Holiday gatherings are ahead!
The bad news is familiar: most people gain weight during this time of year. This comes from overindulgence, and alcohol is a big part of that. The good news is that there are excellent strategies for drinking without ruining your fitness goals.
We’re going to discuss why alcohol is not your friend when it comes to fitness, and what strategies you can use this holiday season.
What alcohol does to your body
While alcohol is a way to relax and a feature of many social gatherings, it doesn’t do much good for the body. Here are ten ways drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health:
1) Damages your liver
Too much alcohol harms your liver and damages its important function.
2) Interferes with your brain
Excessive drinking accelerates natural brain shrinkage and contributes to memory loss, decreases coordination, and shortens attention span.
3) Causes problems with blood sugar
Drinking too much can cause diabetes as alcohol interferes with the proper balancing of blood sugar.
4) Damages your heart
Too much alcohol can lead to stretching and drooping of the heart muscles (cardiomyopathy), irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and increased stroke risk.
5) Damages your pancreas
Alcohol causes inflammation of the pancreas and too much of it causes pain and digestion problems. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for this.
6) Increases cancer risk
Alcohol is a known human carcinogen. It increases your risk of many types of cancer including liver, esophageal, breast, and colorectal cancer.
7) Weakens your immune system
Drinking weakens your ability to fight off diseases such as pneumonia, various lung conditions, and other health problems.
8) Negatively affects your sleep
Research shows that although alcohol can help you get to sleep, it also leads to more wakefulness during your sleep cycle.
9) Inhibits digestion
Drinking too much interferes with your digestive function which, in turn, limits nutrient intake.
10) Causes inability to form memories
Alcohol can cause memory loss and the ability to form memories in the first place.
Why alcohol is so bad for weight loss
If the above reasons aren’t enough to discourage too much alcohol consumption, alcohol also makes it difficult to lose weight. It affects weight loss in the following ways:
1) Alcohol is empty calories
The advice to eat fewer calories than you burn is generally good. But all calories are not created equal. If you consume 300 calories from alcohol, it has a hugely different effect on your blood sugar and metabolism than 300 calories of carrots. Alcohol has a lot of empty calories with no nutritional value.
2) Drinking affects your judgment including overindulging with food
It becomes difficult to make smart food choices while drinking. Too much alcohol often leads to poor food choices. Research also shows that alcohol can trigger hunger signals in your brain. An increased appetite along with the increased likelihood of overeating is a bad combination!
3) Your body uses alcohol as its primary source of fuel
Your body normally burns fat to get the energy it needs. When you drink alcohol, your body uses that as its fuel source because it’s easier to burn. So guess where the other calories you’re consuming go instead of being burned for energy? You guessed it—your stomach, hips, and thighs.
Strategies for drinking responsibly at holiday celebrations
People aren’t often successful when trying to deprive themselves of something completely—especially at holiday times. If you are going to drink, you can use the following strategies and stay on track with your fitness goals:
1) Avoid high fat meals and snacks with drinking
Because your body burns alcohol for fuel before anything else, the rest of what you consume will be stored as fat. Try to eat low calorie options so you’ll have less to store.
2) Have a drink limit in mind before going out
Decide ahead of time how much you want to drink and stick to it. If you don’t overindulge on alcohol, it won’t be hard to stick to your plan. Some people try to limit it to one drink per hour, for example. This doesn’t mean to have five drinks if you stay five hours though! See our next strategy to help with that.
3) Drink water along with your alcoholic drinks
Alternate drinking a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. This slows down your alcohol consumption, gets you hydrated, and keeps something in your hand while socializing.
4) Don’t skip your workout
Get your workout done before your celebration, so you burn some calories and get your metabolism revved up before going out.
5) Don’t skip dinner
For several reasons, you need to eat before drinking. Among other things, it helps you absorb alcohol and slows down its effects.
6) Don’t combine sugar and alcohol
Besides adding a lot of empty calories, a high amount of sugar in your drinks is a major reason for hangovers the next morning.
7) Pick a healthier drink option
There are healthier options for alcoholic drinks. We’ll show you some of the most popular ones.
If you do drink, here are the best choices
If you want to drink moderately during holiday celebrations, consider choosing drinks that are less unhealthy.
First, it’s best to avoid drinks that are made with sugary liquids (like fruit juices or colas). Generally, if you see an umbrella, you’re probably getting a pretty sugary drink. Also try to avoid drinks with a cream base and skip the high-calorie liqueurs.
Popular high-calorie drinks to avoid:
- Margaritas (especially if a premade mix is used)
- Pina Coladas
- Long Island Iced Tea (don’t let the words iced tea fool you!)
- White Russians
- Vodka with club soda and lime
- Whiskey on the rocks (leave out the cola)
- Gin as a classic martini or as a gin and tonic
- Tequila—without the margarita mix, of course. Try a tequila shot with salt and lime.
- Light beer
- White wine (typically white wine has less calories than red)
- Hard seltzer (extremely popular with new brands coming out all the time)
You can enjoy the holidays and stay smart about your fitness
You can still celebrate the holidays with alcoholic drinks in moderation and not derail your fitness. Use the strategies we’ve discussed above, stay strong about sticking to your plans, and have a wonderful and fun holiday season!