Why Alcohol Leads to Weight Gain
A glass of red wine that pairs well with a delicious meal is always welcome when entertaining or having a quiet meal at home. A tall cold beer is also refreshing on a hot autumn afternoon after some yard work or time spent with friends. Of course, alcohol can be a pleasant addition to any social situation, but if it becomes a habit to help you relax and destress daily, it may be sabotaging your health and wellness goals and even your weight management or weight loss efforts. It’s hard to believe that just a glass or two can have such a powerful effect, but it does.
Think about it: If you’re having a glass or two in the evening, that may be accompanied by salty snacks like chips, crackers, cheese or nuts that tend to pair well with alcohol. If you are watching a movie or on your phone in the evening distracted, you may find a more generous hand pouring that wine. As you start to unwind, you find your inhibitions waning as well, and making mindful choices in the moment might not be in the cards. Alcohol also causes your blood sugars to drop, and they stay low until your body has a chance to metabolize it. This leads to the carb cravings, excessive eating, and that headache you experience the next day.
The issue is not only the extra calories associated with the alcoholic beverage that tend to add up, (a glass of wine has 125 calories, a bottle of beer 154 and an ounce of straight up hard liquor 71 calories. If there are soda or juices added to any of these drinks, expect the calorie count to rise) but also the feeling you have after drinking. You are probably waking up feeling groggy, lethargic with possible heartburn and dehydration, as well as bloating. You may not feel like going for a morning run or heading to your zumba class at the local gym, so now you feel awful physically and mentally. You might even find yourself so tired that you need an extra jolt in your caffeinated beverage so a coffee with milk becomes a large sugary Mochaccino at best.
And this is how it subtly continues and you find yourself wondering why you…
- lack energy
- crave sugar and refined carbohydrates in the morning and
- cannot explain the creeping weight gain.
Remember: alcohol is the second most potent source of calories. One gram of alcohol provides 7 calories, which is more than one gram of carbohydrate (4 calories) or protein (4 calories), but less than one gram of fat (9 calories). We also don’t burn extra calories to burn alcohol like we do for carbs, fats, and proteins. This is called the “thermic effect of food,” which is the energy we use to digest food into small, absorbable components. In addition to this, because alcohol is a toxin, your liver will prioritize its’ metabolism, which means you won’t be burning from other sources like fat, while that happens.
Remember: alcohol is the second most potent source of calories.
Another consideration is that the calories from alcohol that your body doesn’t burn gets stored as fat. Although this is true of all calories consumed no matter the source, the difference is that alcohol calories are stored in the liver first. It takes time for the liver to transport the alcohol-induced fat for proper storage in your fat cells, so the result is that the fat stays stuck in your liver and around your abdomen giving you that “beer belly”.
How to Destress Without the Wine
What to do instead? Have a thoughtful plan for your evening routines or rituals instead of mindlessly eating (unless you are truly hungry) and drinking alcohol.
Here are 5 simple steps you can take toward reducing and eliminating the excessive alcohol and unnecessary “munchies” in the evening:
- Consider taking a hot bath with soothing lavender salts to help calm and relieve the tensions of the day.
- Turn off all electronics and read a book or listen to soft soothing music with the lights dimmed in a cozy and serene environment.
- Drink a cup of herbal tea like chamomile or peppermint tea. Peppermint tea has menthol, which is a natural muscle relaxant, and any herbal tea will be decaffeinated, so there is no worry the caffeine will cause the “jitters” or keep you up at night.
- Consider meditation or prayer to help calm and center you.
- Consider having a few splashes of tart cherry juice in seltzer water for dinner or a handful of tart cherries as an evening snack. Tart cherries are a good source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
- When pouring alcohol, try pouring yourself half as much.
- Alternate between alcohol and water.
- Sip Slowly. Take the time to enjoy your alcoholic beverage.
Kicking the habit of habitual drinking in the evening may be challenging at first, but as you slowly start to implement smart steps to reduce and eliminate the evening cocktail, you will feel more energized, less bloated and have an overall feeling of peace and serenity. Have that drink because you really want it, not because you have to have it to squash the stressors of the day.
Please visit my Weight Management Nutrition Services Page for more valuable information on how I can guide you on your health and weight management journey.