I will be the first to admit I am not someone who abstains from alcohol. I love a glass of Chardonnay or a French Martini every now and again and will usually have a drink or two on the weekends with friends. However, it is important to be aware of your relationship with alcohol along with how it affects your body AND your goals if you're looking to feel more confident in your skin, more comfortable in your clothes and feel good in any situation.
What is alcohol and how we process it
Alcohol is made from the fermentation process of fruits and grains. Depending on what is fermented and how it is prepared, you'll get different alcohols. The thing to remember is that alcohol DOES provide calories on it own, besides the calories from the sugars we find in the drinks.
Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, while protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fats with 9 calories per gram. You may be confused when you look at the nutrition facts panel of your Michelob Ultra or White Claws how they only have 2 g of carbs in them but also 90+ calories. These calories, although not on the nutrition facts panel from carbs, protein and fat, come from the alcohol within them. And alcohol, no matter if it is in a sugar beverage or not, will get metabolized as fat within the body. That is because the liver, while processing our blood, will detect the toxin that is alcohol and try to break it down as fast as possible. The easiest way for our bodies to get rid of it is through metabolizing and storing it as fat within the body.
That's why if you know a heavy beer drinker, they may have more of a rounded belly look to them from the excessive alcohol intake and the body storing it away and processing it as fast as possible.
How does alcohol affect our bodies
Aside from being a source of additional calories in our diet, alcohol will also cause some changes on the inside. With increased alcohol intakes, our bodies are less likely to be able to process and store Thiamine in the body, which is an essential B vitamin. Alcohol also takes 10-14 days to be processed and excreted from the body, which is why many people can feel the malaise, lack of energy and focus following heavy drinking. It stays in our bodies for a longer period of time because it is stored, along with the increased bloating that can come from drinking. We can stay bloated as our bodies try to process out the toxins for 3-5 days post drinking. This happens because alcohol dehydrates us and throws off our water balance, which then causes our bodies to hold on to as much water as it can inside our bodies and organs to keep us going.
Alcohol and your goals
If you're wanting to lose weight or focus on changing your health and labs, alcohol is something we should really be looking at. Alcohol contibutes calories and energy into our bodies. Each drink is at least about 100 calories or so, so if you find that you're drinking 2-3 drinks a night or at a time, that will increase your overall calorie intake along with whatever else you've eaten throughout the day. We know that weight loss comes from calorie deficits and weight gain comes from calorie surpluses, so we really should be mindful of how our drinking affects our goals.
How to reduce your intake
One major thing we teach our clients inside of our Signature Nutrition Coaching Program is mindfulness and awareness around meal times and with eating. It's easy for us to be on autopilot and order a second or third glass of wine at dinner, but if we can stop and ask ourselves and listen to what our bodies are telling us, we might find that we no longer have the desire to drink after 1 or that the taste starts to change. Creating a moment to check in with ourselves, how we are feeling and what our body is telling us is a great way to cut back.
If you usually have 3 glasses of wine on the weekend, try only having 2. If you're a beer drinker while watching sports, start with water or mix in a Hop WTR or Hop Tea to reduce alcohol intake and calories as well. For the hard selterzers, grab a non-alcoholic kind that in a fun flavor like Moscow Mule from Polar.
The current recommendation for women is 1 serving of alcohol a day at most or 2 servings at most for men. Although there are recommendations around it, you do not have to meet these. In fact, it's probably best to limit the glass or two to once or twice throughout the week rather than consistently. Alcohol is a class 1 carcinogen, meaning, it has been shown to cause cancer directly, no matter what the type is. Limiting it can be your best bet for health and for your goals.
For more help with learning how to include alcohol and hit your goals as well as decreasing alcohol intake, sign up for our Signature Nutrition Coaching Program today!