Let’s face it: sometimes there’s nothing better at the end of a long day than a glass of wine. But too much drinking can wreak havoc on your weight, your waistline and health.
Alcohol temporarily keeps your body from burning fat. Your body can’t store calories from alcohol later, the way it does with food calories. So, when you drink, your metabolic system has to stop what it’s doing (like burning off calories from your last meal) to get rid of the booze first.
Basically, the alcohol forces your metabolism to press ‘pause’ and shove the calories aside in order to break down the alcohol first. The result is that whatever you recently ate, gets stored as fat.
So, can you ever enjoy a drink without putting on pounds? Absolutely, if you do it the right way.
Here are 4 ways to fit booze into your healthy eating plan.
#1 – Always eat when you drink
Never skimp on food in order to “make room” for drinks. Most cocktails are loaded with simple carbohydrates. So that means during a night of drinking, you will end up with soaring blood-sugar levels followed by a ‘crash’ that will often leave you hungry. You can help counteract that effect by eating foods with protein, fiber and healthy fat to stabilize your blood-sugar levels without slowing down your metabolism. The alcohol will be absorbed more slowly into your bloodstream, minimizing the damaging effects on your diet.
#2 – Choose your drinks wisely.
The sweet and fancy drinks typically have more calories with additional sugary sodas or juice that can make you even hungrier. Your blood sugar skyrockets higher making the resulting food cravings worse. So, if you are going to drink, have something straight up and simple like wine or beer. To trim down about 10 calories per glass, choose a rose or white wine instead of a heavier red. A dark beer has less calories than a regular beer and can leave you fuller. Vodka, gin or bourbon with club soda and a twist of lemon/lime are good bets too.
#3 – Set your limit to a drink or two, tops
A widely accepted definition of moderate drinking is no more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men. There’s a misconception that you can go without alcohol all week and save your seven drinks for the weekend. That’s the worse thing you can do for your weight and, of course, your health. When you down three or four drinks in one night, your body has many hundreds of alcohol calories to process before it can continue to break down food calories or stored fat. Plus, all those drinks throw your blood sugar even more out of whack, so you are crazy hungry. In addition, because you are tipsy, the alcohol has impaired your prefrontal cortex which is the smarty-pants part of your brain that allows you to think clearly. Therefore, you become impulsive and are more likely to not care and make poor food and drink choices. The extra calories alone are enough to impact your weight; have four drinks every Saturday night and you’ll be up about 10 pounds in a year.
#4 – Fight cravings the morning after
Because alcohol is a diuretic, you are probably dehydrated (and hungover) the next day. This can make you feel hungrier with cravings for cheesy or greasy fast food. This is because your body needs energy to resolve the effects of the big night of drinking, so it wants the richest source of energy it can find, which is fat.
To avoid this problem, when you are out, make sure you drink a big glass of water for every cocktail you have. Then, before going to bed, have some more water, along with a snack that is high in fiber and protein like oatmeal, yogurt with berries or almond butter or a handful of almonds with an apple. You will get important nutrients into your body that were lost during alcohol consumption, plus, foods rich in fiber stay in the stomach longer, so you will be less prone to hunger in the morning.
I hope you take my advice and follow these tips along with your healthy eating plan. With any luck, you will ensure that your weight and health won’t have to pay the price for a fun night out.