To Beer or Not to Beer
We want to be fit and healthy, but we want to have our booze and drink it too. Is that a problem? Maybe, maybe not.
Before you shoot the messenger, let me clarify my position. I drink alcohol. In my other life, I write a craft beer blog. (www.GrowlersandLace.com, if you’re interested in craft beer, check it out.) I love a glass or two of Malbec or Tempranillo. So I’m not exactly on a teetotalling soapbox. What I want to do is give you an idea of how alcohol fits into your fitness/nutrition plan–or maybe doesn’t.
All things considered, a glass of wine or a pint of beer or a finger or two of bourbon now and then isn’t likely to present a problem for your physique. You’ve heard all the “moderation” maxims, and those obviously apply here. But since “moderation” is variously interpreted, let’s look at a few facts about alcohol to help us make a decision about whether it works for us.
Alcohol Has Calories
First, alcohol, though nonnutritive, has calories—about 7 cals/g. In a cocktail, the mixers (liqueur, soda, syrup, juice, etc.) will add additional calories, mostly in the form of sugar. These add up pretty quickly.
- 1 (1.5 ounce) shot of 80-proof alcohol = 96 calories (the higher the alcohol content, the higher the calories; add mixers and the calorie count can double or triple)
- 1 (5 ounce) glass of red wine = 125-150 calories (a 5-ounce pour is just over half a cup; not much)
- 1 (12 ounce) serving of 6% ABV beer = 180 calories
Alcohol Inhibits Fat Burning
Second, when your body takes in alcohol, it drops everything else it was working on—metabolically speaking—to process the alcohol and get it out of your system. So here’s where the real problem with alcohol arises: it’s not so much fattening as it is inhibitive to fat burning.
Say you’re out enjoying margarita night with platter of nachos and some fried ice cream. While your body is working feverishly to get the tequila out of your system, those carbs and fats are put on the back burner, which is to say not being burned. They’re hanging out, waiting for the booze to clear . . . and eventually getting stored. See the problem?
Remember, this isn’t just something that occurs with vodka shots or beer funnels. “Skinny” cocktails still have alcohol, even if their mixers have less sugar; so, skinny or not, their effect on the body is the same, they just pack fewer ancillary carbs.
Alcohol Lowers Inhibitions
Third, when we drink, our lowered inhibitions make it super easy to overeat (among other things). We forget that we don’t normally touch White Castle hamburgers . . . and house a dozen. Wings and pizza and garlic knots and disco fries and zeppolis? Sure! Sounds like a great idea. Cheers!
But see #2 above.
Most likely, there’s no need to give up alcohol completely to lose weight. If you’re consuming it mindfully, in moderation—which means a limited number of servings per week—you should be just fine. Keep an eye on those mixers, choose beer with a moderate alcohol content, and make sure your pour of wine is a serving, not a glass.
If, however, your weight loss is stalled and you’re still having a few drinks a week, consider cutting back or cutting out alcohol for a while, and save it only for special occasions.