It’s a common scenario: you go out to eat with friends, a spouse, or coworkers and with your meal you order a wine, beer, or mixed drink. It’s only a small 4 oz drink you tell yourself. It shouldn’t account for many calories, right? In fact, every day, millions of Americans go out partying on the weekends. What’s going on with alcohol consumption – is it lending a hand in the battle of the bulge or packing on more pounds?
We take a closer look at alcohol and the passive aggressive role it may be playing in our diet plans.
Alcohol is created via a process called fermentation. Different types of sugars are used (for example, from potatoes, grapes, beets, etc) to create the various types of alcohols that we drink today that are available on the open market; however, unlike other things sold in markets for consumption, alcohol has next to nothing in nutrients (a smidgen, if that, of minerals and vitamins). When a food or beverage has such a low nutritional value it’s deemed a product based on “empty calories.” This translates into the intake of calories without reaping any nutritional value whatsoever, although it may give you a “buzz” for a little while.
As if the empty calorie dilemma wasn’t bad enough, alcohol is also the most widely used drug in the United States, with between ten and fifteen million people abusing it to some extent. It also contributes to over one hundred thousand deaths on an annual basis. Because it is a drug, this makes alcohol harder for some people to keep out of their diets.
You may have noticed that when you go out to drink that women tend to get tipsy far quicker than men – that’s because an enzyme in the body is required to break down alcohol and women possess less of that enzyme. In addition, men metabolize up to 20% more of alcohol then women.
Calorie Intake with Alcohol
Certain studies have also shown that when people have an alcoholic drink with their meal, they not only consume up to 20% more calories while eating, but that they also are adding up to one third more in calories just by drinking the alcoholic beverage. Take for instance a 12 ounce non-alcoholic soda – it contains 120 calories, whereas a 4 oz Mai Tai contains 310 calories, a Margarita – 270 calories, and a Frozen Daiquiri – 216 calories.
It’s believed that over time, alcohol will cause weight gain little by little making it difficult for you to notice unless you are very aware of your weight and caloric intake. Thus, take care when trying to diet. By adding a cocktail to your meal, you could be sabotaging your efforts without even knowing it.
Just as with anything else, you should drink in moderation; however, if you’re seriously trying to lose weight, you might want to think about “light” alcoholic beverages or doing away with them altogether in order to achieve your weight loss goals. If you must have a drink, be sure to check out how many calories it contains before you drink it, so that at least you are aware of how many calories you are taking in and can plan your intake accordingly.