One of my clients asked me how much of an effect alcohol has on weight loss and since it’s something that comes up often, I figured I’d do a post about it
When it comes to alcohol and weight loss, the two are not friends. While you can make low calorie drink choices it’s not so much the calories that you need to worry about when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol can lower your testosterone levels for anywhere between 18 – 72 hours after you drink (source). Now if you’re a female you may not think that this affects you but testosterone is really important for ladies too. You see testosterone helps us with a lot of things and one of those things is it helps you lose fat. So if your testosterone levels are lowered that means that you will be burning less fat for 18-72 hours after drinking.
Here’s what happens to alcohol once you consume it:
- A small portion of the alcohol is converted into fat.
- Your liver then converts most of the alcohol into acetate.
- The acetate is then released into your bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.” Source
A study conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated the effects of alcohol on fat burning:
“Eight men were given two drinks of vodka and sugar-free lemonade separated by 30 minutes. Each drink contained just under 90 calories. Fat metabolism was measured before and after consumption of the drink. For several hours after drinking the vodka, whole body lipid oxidation (a measure of how much fat your body is burning) dropped by a massive 73%.”
So as you can see drinking alcohol, regardless of how low in calories it is is going to have a negative effect on your weight loss efforts.
Also I’m sure a lot of people have experienced increased hunger after drinking. You go out to the bar, have a few drinks, do some dancing and then mosey on over to grab some pizza or poutine as a post bar snack. We tend to make really poor food choices when we’ve had a couple of drinks and I would say that this is a much bigger issue than the number of calories in your mixed drinks. So watch out for this the next time you go out.
Anyways more about alcohol. All alcohol has 7 calories per gram. Depending on how strong the liquor is this can help you determine the number of calories per ounce. The higher the alcohol content the more calories there are in it. Liquor like vodka, gin, whiskey have no carbs but still contain calories and whatever you choose to mix it with can also have an impact on your physique. Because your testosterone levels are going to be lowered in some capacityyou may want to minimize the calories/carbs consumed to try and reduce the overall impact.
When choosing mixers opt for lower calories choices like:
- diet soda
- natural lemon/lime juice
- diet tonic
- crystal light
I know a lot of people also really enjoy their wine. Dry wines tend to be lower in carbs while sweeter wines like Zinfandel tend to be a bit on the higher side. Similarly rum and other liquor of that nature tend to contain more sugar and hence more carbs.
When it comes to beer you may have noticed in recent years the trend to try and come up with lower carb beers. Budweiser has their 55 beer, Sleeman makes Sleeman clear and Molson makes Ultra low carb beer too. The lower calorie/carb beers also tend to have a lower alcohol content, this is not a coincidence.
Here is a handy run down on the carb levels of various forms of alcohol from About.com:
Carb Counts – Beer – Per 12 Ounce Serving
- Regular Beer: average is about 12 grams carb
- Light Beer: check the label –- most are 3 to 7 grams
- Ale: most are 5 to 9 grams
- Stout: variable –- about 20 grams
Carb Counts – Wine – per 5 Ounce Serving
- Dry Champagne: ~2.5 to 4.5 grams
- Dry White (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay): ~3 grams
- ”Off Dry” (e.g. Reisling, Chenin Blanc): ~5 to 6 grams
- Muscat:~8 grams
- Dry Red (e.g. Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sav.): ~3.5 to 4 grams
- Zinfindel: 4.2 grams
- Dessert Wines: 12 to 14 grams
- Sweet Late Harvest Wine: 20 grams
Carb Counts – Liqueurs – per jigger = 1.5 fl oz
- Amaretto: 25 grams
- Bailey’s Irish Cream: 11 grams
- B & B Benedictine: 8 grams
- Campari: 12 grams
- Coffee Liqueur (e.g. Kahlua): up to 24 grams
- Cointreau: 15 grams
- Creme de Cacao: 22 grams
- Creme de Cassis: 17 grams
- Creme de Menthe: 21 grams
- Grand Marnier: 10 grams
- Kirsch: 9 grams
- Ouzo: 16 grams
- Sambuca: 17 grams
- Triple Sec: 16 grams
If you’re looking to lose weight alcohol will slow down your progress regardless of what type you choose. So if you’re trying to drop a few pounds, booze isn’t your friend.
If you’re just trying to maintain then you can be more flexible with your alcohol intake. As long as you’re not drinking too much on a regular basis I wouldn’t worry too much about whether to drink beer, wine or vodka cran – drink what you enjoy. I would focus more on making smart food choices after drinking and making sure that you don’t completely derail your efforts by chowing down on pizza right after the bar and then nursing your hangover the next day with more junk food. Don’t let a night of fun turn into 2 days worth of bad food choices.
I hope that helps some of you out! If you have any other questions, drop me a line.