Eliminating or limiting alcoholic beverages is one of the few weight-loss strategies nearly all experts agree on. For one, at 7 calories per gram, the caloric content of alcohol is higher than that of proteins and carbohydrates (both 4 calories per gram), and nearly as high as fats, which contain 9 calories per gram.
But it’s not just about the liquid calories. Alcohol can also mess with your metabolism. Your liver normally metabolizes calories from fatty food so you can burn them for energy. Problem is, when you drink alcohol, your liver is busy metabolizing the booze – which your body perceives as a toxin.
The result? You’re more likely to store those nachos and french fries as fat if you’ve had a few drinks. What’s more, a 2013 study found that people tended to consume 300 to 400 additional calories on drinking days.
Buzzkill? Indeed. But there is hope if you’re trying to slim down or stay healthy and don’t want to give up happy hour or your weekend wine dates.
A 2010 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that women who regularly consume moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to gain weight than nondrinkers and are at lower risk for obesity, too.
“From birthdays, to anniversaries, to girl-time dates, there’s so much to celebrate in life,” said Karena Dawn, co-author of “Tone It Up: 28 Days to Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous.” “And the good news is that a glass of wine or champagne won’t derail your fitness efforts. Treating yourself is all about moderation, so you can say cheers with no regrets.”
Here, Dawn and her best friend and Tone It Up business partner, Katrina Scott, share their top tips for healthy drinking, adapted from Tone It Up:
1. Stick to no more than two cocktails a night, no more than two or three nights a week, to minimize alcohol’s effect on your health and weight.
2. Drink white wine, champagne, or clear liquors. Clear alcoholic beverages are lower in congeners, a substance made during the fermentation process that contains several chemicals your body doesn’t like. Your liver has to go on overdrive to metabolize them, so it can’t focus on burning food or fat.
3. Choose mixers with high-quality ingredients that don’t contain added sugar. Say yes to fresh lemon, lime, mint, honey, sea salt, and other natural ingredients, and say no to premade mixers. (Dawn and Scott offer healthy cocktail recipes on their website, toneitup.com.)
4. Be sure to enjoy a healthy dinner beforehand. Alcohol on an empty stomach will make its way into your bloodstream much quicker. That’ll set you up for a rotten night’s sleep … not to mention a wicked headache in the morning. Plus, if your stomach’s full, you’ll be less tempted by high-calorie snacks.
5. Drink water between each cocktail. Alcohol is dehydrating, so you need to up your H2O intake. Plus, drinking water between cocktails wards off the dreaded hangover, so you’re less likely to skip the gym the next morning.
6. Give it a spritz. White wine spritzers are refreshing and delicious. They’re made with half soda water and half wine, cutting the calories in half. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime for extra flavor, if you’d like.