By Kristin Sidorov
Talk about a buzzkill: When you’re dieting and watching your weight, it’s easy to overlook the impact alcohol has on your daily calorie count. But alcohol can be a major factor in weight gain, and even one tiny cocktail can sabotage your hard work elsewhere.
According to a recent study, each additional alcoholic drink per day is associated with 0.41 lb. of weight gain every four years. Those numbers can add up quickly! Weight loss experts recommend cutting alcohol out of your diet completely: It contains empty calories, causes a dip in blood sugar, and has zero nutritional value.
Abstaining from alcohol completely is easier said than done, and for many dieters, unrealistic. Knowing the facts about healthy alcohol consumption and how it affects your body and your weight can help you make smart decisions — while still sipping on your favorite (low-cal) beverage this weekend.
Booze functions as a diuretic, which causes you to lose water and vital minerals like zinc, potassium, and calcium. It also impacts your metabolism and goes straight to the front of the line of your liver’s workload, meaning any food waiting to be metabolized will get pushed back, and consequently stored as fat.
Since alcohol also increases hunger by lowering blood sugar and reducing your inhibitions, you’re more likely to eat when you drink–doubly bad for your diet, since it’s likely that any food you do consume will immediately be packed away as fat. It can quickly become a vicious cycle that cancels out days or even weeks of hard work. These stumbling blocks can be avoided with a little know-how and, of course, moderation.
—Avoid sugar. The juices, syrups, and other add-ins in some cocktails can add an outrageous amount of unnecessary, empty calories to your diet. Avoid these drinks at all costs (and check out some recipes for great low-cal drinks below).
—Slow down. You don’t have to dive into a drink as soon as your nights begun. Try starting with seltzer; this will also help with making sure you’re mindset is on track for a night of moderation.
—Pace yourself. The best way to do this is to consciously sip your drink slowly. Always have a glass of water (or another hydrating, non-alcoholic drink) between each booze-laden beverage you imbibe.
—Eat.This isn’t rocket science: While alcohol does have an impact on your metabolism, it’s still never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach. Having a little food in your stomach before you drink alcohol will slow the alcohol’s absorption and help curb munchies later.
—Plan your night. Think about how many drinks you want to have before you even take a sip (the closer that number is to 1, the better).
—…and your week. Decide which nights you’ll indulge, so you know to avoid it the rest of the week.
Get the scoop on the best and worst drinks for your diet:
—9 Refreshing Low-Cal Cocktail Recipes (white sangria — yum!) (Health)
—Diet-Friendly Alcohol Choices (Spark People)
—Low-Calorie Beers (Fit Sugar)
—Low Calorie and High Calorie Drinks (Naked Food Cooking)
—Low-Calorie Cocktails (Daily Spark)
—Healthy Summer Drink Recipes (Blueberry Ginger Bellini, Citrus-Rum Punch, and “Monkey-lada”) (EatingWell)
—Healthy Cocktail Tips and Tricks (Carrots n’ Cake)
—Low-Cal, Eco-Friendly Alcohol Brands (Fit Sugar)
Tell us: What’s your favorite drink?