To successfully lose weight, you need to watch the calories you consume versus the calories you burn through physical activity. While some people may be under the impression that “a calorie is a calorie,” there is a big difference between consuming 150 calories of leafy vegetables and drinking 150 calories in a small glass of whiskey. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to prioritize whether you’d rather have a satisfying afternoon snack or a glass of wine.
Alcohol can impede weight loss for the following reasons:
- Alcohol is empty calories: To compare, a 12-ounce beer has 155 calories, and the recommended calorie intake for an afternoon snack is about 150 to 200 calories. Calories from alcohol are “empty,” because they provide very little, if any, nutritional value. That means a backyard barbecue or a night out with friends at the bars could lead to consuming hundreds of extra, empty calories. In addition, alcoholic drinks with mixers like juice or soda add even more calories.
- Heavy drinking and binge drinking are associated with obesity: Most research shows that frequent, light or moderate alcohol intake is not correlated to a higher risk of obesity. Light or moderate drinking means, at most, 2 drinks a day for men, and 1 for women. Regular, heavy drinking and binge drinking has been shown to carry an increased risk of obesity.
- Calories from alcohol are used as a fuel source before calories from food: Alcohol impedes weight loss because the body uses alcohol as a primary source of fuel before any other caloric sources. Also, calories from alcohol are not stored in the body, unlike calories from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. That’s because alcohol is a toxic substance, and must be filtered by the liver. Excessive drinking can cause a disease called alcoholic fatty liver, which affects the way the body metabolizes and stores fats and carbohydrates.
- Intoxication leads to poor food choices: Anyone who has ever been intoxicated has likely indulged in a tempting treat they would not have if they had been sober. That’s because intoxication affects judgement, and even fitness fanatics have a hard time saying “no” to indulging after having a drink too many.
- Alcohol intoxication negatively affects sleep: While a nightcap may seem like a good idea to help you sleep, it can actually lead to increased periods of wakefulness in the sleep cycle. Suffering from sleep deprivation can also cause hormonal imbalances, including release of the hunger and satiety hormones.
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