Consuming alcohol is counterproductive to weight loss for four main reasons. These reasons include:
1) The consumption of excess calories contained in the alcohol itself. 2) A decrease in metabolism leading to body fat storage.
3) The consumption of excess calories due to the consumption of excess food calories.
4) An increase in appetite and body fat storage as a result of inadequate sleep.
1) At 7 calories per gram, alcohol is closer in calories to fat with 9 calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates at 4 calories per gram. The calories add up quickly in these beverages, particularly if you are drinking large quantities.
2) Some research has found that alcohol consumption will slow your metabolism. This research states that your metabolism can decrease by up to 36 percent at the next meal. A decrease in metabolism will slow the rate at which your body burns calories and can lead to body fat storage.
3) A “what the heck” attitude often sets in as your inhibitions are lessened with the relaxing effects of the alcohol, which is categorized as a depressant. This is when a lot of individuals will give into the extra portions and treats that they normally would have more restraint toward. Eat a snack an hour or so before attending your social gathering so your stomach will not be completely empty and alcohol will not affect you as abruptly.
4) Alcohol consumption has been found to help individuals initially fall asleep, but then they often experience several periods of interrupted sleep throughout the night. Not getting enough quality sleep is also detrimental to your weight loss efforts, as your body will release Cortisol, a stress hormone. Elevated Cortisol levels will stimulated the release of insulin and therefore increase your appetite and fat storage. Recently released research discovered that Leptin (a satiety hormone) levels are decreased in individuals who are sleep-deprived. This research also revealed that Ghrelin (an appetite-stimulating hormone) is increased in sleep-deprived subjects, causing an increase in appetite and the consumption of excess calories. (Sleep-deprived was defined at getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night. )
The bottom line is, drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Moderation is typically recognized as one drink per day for a woman and no more than two drinks per day for a man. If you are gaining weight due to the excess calories or inadequate sleep, you need to decrease your intake of alcohol or abstain.
Jill Fleming, MS, RD owner of Thin Choices, professional speaker and author of Thin People Don't Clean Their Plates: Simple Lifestyle Choices for Permanent Weight Loss.