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How Alcohol Impacts Your Weight Loss Goals

9:03 AM, Sep 26, 2011   |    comments
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The following information is provided by Emily Hoffman, MS, RD, LD/N at Memorial Hospital.

One question I'm asked often is, Can alcohol fit in my weight loss plan?  While you may have heard that alcohol has health benefits in moderation, alcohol, especially in excess, can be a stumbling block to reaching your weight loss goals.  Not only is alcohol high in calories, but it alters your normal metabolism to store more calories as fat and can make sticking to you meal plan even more challenging. 

Did you know that alcohol has almost double the calories as carbohydrates and proteins? Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and proteins which contain 4 calories per gram, and unlike carbohydrates and proteins, alcohol does not contain any other beneficial vitamins and minerals.  In fact alcohol in high amounts can hinder your body's ability to use the vitamins you need.  Not only are there a lot of calories in the alcohol, but many alcoholic drinks are combinations of cream, sugar and sodas making them pack even more of a punch.  So you may think to yourself, what about the light beer or skinny margaritas?  

While these drinks contain fewer calories, the alcohol changes your body's normal digestion and promotes body fat storage.   Alcohol is digested much quicker than other nutrients because it is viewed in your body as a toxin and is therefore "high priority."  In small amounts slowly, alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and processed in the liver.  If you drink quickly or in high quantities, your liver will not be able to keep up with processing it, so the alcohol will circulate in the body until the liver is free to process it.  This is when you experience the effects of alcohol like, slurred speech, blurred vision, altered reasoning and judgment.  Alcohol also does not allow your body to digest other foods as you normally do.  It blocks your ability to process some carbohydrates and flips the switch to turn on fat storage.  Since you aren't processing all the calories you eat or drink, this explains why you often get hungry after a night of heavy drinking.      

Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, which could get you off track from your healthy eating plan.  If you have alcohol before you order a meal at a restaurant, you may be more likely to order the greasier or unhealthier option or to order the dessert.  That's not to mention that alcohol stimulates your appetite making it even tougher to limit your portions.  Often at celebrations, the foods that accompany alcohol, like appetizers and peanuts, are salty which make you thirstier and in turn cause you to drink more and eat more.

In a nutshell, be careful with alcohol when you are trying to lose weight.  It adds extra calories, changes your body's digestion to store more fat, and may encourage you to stray from your weight loss plans and eat more. 

The preceding information was provided by Emily Hoffman, MS, RD, LD/N at Memorial Hospital.

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