Research shows that moderate consumption of alcohol provides health benefits, such as a reduced risk for heart disease. Unfortunately, what is healthy for your heart is not always helpful for your waistline. Here are four ways that alcohol can stall your weight loss efforts:
Less body fat is burned. Alcohol is converted to acetate by the body, and it serves as a quick-burning fuel source. Acetate cannot be stored so the body uses it for energy before it turns to carbohydrates or fat. When acetate from alcohol is available for energy, it becomes much more difficult to burn the fat necessary for weight loss.
Empty calories. One gram of alcohol contains seven calories, but unlike calories from carbohydrates, fat, and protein, alcohol offers little nutritional benefit. A high-calorie cocktail or a couple of regular beers can easily cause you to exceed your daily calorie requirement without providing the body with added nutrition.
Overeating. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, alcohol intake lessens inhibitions and undermines willpower. Several studies have found that alcohol intake results in a short term stimulation of appetite. Drinking is often done in a social setting with high-calorie food options. Combining increased appetite, fewer inhibitions, and easy access to unhealthy food is a recipe for overeating.
Disrupted routine. A few too many alcoholic beverages, and you will fall asleep quickly only to be wide awake in the middle of the night. According to a publication from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol intake disrupts normal stages of sleep and total sleep time. When you wake in the morning exhausted, your exercise plans will go out the window. This reduces the calories you burn, which puts you at a greater disadvantage for weight loss.
Moderate consumption is the key to maximizing health benefits, and that is no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. To prevent alcohol intake from ruining your weight loss efforts, choose low-calorie mixers such as soda water with a fresh lime wedge, or light beer. Order a healthy menu option before you start drinking, or have a snack before you go out. Be sure to track the calories you consume through alcoholic drinks, and step up the workouts to boost your calories burned.