Wondering about alcohol and weight gain? Read this post to learn everything you need to know.
It's no secret that alcohol and a diet don't mesh well. However, like with most things in life a little planning and forethought can produce great results. Here are the most common ways that alcohol consumption can disrupt your weight loss goals. Moderation, choosing better options, staying hydrated, and being realistic with yourself are the keys to staying on track while enjoying an occasional drink.
Calories in Alcohol
Alcohol contains almost double the calories per gram compared to carbs and protein. Yes, it contains a whopping 7 calories per gram, and with that amount you don't even get full. The lack of satiation, or feeling of fullness, means you can consume a ton of calories drinking alcohol without noticing. There are some low-calorie alcohol options to choose from at the bar. However, it is still quite easy to over-consume calories when drinking. Even your best low-calorie option per oz. tends to be hard liquor and a 10oz shot will get you 64 calories by itself. If you make it a mixed drink, the calorie content simply skyrockets and you’re adding extra sugar which brings its own issues.
Alcohol and Metabolism
Your metabolism is the engine that provides your body with energy. It takes macronutrients from the food you eat and breaks them down to help your body perform and recover. Alcohol is technically a macronutrient because it is calorie-bearing but it’s a different beast. Your body interprets alcohol as a toxin and as a result, will metabolize it first to hurry it through your system. It sounds okay at first, but this presents two issues. The first issue being that calories from food, which actually provide your body with energy, are more likely to get stored as fat. Yes, that's right, if you down a couple margaritas but stick to your diet otherwise you're still in danger of putting on fat. Do this consistently and the pounds will add up. The second issue is that calories from alcohol have no nutritional benefit. So not only is your metabolism forced to prioritize alcohol, but it doesn’t actually help your body perform in any way. There have been highly publicized studies showing that moderate alcohol consumption extends longevity. Particularly a glass of red wine in moderation has been shown by some studies to benefit your cardiovascular health. However, there are other competing studies that show moderate alcohol consumption has no health benefits at all. The term “moderate” is subjective, but essentially people who consume less than one alcoholic beverage per week live longer lives on average.
How Alcohol Affects Your Diet
There's a reason you crave greasy burgers and pizza after a night of drinking. Alcohol consumption actually makes you crave fatty food. There are a few theories behind this. The first being that food preferences are a primal instinct. Mammals tend to gravitate toward foods that provide the most energy, and fat offers over twice the amount of energy than of carbs or protein. When you're thinking clearly you know that high-fat meals should be eaten in moderation, so you try to not give into these primal cravings. However, according to this theory, when you're intoxicated you have fewer inhibitions and are more likely to give into cravings.
A second theory, that I more readily adhere to, is the body's need to recover from consuming alcohol. Again, your body interprets alcohol as a toxin and thus works overtime to rid it from your system and repair itself. All bodily functions require energy, even the ones you don't see, like the body repairing itself. Since fat is more energy dense than carbs and protein, the body craves it to support the repair process and recover from intoxication.
The final theory that I'll cover is the fatigue associated with dehydration. Alcohol, being a diuretic, leaves you dehydrated. When the body attempts to resolve the associated lack of energy it gravitates toward energy-dense fatty foods. Naturally, if you consume high fat, high carb meals often enough your weight will begin to reflect.
Alcohol Water Retention
Usually, the next morning after I've had a couple drinks is the leanest time for me. Initially, alcohol acts as a diuretic and flushes all the excess water retention from your body. It's about that time you start urinating more frequently after drinking, that the flushing commences. Through the night you perspire releasing more water retention, and by the next morning it's "hello abs!"
Don't get too excited, though, because this is only temporary and when your fluid levels return to normal your water retention will balance out. When you drink more frequently your body is dehydrated more often. Soon rather than seeing abs in the morning you start retaining water instead. This is because excess water retention is your body's natural survival tactic against dehydration. So in the short term consuming alcohol results in a reduction in bloat or water retention. However in the long term if you're consuming alcohol more frequently, the opposite occurs and you start retaining excess water. This results in excess weight gain, although temporary.
Alcohol and Motivation
Mild dehydration effects of alcohol consumption have been shown to affect energy, mood and the ability to think clearly. Mild dehydration often leads to headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating. A study performed at the University of Connecticut studied 25 healthy women with the average age of 23. They were put through a series of tests while experiencing mild dehydration and not only experienced the issues I previously mentioned, but they also perceived tasks as being more difficult. In short, none of this adds up to someone who will be motivated to stick to a workout or diet regimen. A gym workout often requires planning and transporting yourself. Meal planning must be thought through and requires excess energy to prepare. While you're under the influence of alcohol you lose some inhibitions, but when you're recovering you may lose some crucial motivation. If this happens enough you will find the lack of motivation alone hinders your progress and can also lead to habits that stall your weight loss goal.