By Kasi Wolfe, R.D., and Whitney Hernlem, BS Dietetics
As consumers we are constantly bombarded with mixed messages regarding alcohol consumption, and it can often lead to more questions or concerns. Questions that frequently arise are: is it good for you? Bad for you? What is a moderate amount and how can body size affect it? Which is the best type for weight loss? In this blog we are going to break down the facts and relay what we know about alcohol in relation to weight gain.
- Slows metabolism. Alcohol cannot be stored in the body thus it must be metabolized first. For the body to achieve this, research suggests that other digestive functions, such as fat oxidation, are slowed down. This means that frequent alcohol consumption could potentially lead to a higher fat percentage in the body thus causing increased weight gain.
- Lowers inhibition. It is well established that alcohol lowers inhibition in most adults. When this sense of alertness is numbed, poor decision-making is more likely to occur, especially regarding food choices. Some studies go as far as suggesting that alcohol generates neural activity in the part of the brain responsible for intense hunger. In combination with a lowered inhibition, increased food intake is almost certain.
- Disrupts sleep. Alcohol often has adverse effects on sleep, meaning it can affect normal sleep patterns thus inhibiting the normal sleep duration. If an individual isn’t sleeping well their metabolism may slow down which in turn can eventually lead to weight gain.
- Adds calories. We know that alcohol consumption adds only empty calories to the diet. This means that the calories being consumed hold no nutritional value and do not contribute to the overall health of an individual. In fact, if they are consumed in place of other nutritious foods the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients decreases.
If you do choose to consume alcohol while pursing weight loss the following suggestions may be of help:
- Select a clear liquor such as vodka, rum or gin and mix with a diet soda, diet tonic or soda water.
- Choose a light beer versus a lager or stout.
- Try a seltzer drink such as a spiked seltzer.
- Avoid “fancy” drinks such as margaritas, Pina Coladas and daiquiris as they contain excess amounts of calories and sugars.
- If you are consuming alcohol, slow down your pace of consumption and be sure to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
- Never skip or reduce the size of a Medifast meal or Lean and Green in hope of allotting yourself extra calories.
- Adjust your meal choices when consuming alcohol. Choose lower-carbohydrate vegetables, leaner/leanest proteins, and cut back on condiments and optional snacks.
We hope that the information in this blog helps clear up any confusion on why alcohol is so closely linked with weight gain. For more information about Medifast Weight Control Centers and our program, visit www.medifastmn.com or call 1-855-RESULTS to set up a complimentary consultation!
Medifast “Alcoholic Beverages” Week 30 information sheets (pubs.niaa.nih.gov)