Does Drinking Alcohol Stall Weight Loss?
I love wine. I like going to tastings, dissecting the flavors, pairing it with different meals, and introducing fascinating new finds to my family and friends.
I’m not ignorant of the fact that wine is calorie heavy compared to other nutritious beverages I could be drinking but my infused waters, green shakes, and even my green tea blends don’t go as well with a carefully prepared meal as a bold cabernet or rose.
I embrace my pickiness.
So! How do I balance my love affair with the world of wine and maintaining my weight? Let me tell you, this has been a definite trial and error situation. Is it possible to consume alcohol and lose weight effectively?
Alcohol: An Effective Energy Source?
Everything I’m going to discuss here is for light to moderate alcohol drinkers. Basically, one glass of wine or comparable alcoholic beverage per day or less.
Researchers with University Hospital in Switzerland determined that wine is a great source of energy and stimulates adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis. ATP is the energy currency of the cells in your body. No form of alcohol should be your sole energy source (naturally) but pairing wine with the right foods can counter weight gain effects.
There are three negative aspects when you work through alcohol and weight loss.
- Alcohol does boost your appetite.
- Your body doesn’t store alcohol calories like food calories (for later energy).
- Because the calories aren’t stored, alcohol temporarily suppresses your body’s fat metabolism system. It diverts fat burning to burn calories you’re consuming in alcohol.
If you’re a heavy alcohol drinker, the positive effects (specifically energy production) are negated almost entirely and the negative effects increase substantially.
A process called microsomal ethanol-oxidizing system (MEOS) is put into play with excessive alcohol drinkers that absorbs and redistributes excess ethanol, more body fat is stored rather than burned, and the fat is more likely to deposit around the mid-section (central abdominal fat).
Don’t let this get you down!
While alcohol does make you hungry and slows down fat burning, if you’re a light to moderate drinker, that suppression is only in effect while you’re drinking. Alcohol goes to the front of the line in regards to what your metabolism needs to focus on next.
The Good News
For those of us who love that glass of wine at the end of the day, the International Journal of Obesity published a study that found women like us are less likely to gain weight over time than women who never drink. This is an example of weight stability rather than weight loss, with alcohol factored in.
Harvard Medical School went one step further and stressed that “saving calories for wine” is self-defeating. The sugar in the alcohol has the same chemical effect as refined sugar in sweets. Once that “sugar high” fades, your body is going to want more. Does your body know where to find it? Yes. Pastry, ice cream, pizza, or anything else you normally have on your “uh uh” list.
What’s your answer? Before you drink, eat protein-rich foods and healthy fats. They boost your energy over the long haul, stabilize your sugar levels, and keep your metabolism from taking a time out.
These particular food groups last and that means you’ll be less likely to go nuts later after a drink or two. All of which helps to counter the impending sugar crash and slows the rate your body absorbs the alcohol.
When imbibing, keep it simple. The more ingredients in an alcoholic beverage, the higher the caloric (and sugar) load. The three standards (beer, wine, spirits) are still your best bet.
What Does “Moderation” Mean?
One drink per day is considered “safe” by most of the major health organizations to reap the benefits of some alcohols while avoiding the downsides. We’ve written about the heart benefits of red wine.
Know that if you go all week without drinking – consuming all seven of those glasses of wine in one evening is going to sabotage you for days.
Your body will literally STOP all other metabolism function to focus on the alcohol more or less “flooding” your system. You’re going to be practically RAVENOUS as your body fights for chemical balance.
Experts estimate that partying with around 4 drinks every Saturday for a year (while not drinking otherwise) will account for an additional ten pounds of weight gain in that time period. That’s the opposite of weight loss with alcohol involved.
Some “morning after” tips…
- Alcohol dehydrates so drink water between beverages (if it’s a celebratory night). If you don’t manage that, drink water before you go to bed and especially drink several glasses the following day!
- Again, healthy fats and proteins are going to save you. Once your head and/or stomach settle after a night of excess, you’re going to be starving. Your body wants fat and you might think that equates to a greasy burger and fries. Instead, consider a nice steak, roasted Brussels sprouts, and even bakery bread served with butter or dipping oil.
- Hangovers with headache result from shrunken capillaries in your brain due to dehydration. Though I don’t usually take medication, taking two ibuprofen with a full bottle of water before bed really helps hold off that brain pounder the morning after.
In my own life, moderate wine consumption (with a very rare foray into true spirits) works well with the eating plan I have in place. High protein, heavy fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, minimal dairy, and almost no carbohydrates are what my meals look like for the past two years.
Is it possible to lose weight with alcohol as part of your daily caloric intake?
Yes, it is. I lost 100 pounds over the course of two years with one glass of wine per day and a heavy protein/produce diet. The biggest boost for me came from cutting refined carbohydrates of all kinds out of my diet. Even now, it isn’t my glass of wine that wrecks a week of faithfully eating right…it’s a bagel.