine provides 100 calories, but this is dependent on the glass size. A serving size of wine is 5-ounces. The larger wine glasses hold about 10 ounces turning your one glass of wine into two glasses. To put this into perspective, drinking two glasses of wine each night with dinner will add an extra 200 calories each day. If these calories are not burned through exercise and daily activity it can lead to a 20-pound weight gain in a year.
Adding juice, creams, and sodas to cocktails will increase the calorie level beyond what the alcohol is already providing. Be careful of what you are drinking. In some cases, one drink provides more calories than an entire meal! Here are the drinks that top the scales for most calories-
- Long Island Iced Tea: 780 calories
- Margarita: 740 calories
- Pina Colada: 644 calories
- White Russian: 425 calories
- Sex on the Beach: 356 calories
- Mai Tai: 350 calories
- Lemon Drop: 223 calories
Besides adding calories, alcohol may affect your weight for other reasons. Some evidence suggests drinking alcoholic beverages may stimulate your appetite and cause you to eat more than you normally would. It also decreases your inhibitions so you don’t care how much more you are eating. How many times have you enjoyed chips and salsa with your margaritas while out with friends? How many chips did you eat? Who knows- all you remember is the waiter bringing three or four refills of the chip bowl.
Another factor to take into account is that your body processes alcohol first, before fat, protein, or carbohydrates which may slow down the burning of fat. There is also evidence that drinking too much seems to increase fat carried in the stomach area- otherwise known as the beer belly. Studies show that people with a higher amount of fat in the abdominal region are at a greater risk of heart disease.
Ok, this is looking dreary but it doesn’t mean you can never enjoy alcohol again. It just means that it is time to take inventory to see how much you are drinking and pay attention to how many calories your favorite drinks supply. Learn how to enjoy alcohol in moderation so you don’t end up sabotaging your weight loss efforts.