While many studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, we all know that our consumption (of everything!) tends to be a little more than "moderate" throughout the holiday season. But there are three reasons why boozing hard over the holidays seem to hit your weight loss goals twice as hard.
Number 1: Extra Calories
It is surprising how many people forget that alcohol itself contains calories! Containing 7 calories per gram, alcohol is more calorically dense than other nutrients, such as carbohydrates and protein.
What does this say about your favorite holiday beverage? Well, just one shot (1.5 oz) of the average 80-proof liquor contains roughly 100 calories. Add together a few of those special holiday drinks, not to mention the extra syrups, liqueurs, etc., and you've got yourself the (empty) calories of a small meal!
Number 2: Overeating
The problem is, our bodies respond differently to liquid energy compared to solid food. Calorie-containing beverages, such as alcohol and soft drinks, are simply not as psychologically or metabolically satiating as their solid caloric equivalents. As a result, we fail to compensate for the extra energy found in beverages and are more prone to overeat.
Number 3: Alcohol IS A DRUG
Unlike soda, alcohol is a toxic substance. Alcohol suppresses fatty acid oxidation (fat metabolism), increases thermogenesis and stimulates a number of other neurochemical and peripheral systems involved with appetite control. Believe it or not, all of these effects can lead to overeating. In fact, studies show that moderate alcohol consumption prior to a meal will increase caloric intake for that meal. In addition to its effect on appetite, the most visible effect of alcohol is reduced inhibition. Scientists often point to this as the leading culprit in overeating. Our mildly intoxicated selves tend to feel less guilty about going back for seconds on those extra indulgent treats.
Not All Drinks Are Created Equal
Although the calories found in beer, wine and the average cocktail are comparable, a recent systematic review shows that the consumption of spirits is more strongly associated with weight gain than beer or wine.
Beer and wine also tout many health benefits. It is has been widely shown that daily and moderate wine drinkers enjoy significant reductions in all-cause mortality, particularly in terms of cardiovascular outcomes.
But moderate beer drinkers may too experience their own health benefits. As the Co-Founder of Common Roots Brewery Company, Christian Weber, explains, "Beer has been shown to increase levels of 'good' cholesterol, lower 'bad' cholesterol, and reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Beer is also surprisingly great source of B Vitamins and fiber."
Weber also notes that beers with higher alcohol content tend to be more caloric than their less boozy counterparts.
So what is the take away here?
As always, moderation is key. It's unrealistic to expect that you won't indulge more than usual over the holidays. Being mindful of what you consume, including what you drink, is one way you can stay on track with your weight management goals this holiday season.
Calories per serving of various alcohol beverages
• 1.5 fluid ounces of liqueur (% alcohol varies) = 165 Calories
• 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (about 5% alcohol) = 153 Calories
• 5 fluid ounces of table wine (about 12% alcohol) = 123 Calories
• 1.5 fluid ounces of hard liquor (about 40% alcohol) = 97 Calories
Disclosure Statement: A similar blog was written by this author for Inside Tracker company blog. The author also provides consulting services to Common Roots Brewing Company, but is not currently receiving compensation for this work.