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Wine and Weight Loss?
There’s always room for more wine.
Even if you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t have to swear off wine or any other alcohol.
You just have to get smart about how you drink it.
So let’s pour a glass and chat about that, shall we?
Wine and Weight Loss: A Brief Primer
Alcohol is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “fourth macronutrient” after protein, carbohydrates, and fats. It’s absolutely not essential for us to consume but to say that everyone should abstain from it entirely doesn’t usually work out too well (prohibition, anyone?). Of course, alcohol is also a toxin so it’s important to be careful about your consumption.
The three essential macronutrients that our body needs are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. They are broken down by our bodies and used to support basic bodily functions. Alcohol is also broken down and metabolized by our bodies but we aren’t very efficient at it and it doesn’t get used for anything useful (aside from lowered inhibitions, bad dancing, and even worse karaoke… wait, were we talking about useful things?)
The functional ingredient in an alcoholic drink, ethanol, contains 7 calories per gram. Most alcoholic drinks have added sugars, though. In fact, even drinks that aren’t sweet like beer and whiskey still contain high amounts of sugar which can really bog down your nutrition plans for the day.
With all of that said, alcohol is not all bad. It can lubricate the mind and awkward relationships, it can bring people together, it can help you destress in a tense situation, and some studies suggest there may even be health benefits to moderate consumption of some alcoholic drinks like wine.
So… How do you mitigate the negative effects of alcohol when you’re trying to lose weight?
Wine and Weight Loss: How to Drink Responsibly
For the best way to have a good time with alcohol that won’t ruin your fat-loss efforts, follow these strategies when you’re drinking:
Stick to clear alcohols
Focus, especially on high quality vodkas and tequilas. These alcohols are considered “clean” meaning they have very little added sugar or anything else. If those aren’t your thing, wine and light beers are good as well. They have a little more caloric load but not enough to stress about.
Take it neat
A lot of the calorie load you get from drinks comes from sugary mixes. Instead of drinking a bunch of sugar along with your alcohol, drink it “neat” or use soda water, lemon, or lime to spruce your drink up.
Eat a bit less – For a few reasons
- Alcohol has calories just like all other food. If you want to avoid overeating, you also want to avoid overdrinking. Make sure you leave a little room in your day for the alcohol you’ll be drinking later
- If you’re having more than a few drinks, you’ll likely eat more after the fact. Impaired judgement and the call of the munchies are real.
- When you eat less, it takes less alcohol to get a buzz and any way you can have the same amount of fun but consume less alcohol is great!
Eat Your Protein
If you are eating a bit less to make room for the evening’s drinks, make sure you still eat enough protein. Focus on getting high quality protein, vegetables, and some healthy fats in. These are essential for your fat loss, recovery, and general well-being. For more information on what and how much to eat on a fat loss plan, check out our article on the best foods for weight loss.
For every drink you have during the night, alternate with a glass of water. If you’re worried about what your friends will think, make it a tonic water with lime so it looks like an alcoholic drink.
Take a multivitamin and some salts
This is an awesome trick I figured out in college that makes a huge difference! Drinking dehydrates you which means that you lose a lot of water-soluble vitamins and salts that your body needs to function. You can get a headstart on beating the next day’s hangover by having a tall glass of water with a multivitamin, a magnesium tablet, and some potassium salts before you go to sleep. By giving your body back what it’s just lost, you’ll help make the next day a lot less awful.
If All Else Fails, Avoid It
Those strategies are useful for the casual night out but here’s the thing:
If alcohol is such a large part of your life that it’s completely wrecking your weight loss efforts, the problem is not the alcohol.
The problem is, likely, that you’re stressed. It’s common to use alcohol to unwind from stress but that can go too far. Overconsumption of alcohol to deal with stress can cause you to:
- Gain weight – Aside from our bodies not metabolizing alcohol very well, we’re all familiar with the munchies that follow a night of too much drinking. It’s not just the alcohol but the poor choices following the alcohol that can cause problems
- Make you depressed – Alcohol is a depressant and can decrease levels of hormones that make you feel good. Sure you feel good in the moment but the lows experienced after a night of drinking can hurt your productivity and your relationships
- Make you feel like garbage the next day – Nobody likes losing a day to a hangover.
And just like binge eating or emotional eating, the struggle isn’t with the alcohol itself but with the underlying stress causing you to drink. The best way to curb your drinking, then, is to learn some new coping strategies that improve your health rather than harm it. You can then replace the alcohol habit with a new habit. Here are just a few replacements for a drink when stress has built up too much:
- Got a supportive friend you can call to vent to? Give them a call and tell them what’s going on
- Keep a journal on-hand and start writing out what you’re feeling. You may discover a solution more productive than alcohol
- Have a chance to go for a walk? Go for a stroll. Slow down and focus on what’s around you. See if the blood flow and time away helps you sort through what you’re feeling
- Find a quiet space where you can get rid of distractions. Sometimes drinking is triggered when we feel overwhelmed by life. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to shut things and people out for a bit while you get yourself back down to earth.
- Get some busywork going. Got chores you can do? Some paper work? A hobby like building puzzles or knitting, or filling out crosswords? Get your mind off the emotion and on to something productive and/or fun
- Pissed off? Get a punching bag in your basement and take out your energy on that instead of the bottle of wine in the cupboard
- Exercise! If you like to run, go for a run. If you like to pick up heavy things, do that. If you practice yoga, grab your mat and get into it. Exercise will not only give you the benefit of getting your mind onto something else, it can give you endorphins that will help you feel a bit better even if you don’t solve your problems
- Sleep on it. Sleep is restorative and is actually when our brains solve problems that have been on our mind throughout the day. If you have the chance to take a nap or just head to bed, do that instead. You probably need the sleep. We all do. 🙂
- Got a mind for trivia? Look up something interesting online and learn about it.
- Throw on some music that puts you into a calmer mood
For more stress coping methods and ways to change your habits from self-destructive ones to self-constructive ones, check out our article on how to stop emotional eating.
Wine and Weight Loss: Have Fun and Stay on Track
Alcohol can absolutely be part of a healthy diet and you can still have some if you’re trying to lose weight. By following the strategies I’ve outlined above, you can start to enjoy alcohol responsibly without letting it get in the way of your fat-loss goals.
And if you suspect alcohol is a larger problem for your nutrition or possibly your life, try some of the stress coping methods I’ve given you. If those aren’t adequate, consider asking for help. It could go a long way to getting past the issue.
Did you find this blog post on wine and weight loss helpful? Do you have any tips that weren’t covered here? Let us know below in the comments.