Alcohol & Weightloss
How is alcohol metabolized?
Have you ever wondered why you feel the way that you do after drinking alcohol? Many people will admit that they drink to get that feeling, but not many know exactly what is going on to cause it. The effects that alcohol has on your health start with how it’s metabolized. Once alcohol is in your system, your body makes metabolizing it a priority. That means that it will stop metabolizing anything else in order to first get the alcohol metabolized. The reason for this is because unlike protein, carbohydrates, and fat, there is nowhere for alcohol to be stored in our body so it has be metabolized first.
Once alcohol enters your stomach, up to 20% of it can be absorbed there and go directly into your bloodstream. Within minutes, alcohol will reach your brain and give the feeling of being a stimulant. No other nutrient is able to do this. The remaining alcohol goes to your intestines and is absorbed there with the rest of the nutrients. A small amount of alcohol is excreted through sweat, saliva, urine, and your breath, which is how it is detected by a Breathalyzer.
Your liver is the primary site for alcohol metabolism; this is why you can have liver problems from consuming too much alcohol. Alcohol is detoxified and removed from the blood through a process called oxidation. Oxidation prevents the alcohol from accumulating and destroying cells and organs. A healthy liver oxidizes pure ethanol at the rate of about ¼ to ⅓ of an ounce per hour, which is less than 1 ounce of hard liquor.
When you drink alcohol, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will rise rapidly. Within five minutes of having a drink, there’s enough alcohol in your blood to measure. The BAC is determined by how quickly alcohol is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted. The following factors can influence the BAC:
Food consumed with the alcohol
Chronic alcohol consumption
Your body has a set number of calories needed to maintain your weight. This need is based on your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level. When you consume more calories than your body needs, you will gain weight. Alcohol can lead to weight gain from the calories it provides and by causing you to eat more calories after consuming the alcohol.
It’s easy to forget that you can drink as many calories as you eat. In fact, some drinks can have as many calories as a meal! Check out how many calories you can get from your favorite cocktail below. Remember to check the serving size and to add the calories from any juice or soda that is combined with the liquor:
100cals - Beer, lite, 12 oz.
150cals - Beer, regular, 12 oz.
216cals - Frozen daiquiri, 4 oz.
110cals - Gin, 1.5 oz.
310cals - Mai tai, 4 oz.
270cals - Margarita, 4 oz.
96cals - Rum, 1.5 oz.
96cals - Vodka, 1.5 oz.
105cals - Whiskey, 1.5 oz.
49cals - Wine spritzer, 4 oz.
180cals - Wine, dessert, sweet, 4 oz.
The next time you reach for a cocktail before your meal consider if it’s worth the weight that you could be gaining from it. Research has shown a 20% increase in calories consumed at a meal when alcohol was consumed before the meal. There was a total caloric increase of 33% when the calories from the alcohol were added. Along with the increase in weight you can have an increased risk to your health because of where you gain the weight. A study of over 3,000 people showed that consuming elevated amounts of alcohol is associated with abdominal obesity in men. Many people joke about this being a “beer belly.” Unfortunately, a “beer belly” puts you at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, elevated blood lipids, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
The late-night munchies are often associated with a night of drinking. Have you ever realized that anytime that you drink alcohol you are hungrier or you end up eating more than usual?Studies have shown that in the short term, alcohol stimulates food intake and can also increase feelings of hunger. Having your judgment impaired and stimulating your appetite is a recipe for failure if you are trying to follow a weight-loss plan.
Regulating your calorie consumption is the key to successful weight loss and maintenance. A balanced diet will assist with curbing your hunger and providing the necessary nutrients for health and wellness. Alcohol is not considered necessary in a healthy diet. Instead, it provides a lot of calories and negatively impacts many aspects of your health. If you choose to consume alcohol, you will need to limit the quantity and frequency that you do so. You will also have to count the calories from alcohol to fit within your daily goal. You can limit calories in your drink by choosing those with less alcohol and a limited amount of sweetened beverages. By using flavored seltzers or water, you will save many calories.
Here are some tips for calorie reduction when consuming alcohol:
Have one nonalcoholic drink in between each alcoholic drink.Select light versions whenever possible. “Light” means fewer calories, but these products are not calorie- or alcohol-free, so you will still need to limit your intake.
Always have food in your stomach before you have a drink.
Keep water available to quench your thirst while you drink alcoholic beverages.
Learn to sip your drink to make it last longer.