You may be asking if counting calories when it comes to your diet can include or exclude the calories in alcohol, right? Unlike carbohydrates, protein, and fat, alcohol is not an essential source of calories, and it is not a significant source of vitamins and minerals your body needs to function.
Some people say that when they do drink alcohol in moderation, it did not stop them from being able to lose weight. Are those people sure about that? If you continue to burn more calories than you consume, you WILL lose weight. I say this all depends on the frequency and level of consumption, and the fact that the effects of drinking alcohol could have a negative impact on your ability to eat GOOD food, sleep well, and lead a healthy lifestyle if used too frequently.
Alcohol and Calories
Pure alcohol serves up 7 calories per gram, almost twice as many calories as carbohydrates and almost to the tune of the 9 calories in a gram of fat. That makes that cocktail, Margarita or Cosmo a lot of calories in a small glass. A 1.5 oz shot of straight alcohol like vodka, gin or tequila can add 100 calories to any drink. Dark liquors such as whiskey or brandy have a similar calorie count. Wine, on the other hand is a little more forgiving, at an average 120 calories in a 5 oz. serving.
- When you think of the addition of fruit juice, soda, or grenadine, you’re looking at a calorie-infusion that could add up to meal-size calorie counts. If you want to save calories, have alcohol straight up with fresh fruit like lemon or lime, or mixed with club soda or seltzer instead. Beyond the calories, something else to consider is alcohol’s ability to lower inhibitions. It makes you want to eat more (similar to marijuana)! To keep yourself from overindulging, eat before you start drinking.
- Research shows that drinking before a meal may increase your caloric intake by 20%. A well-balanced meal before drinking or at least an appetizer, should keep you satiated, which will help you control your alcohol intake. It will also help you steer clear of searching for a late-night meal, when your only options are those that have little to nothing in the way of low-calorie foods like fruits or vegetables.
Alcohol and Metabolism
A beer belly is not caused by just drinking alcohol alone, but there are some direct correlations between alcohol and fat metabolism. The same way that you feel yourself “loosen up” after a drink, your metabolism does slow down too when alcohol is consumed. Specifically, the body can’t actually digest alcohol.
- Your metabolism slows down its energy conversion of fat and carbohydrates to get rid of the alcohol in your body. Drinking alcohol really stops fat metabolism in the liver causing it to build up around the waistline. Of course this “build up” only happens in the presence of too many calories. In addition to staying under your calorie limit, charge up your metabolism by staying active and not skipping meals after drinking.
Alcohol and Sleep
Even if you do control your alcohol calories, and keep your metabolism revved up, consuming alcohol can have a major effect on your ability to have a good night’s sleep if you consume it right before bed. Michael Breus, PhD tells WebMD, that even if alcohol helps you go to sleep, it’s detrimental to your sleep experience. “It will keep you in the lighter stage…it will also wake you up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it will also dehydrate you which can affect your sleep.”
He explains that alcohol consumption inhibits “deep sleep” stages 3 and 4, “where we see the increase in growth hormone, the cell repair, and the overall damage-from-the-day repair.” He continues that the resulting fatigued feeling can rob a person from feeling refreshed in the morning.
Lack of sleep could affect not only your ability to workout effectively, but it could also hinder your well-intentioned eating habits. Just as you should aim to not eat 2 to 3 hours before bed, you should give up the glass or bottle within this time frame to enjoy a good night’s rest.