Drinking on a Diet

AlcoholWeightLoss300Alcohol is generally thought to be detrimental to a weight-loss regimen. However, a strategic drink here and there does not have to throw your efforts and investment off track.

It bears mentioning that the most effective way to lose weight is without consuming any alcohol at all. However, that is not realistic for many people. Often the trick to effective weight loss is not deprivation but moderation and realistic goals which can be maintained for longer periods of time. Trying to eliminate things that are ingrained into your environment could really just be setting you up for failure.

Science says…

Research shows us that alcohol is not all bad. There are several health benefits that different drinks provide. Nutritionist Martin Berkhan relates that “[m]oderate alcohol consumption improves insulin sensitivity, lowers triglyceride concentrations and improves glycemic control. Not only in healthy folks, but also in type 2 diabetes.”

Berkhan continues: “Consider the fact that studies have consistently shown that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. This can be mainly attributed to a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. However, alcohol also contributes to a healthier and disease-free life by protecting against Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, the common cold, different types of cancers, depression and many other Western diseases. The list goes on and on.”

It turns out that science is not even 100% sure that alcohol inhibits weight loss. Nutritionist Alan Aragon points out, “One study found that men consuming an average of 56 grams of ethanol per day (four beers) took in 16% more total calories than a matched group of non-drinkers. The two groups, drinkers and non-drinkers, had identical amounts of physical activity. So, logically, you’d think that the drinkers packed on some pounds. They didn’t. Both groups had the same body-mass index, despite all those excess calories for the drinkers.”

Aragon adds that “[a]nother study compared two weight-loss diets…In one diet, subjects got 10% of their total calories from white wine – 150 calories, or just over a glass per day. The other group got 10% from grape juice. After three months, the white wine group lost almost a kilogram more total body weight, although the difference wasn’t statistically significant.”

So, we must conclude that alcohol could even play a positive role in weight loss – under certain conditions and when consumed in a very moderate way. Could it be that it isn’t the alcohol, but what it leads to, that is actually the culprit in weight loss efforts? A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that subjects took in more fat and calories from food when they partook of moderate drinking.

Choose a diet

The appropriate amount of alcohol for you to consume largely depends on what type of weight-loss program you will engage in.

First, figure out how many calories you plan to consume in a day. The Internet features lots of calorie calculators which can help you come up with a safe and practical calorie intake plan for weight loss. Usually, diets require you to reduce your calorie intake by 20% of what you consume when you maintain a steady weight. At the same time, make sure that the new calorie intake has a good ratio of protein from lean sources (low-fat cottage cheese, protein powder, chicken, turkey, tuna and egg whites), which aids in weight loss. More advanced dieters can create a “macro” intake plan, comprising protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Drink days

If you can identify, in advance, the days that you plan to drink alcohol, you can properly prepare. On a drinking day, count each alcoholic beverage that you consume as 10g of fat, plus however many carbohydrates they contain. Then, factor this amount into your daily diet allowance.

A glass of red wine counts as 10 grams of fat, and 3g of carbohydrates.

Generally, dry wines – which are very low carb (about 0.5-1 g per 4 fl oz/115ml) – are a good alcohol choice, health wise. Gin, rum, scotch, tequila, vodka and whiskey are all basically zero carbs. Try not to mix these with sugary juices or sodas.