Shaping Up

Alcohol and Your Waistline

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While the saying goes that it’s always “5 o’clock somewhere,” you may want to rethink that mantra if you’re watching your weight, trying to lose weight, or notice your midsection becoming as round as a keg of beer.

You may be good at monitoring your calories. Even if you don’t keep a detailed food journal, you probably have an idea of the calories you’re actually eating; but what about liquid calories?

That’s an area where many of us often fall short.

Energy drinks, juice and smoothies can add extra calories, but alcohol is often our biggest enemy, going down so smoothly, we may have no idea just how many extra calories we’re taking in.

If cocktails are a regular part of your diet and you’re trying to lose weight, being more aware of what and how much you drink can make a difference. While a drink at the end of the day may often sound tempting, when you actually look at the number of calories per drink, it can be shocking.
Alcohol does not contain fat, but it does contain 7 calories per gram. Protein and carbs each have 4 calories per gram.

Check out a list of some of the most common cocktails:

• 1 can (12 oz) Beer – 135-145 calories
• 1 can (12 oz) Light Beer – 101 calories
• 1 glass (3.5 oz) Red or White Wine – 70-75 calories
• 1 shot (1.5 oz) Gin, rum, vodka or whiskey – 97 calories
• 1 glass (6 oz) Cosmopolitan – 143 calories
• 1 glass (4.5 oz) Pina colada – 262 calories
• 1 glass (2.2 oz) Martini – 135 calories

Just think, a few “cold ones” (approximately 300 calories!) after you work out, can undo all of your hard work. Aside from the obvious empty calories, alcohol makes it harder to stick to a healthy diet. It takes high dose willpower to turn down high calorie foods and that requires energy.

One study has shown that acts of self-control, like bypassing a piece of chocolate cake for a carrot stick, can actually deplete glucose levels, leaving us vulnerable in situations where we don’t have control over our choices.

Adding alcohol to the mix drains that energy even more, leaving you less concerned about blowing your diet than satisfying your cravings. After a few drinks, that healthy diet you’ve been following so diligently suddenly doesn’t seem all that important anymore.

What exactly is happening with alcohol in our bodies?

Alcohol temporarily keeps your body from burning fat.

The reason is that your body can’t store calories from alcohol for later, the way it does with food calories. So when you drink, your metabolic system must stop what it’s doing (like, say, burning off calories from your last meal) to get rid of the booze. So, whatever you recently ate will be stored as FAT.
Research has also shown that alcohol especially decreases trying to lose that “spare tire” around your belly. You never hear anyone say “Look at the guys beer hips”, do you?

It’s always a beer BELLY.

So, can you still enjoy a drink?

Like everything else, moderation is the key when it comes to enjoying cocktails while watching your weight. Treat alcohol the same way you treat other things in your diet – as something you can enjoy from time to time without going overboard.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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