The scenario: you’ve been following a pretty strict diet recently and are happy with the results. It’s your best friend’s birthday in a week and she really wants to go out for drinks but you don’t want to ruin all your hard work. What do you do? Can you have a few drinks and stay on track? The answer, yes, sort of. As with all treats, moderation is key.
How does alcohol affect our fitness?
Alcohol by itself isn’t filled with calories. It has seven per gram whereas carbs and protein have four and fats have nine. The calories in our Friday night drinks are mainly located in the mixers. Vodka by itself won’t ruin your progress, but the energy drink or lemonade you have with it will. Drink mixes actually have around double the calories as a single shot of rum or tequila.
Cocktails are also where most of the calorie blame lies. They may be great for your Instagram, but they can have an awful effect on your waistline. Many margarita mixes contain around seven teaspoons of sugar in just 4oz! The calories from all these sugary drinks are simple and refined sugars, which, when mixed with how alcohol effects metabolism, is even worse for you.
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What happens to the body?
When alcohol is ingested, your body literally goes ‘no thank you’ and fights hard to remove the toxins as quickly as possible. This results in your body prioritizing getting rid of the alcohol over anything else, including carbs and fats. This means, that during those hours you’re sipping on a cocktail, you’re not only throwing more empty calories into your body, but your metabolism isn’t working how it usually does.
Your body coverts alcohol into a substance called acetate which is responsible for stopping fat loss. In a study published in the American Journal of College of Nutrition, subjects were found to have a blood acetate level two and a half time higher than normal. This was after only drinking two servings of vodka and sugar-free lemonade.
Furthermore, when we drink alcohol, our inhibitions go out the window and suddenly that post-bar pizza doesn’t seem like a terrible idea after all. Calories don’t count after midnight, right? Well, you know that’s not how it works but that won’t stop you after you’ve had a few. A study published in the journal Nature, found that alcohol activates the brain cells responsible to hunger. No wonder we can’t resist another portion of chips.
So, can you have a drink?
Before you cancel every celebration in the coming year, hold up. Just because alcohol CAN have a negative effect on your weight loss goals, doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to indulge every now and then. Alcohol has been found to have benefits as well. A drink a day can increase good cholesterol and one study even showed that people who have a couple of drinks a week live longer. Result!
To stay on track, ensure you pay attention to serving sizes. A ‘glass’ of wine doesn’t mean pouring the bottle all the way to the brim (we wish!). A small glass of wine will fill up around a third of a regular wine glass, this is an ideal amount.
Watch your mixers. Opt for diet tonic water or calorie-free club soda over other high-calorie drinks such as lemonade or cola. It’s also advisable to stay away from cocktails, but if you are going to indulge, but are serious about your weight loss, keep it minimal. A few drinks every so often isn’t going to derail your progress.
If you’re still unsure whether you should have a cheeky glass of wine, look to limit your indulgence alongside your cheat meals as this will reduce the overall impact to your fat burning to that one day rather than several. The key to a healthy life is balance and that means knowing when to have self-control and when to allow yourself a treat or two.
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