January 23

Is Alcohol Affecting Your Weight Loss?

Is Alcohol Affecting Your Weight Loss?

When you’re trying to lose weight, the standard and obvious advice of “eat fewer calories than you use up” still applies largely, but not all calories are created equal when it comes to the effect on our bodies. For example, 200 calories will have a different effect on your blood sugar and metabolism response than 200 calories of cake. But what about 200 calories of alcohol?

Whether it’s wine, beer, or spirits, as turns out, alcohol also has a unique and specific effect on your body’s functions – and some of those effects make it harder to lose body fat, maintain healthy weight, and stay active. 

If the rest of your eating and exercise is on track and you’re still feeling challenged in your weight-loss journey, it might be the time to take a look into – what – and how much you’re consuming. 

What Alcohol Does To The Body

As delicious as a cocktail or beer might be – and can often be welcomed as a stress reliever and a social reason go-to, alcohol doesn’t do our bodies any favours. Even red wine’s heart-healthy benefits are now being largely challenged.

“Alcohol has multiple deleterious effects on different systems of the body,” says Dr. Joshua Scott, primary care sports medicine physician at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute. In the short run, it can affect muscle repair and growth because alcohol inhibits calcium getting absorbed in muscle cells, which can lead to cramping. 

Alcohol has 7kcal/g and can add to weight gain when consumed in excess. Though, moderate amounts of alcohol don’t seem to lead to a significant weight increase if staying active, if at all.

Potential Ripple Effect

In addition to the differences in physical mechanisms caused by alcohol, there can be secondary effects as well. Anyone who’s gone through a fast-food take-out drive-thru after the bar closes can know this — because drinking lowers your inhibitions, it can change how you normally control your eating.

Alcohol may also change your sleep pattern, particularly the amount of deep, restorative sleep you get. That can especially happen if you have a drink within a few hours of bed, notes Dr. Gillespie.

When your sleep is patchy, that may have an effect on your exercising performance – and even whether you work out at all. Those who feel tired or hung over, may skip exercise on favour of getting more sleep or reaching for more high-calorie convenience food.

Creating a Balance With Drinking and Weight Loss

Despite the negative effects that drinking can have, we suggest that the need to go sober when working towards a weight-loss goal. Otherwise moderation is key, and that defined as one drink per week for women and two for men. Less is even better. While moderate drinking is 1-2 per week, there is increasing evidence that less is even better.

But if you find your weight loss stalling, or you’re finding quality of sleep, low energy levels affecting your productivity – it might be worth trying a “dry week” or “dry month” to see how removing alcohol might affect you. For many, it could restart weight loss and improve healthier options around exercise and nutrition. 

You don’t have to cut out alcohol forever, if you don’t want to. But taking a break from drinking can often be more helpful and going on calorie restrictive diets.

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