Do I need to give up alcohol if I want to lose weight?
The short answer is YES – if you are serious about losing weight you should not drink alcohol. No one can make you give up the booze but here are some compelling reasons why alcohol should not play a part in a serious attempt to lose weight.
- Low nutrient value: the calories in alcoholic drinks are EMPTY calories which mean that they add to your energy intake but provide you with absolutely no nutrients. You are in effect wasting an opportunity to have something else of equivalent calorific value which would give you some nutrients (and make you feel better, look better and perform better). A glass of wine has around 125 calories so once you have 2 or 3 you are starting to have almost as many calories as you would have in a meal. It’s not hard to see how you can really add to the daily, weekly, yearly tally of calories by having a night out drinking. Ask yourself: if you were serious about losing weight would you come home from work each night and eat a couple of cupcakes? If the answer is “no” then why would you have a couple of glasses of wine?
- Energy is used ahead of other energy sources: Alcohol is very easy for our body to convert to energy. This means that our body will choose the alcohol as fuel before it starts to use the energy from glucose from carbohydrates or the lipids from fat. If we end up with excess glucose and lipids (which there may be if our body uses the alcohol first) it will be stored as fat.
- Alcohol can lessen your resolve: We can have all the resolve in the world not to eat junk food or to cut out unnecessary snacking but once we have had a few drinks all this good resolve can disappear and we can also lose track of how many of those delicious canapes or moreish chips or nuts we have shoveled down. So as well as the extra energy coming from the alcoholic drinks we consume excessive alcohol induced snacks as well.
- Alcohol can disrupt digestion: Alcohol can reduce the digestive secretions which play an important role in efficiently processing the food we eat, breaking it down into the macro and micro nutrients we need. As well alcohol can inhibit the absorption of these nutrients which means that even if we eating well, the nutrients are not reaching the cells of our body as efficiently as they should be.
- Alcohol can disrupt our sleep: Most people have now got the message that good quality sleep can play a part in weight loss due to the effect that sleep deprivation can have on the hormones which affect hunger and fat storage. Alcohol can lead to increased periods of wakefulness which is not something we want when we are trying to get good quality sleep to keep our hormones in balance.
- Alcohol may give you a hangover: This is an unpleasant side effect which will also make training the next day something we are tempted to skip. We will feel dehydrated and demotivated. We may also be more likely to eat greasy foods to make ourselves feel better. Not good as a part of a weight loss plan.
What if you do want a drink?
If you are going to drink – the lowest calorie option is a white spirit like vodka or gin with a plain mixer like soda water. Avoid tonic water which is high in sugar. Also any alcoholic drink should be included in your tally of your daily intake. It’s a convenient thing to forget when thinking about how much you have consumed throughout the day.
Weight loss and consumption of alcohol do not go hand in hand. If weight loss is your goal maybe it’s worth considering cutting down or completely cutting out alcohol at least for a time.
If weight control is something you grapple with think about whether alcohol should be something you really must have every day or whether it could be something you have just occasionally, the same way you would do with other “treats”.