Is Your Happy Hour Habit Derailing Your Weight Loss Goals?Oct 21, 2023
Before we begin, let me make one thing clear: this isn't about judging you for drinking. I'll have an occasional cocktail myself; this ain't a sanctimonious speech, just some friendly information and advice so you can make the best choice for you. Let's talk about that glass of beer, wine or craft cocktail and its relationship with your weight loss goals.
Heads up: if you're marking your birthday (or Tuesday, no judgement, remember?) with your favorite bottle of wine, that's 100% your choice and you are free to make it. But it's a good idea to know how alcohol and weight loss often clash. Toasting daily with a nightly glass of wine might mean kissing goodbye to shedding those pesky pounds before the big family wedding or your cruise vacation next month. Why, you ask? Let's dive into three reasons why alcohol might be blocking your path to your weight-loss dreams.
Reason 1: It's Literally Poison
Picture this: When alcohol gets into your body, it tells your brain, "Alert - we gotta deal with this intruder asap!" Your body wants alcohol to leave right away, like an unwanted house guest. This is like the guest who wasn't invited to the metabolism party in your body. The conversation halts, the music stops, and your body focuses on getting rid of the gatecrasher (aka alcohol) first. This means the bouncer (your liver) goes to work dealing with this intruder and your body's fat-burning goes on pause for about 6–8 hours. Okay enough with the metaphors. But seriously, alcohol is literally a poison that your body has to prioritize processing and getting rid of. So when you drink that becomes job #1 and it disrupts your metabolism so fat burning takes a back seat.
To illustrate, one drink, as in, just 1, equals 6–8 hours of paused fat-burning.
Okay so I hear your creative wheels turning, "well what if I have my weekly helping of alcohol in one evening or just be good all week and indulge extra on the weekend? Then the rest of the week I'll be fine." Not so fast. The negative effects of binge drinking (defined as 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women, 5 for men) go way beyond just stopping your fat loss and can be deadly. If you're going to drink at all, keep it to a safer 1-2 drinks max and alternate with water or a mocktail.
Reason 2: Willpower Who?
Ever found yourself on a fast-food bender post-happy hour? Or during happy hour? "Sure order those nachos and fried chicken wings!" Alcohol can get you craving, ordering, and eating way more junk food calories than usual. It's like letting a mischievous toddler loose in a candy store. It messes with our decision making skills so saying no becomes way, way harder.
When we go on a drinking spree, all our grand diet resolutions dissolve like a margarita salt rim. If there’s a tiny corner of your brain yearning for fries, alcohol is the instigator cheering it on. Your willpower is no match when you're a couple cocktails into the evening.
Reason 3: It's Empty Calories Too!
Alcohol is 7 calories per gram - and provides absolutely zero nutrition! It's the definition of empty calories. So on top of the calories you're taking in from willpower being lowered and saying yes to more calorie laden foods, you have the calories from the drinks themselves (not to mention the mixers!)
Reason 4: It Disrupts Your Sleep
Alcohol may make you feel sleepy (or pass out), but the quality of your sleep suffers. It messes with your REM sleep, the most restorative part of your sleep cycle. It is a diuretic so it can cause frequent awakenings. And its effects can make you feel fatigued and less rested the next day, making you want to skip your workout and binge Netflix instead.
Alcohol is a big part of our social culture so I know it can be really tough to cut back even if you want to. It's built into our social occasions to pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate or crack a bottle of wine over dinner, have beers while we watch sports, a drink at the after work networking event, etc. So what are we to do?
If you choose to drink while aiming for weight loss, opt for mixer-free or low-calorie options. Beware: a pina colada could be a major saboteur, sending your scale reading through the roof. A good rule of thumb: if your drink needs an umbrella, you might struggle to rock your bikini. Stick to alcohol on the rocks or mix it with soda water or calorie free mixers and a fresh citrus wedge for the most calorie-friendly choices.
And if you're wanting to cut way back, whether for weight loss or health reasons - don't sleep on mocktails. They are a great choice for alternating with or satisfying the not wanting to feel left out feeling of needing something festive in your hand on a night you don't want to have alcohol. Lots of bars and restaurants even have these on their menus now alongside the cocktails.
Now, here's to your health, balance, and informed choices. Cheers!
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