Updated: May 8
When it comes to dieting, alcohol is a controversial subject. Is it okay to indulge every now and then? Or is alcohol truthfully as bad as they say? Many diets will eliminate all alcohol right off the bat. But, what is the reason behind this rule, and is there a way to incorporate alcohol into you diet in a healthy way? Let's break it down so you can make the best alcohol choices for weight loss for YOU.
Your dietary calories are composed of three main macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbs. However, there is one other macronutrient that also plays a role - alcohol. Now, alcohol is usually not one hear about because it's not an "essential" nutrient. But it does have a role to play when you want to still include alcohol. Protein and carbs both account for 4 calories per gram, and fat accounts for 9 calories per gram. This means that fat is two times as calorie dense as protein and carbs. Alcohol falls somewhere in between these two densities — at around 7 calories per gram. Understanding this is crucial to understanding how alcohol works for or against your weight loss goals.
What about the age old myth that alcohol makes you gain weight? Any truth to that? Well...sorta.
1. Alcohol is a source of empty calories in the diet. Meaning it adds to your daily calorie intake but doesn't provide any real nutrition. Some argue that small amounts of alcohol can have health benefits, like heart health, but the research does not show that alcohol benefits weight loss or fat loss in particular
2. Alcohol disrupts your metabolism. Alcohol is a toxin, and when you consume it, your body prioritizes digesting and removing it from your system before anything else, including metabolizing the food you eat. On average one drink will “pause” your metabolism for an hour. And after quite a few drinks, you are going to start slowing your progress by disrupting your ability to burn fat efficiently in a calorie deficit and potentially increase fat storage.
3. Alcohol messes with your appetite. Drinking in excess can cause your blood sugar to drop, which may make you feel hungry or crave unhealthy food, even if you’ve eaten plenty of calories for the day. Plus, drinking lowers your inhibitions which can make you care less about what you eat or how much.
So what's the best strategy to still enjoy your evening glass without derailing all your progress?
Calories from alcoholic beverages can add up quickly and offset your progress, so opting for the lowest calorie options is critical. Avoid drinks made with mixers high in added sugar, like soda, juice, and coconut cream, and limit liquors. Beers can also be high in calories, especially wheat beers, stouts, and IPAs.
The best low carb alcohols:
Clear Liquor: vodka, gin, rum, tequila
Scotch and bourbon
Champagne and some wine
Now obviously every bottle of champagne will vary slightly on calories and so will beers but this handy chart will give you a good general idea.
The big picture
You want to make sure to include your drinks with your overall plan. If you know you'll be having a couple glasses that night, plan for it by having a lower carb, higher protein and veggie day. Don't go too crazy or you inhibitions will go down and you'll get ravenous on the pub mix. The next day, get right back on track with your regular diet and you'll be good to go! Alcohol doesn't have to be fully eliminated unless that's the choice you want to make. But having the right strategy and getting right back on course is the most important step to being successful.