More than any other beverage, alcohol of any kind – whether it’s wine, beer, or hard liquor – really can slow down the weight loss process. Also, drinking doesn’t offer any kind of nutritional bang for your buck, just a bunch of empty calories – and the potential to cause vitamin deficiencies that can interfere with both weight loss and overall health.
Booze, Vitamins, and Your Bod
Your lovely liver is the organ responsible for breaking down and processing alcohol. But when you drink too much or too often (or both!), this inhibits the liver’s production of digestive enzymes. And what results is that your body can’t properly absorb valuable protein and fats – including the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. Vitamin A is important for skin health, immunity, eye health, and hormone regulation; D is important for mineralization of the bones, while vitamin E is an important antioxidant responsible for cell membrane integrity – which influences numerous important functions in the body. Then there’s vitamin K, which is important for bone building.
Alcohol also depletes the B-complex group of vitamins, which are so important in combating stress, depression, and helping with digestive functions. From a weight loss perspective, not getting enough specific nutrients, especially the B vitamins, inhibits the fat burning process needed to achieve weight loss. The result? Fat accumulates in the body instead.
So, in short, many essential nutrients are simply not retained for use by the body when you drink – they’re rapidly eliminated through the harsh diuretic effects of alcohol.
The Calorie Question
There’s no getting around it: alcoholic calories are purely empty calories. Besides depleting the body of needed nutrients, these calories also replace calories that could be giving your body something to work with, like fat that keeps you full or protein that gives you energy and focus. And while some studies indicate that red wine may provide antioxidant protection, you can count on getting the same antioxidants from just eating the right foods.
As you probably already know, drinking also tends to lower your resistance around “problem” foods, or foods that you reach for when you’re not on a calorie-restricted diet. Even just one drink can inhibit reactions in the brain that are normally responsible for self-control and decision making. So while you might think that having a few low-calorie drinks is a good compromise, it could also lead to overeating, a sluggish metabolism, and poor eating choices the next day – all factors that are going to affect your weight loss.
The Science behind Alcohol Metabolism
Liver cells are the only cells in the body that can make up enough of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. When alcohol is present, the liver cells are forced to metabolize alcohol and let the fatty acids accumulate, sometimes in huge stockpiles. This is essentially why alcohol is said to turn to fat in the body – the liver is so busy detoxifying the alcohol that it puts everything else on hold, including fat metabolism.
Alcohol also dehydrates the body. Initially, losing water weight may have you thinking it’s a good idea to drink, but that pesky rebound effect quickly kicks in: the weight you lost was from water, and then fat creeps back on.
So, it’s true: rarely can one lose weight and consume generous amounts of alcohol at the same time. Does this mean you can never enjoy a cocktail again? Of course not. If you must indulge, do it sparingly for best weight loss results. And if you’re serious about getting slim, you might want to think about swapping the bottle for a stash of tea – at least until you’ve met your goals.
And remember – knowing a proper serving size is important when you drink: 4-5 ounces for a glass of wine, 12 ounces for beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Written by Elaine, certified nutritionist and Greenlite Educator