When I worked for the Health Promotions Department in college at The University of North Florida I remember doing a nutrition re-call with a student and we came to the question- How may alcoholic drinks does he consume on the weekend or just when he is socially drinking?…without hesitation he said 24. I tried not to looked shocked but I needed him to repeat the answer just so I could make sure I was not going crazy…YEP he said 24. Mind you, he was trying to drop body fat and was not contributing his weight gain to alcohol at all, anything in excess will put weight on especially alcohol.
His next question was- Should I switch up what type of drink I drink? He was currently consuming beer. Besides the alarming realization that this student who consumed 24 drinks an evening had probably developed an alcohol addiction and needed help outside of nutrition coaching. What is the best drink to consume out there?
Before I go over the different categories of alcohol based drinks, lets make something clear, if you are trying to drop body fat or weight know that alcohol consumption will slow down that process. All forms alcohol require a lot of energy from the body to metabolize, therefore the body devotes it’s energy to metabolizing the alcohol and all of the other nutrients and calories take a back seat and typically end up getting stored as fat (beer belly). Not to mention alcohol can increase appetite and release your inhibitions which could cause you to consume foods that you may not normally consume resulting in unwanted weight gain and a disruption in metabolism. Come on, don’t you remember the college days of going through Taco Bell or Krystal on the way home from a party or club at 2 or 3am. We were nutrition majors and we still did it, alcohol does have some serious power over the mind!
The 3 main alcohol categories are:
Beer– Light beer tends to have approximately 90 calories per serving and the darker ales tend to be 150-200 calories per serving, but heck with the whole calorie counting, what does beer have in it that will disrupt your metabolism? Traditional breweries use grains that contain glycoproteins (aka gluten) which I typically advise clients to avoid due to gluten’s harmful effects on metabolism, excess inflammation and poor digestion. A gluten free beer is a better option, you may need to go to a specialty market to find them but they do exist. Beer also can be drank in excessive amounts because it typically does not “hit” people the same as liquor or wine. It is easy for people to consume 2-3 times as much beer as they do other forms of alcohol, again resulting in weight gain and poor metabolism.
Wine– is my personal favorite, I am looking forward to April after I deliver my little bundle and I can have an occasional glass here and there. The benefits that we all have heard about wine is that it is good for the heart due to potent antioxidants, specifically resveratrol, which is a natural phenol typically found in the skin of red grapes. This antioxidant has been linked to lowering blood sugars, reducing inflammation, and increasing the immune system. Consuming wine in moderation 1-2 glasses occasionally is the key to reaping the benefits in regards to heart health and inflammation. If wine is abused and consumed excessively daily then the health benefits go away and you could actually be at risk for heart disease, certain cancers and inflammatory conditions.
Liquor– The number one problem with liquor is we tend to mix it with sugary drinks like soda, juice, or worse syrups which drive blood sugars up and increase appetite. If you prefer liquor look for non-calorie or lower sugar mixers. I like rum and Zevia instead of artificially sweetened diet sodas or regular sodas. You can also mix sparkling water and fresh lemon or lime slices to your choice of liquor. The other downfall to liquor is the volume is small so we can easily consume too much too fast, pace yourself and try to consume water in addition to the alcohol based drinks. You don’t want to be the one who got loud too fast and too quick at a party
To sum it up, a shot of liquor, a serving of wine and a light beer all are about the same amount of calories, but optimal health is really not about calories out and calories in, so dig deeper into the metabolic effects of different types of alcohol.
- Beer- look for a gluten free option and drink in moderation.
- Wine- drink in moderation to get the health benefits from wine.
- Liquor- avoid sugary mixers, and pace yourself by alternating drinks with a glass of water.
- Enjoy a cocktail, glass of wine or beer here and there just be aware of how each effects your body and overall health goals.
Happy hour anyone?