Avoid the Beer Belly Blues: Rethink Your Drink

Lori Boxer
Weight★No★More℠ Diet Center


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Summer is almost here.


Sun.  Surf.  Sand.


Barbecues and beer.


Beautiful beach sunsets and bottles of wine.


Happy hours and hang-overs.


Alcohol is deeply entrenched in our culture as a way to have fun, let loose, and be social . . . and we all especially want to have as much fun as possible during the longer days of the few summer months.


A couple beers here, a few glasses of wine there . . . and before you know it, your jeans are feeling  tight. This is because when it comes to calories, not all alcoholic beverages are created equal, especially when sweetened mixers drive up the calorie count.


That 2.5-ounce Cosmo, for example, has 150 calories. An 8 oz. Long Island iced tea can pack a whopping 600 calories. Beer and wine aren’t exactly low-cal either. One nightly glass of wine adds an extra 700 calories to your diet every week. People who consider themselves average wine drinkers consume an excess of 2,000 calories per month.


So, what’s in your drink?


As a drink’s alcohol percentage increases, so do the calories. Eighty proof bourbon, brandy, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, vodka, and whiskey each have 65 calories per 1-oz. serving (86 proof = 70 calories; 100 proof = 82 calories). In general, liqueurs cram in 70 to 120 calories per ounce.  To get a sense of how quickly the calories from alcohol stack up, here are the numbers of a few popular drinks and some of the favorites as told to me by clients. Calorie counts assume each is made to standard recipes.




It’s easy to convince yourself that alcohol isn’t that fattening, because the alcoholic drink is “light” going down: meaning, it doesn’t have much weight so swallowing a shot of vodka takes way less effort and is a lot less filling than swallowing a sandwich, for example. However, the caloric content of alcohol is higher (7 calories per gram) than that of proteins and sugars (both 4 calories per gram), and nearly as much as fats (9 calories).


It’s not just the alcohol that leads to weight gain, folks. Let’s face it: You are more likely to snack — and binge — when you drink. Alcohol definitely lowers inhibitions, and for dieters, it can (and does) contribute to a “what the heck, it’s a special occasion” mentality or, and as I hear on one too many post-weekend binge Mondays, “what the hell; I already screwed up, might as well go all out and get back on track on Monday.” If you are drinking where there is nothing good for you to eat, and you’re hungry, you might first have another drink or two simply because you think it’ll curb a hunger pang. It won’t, and suddenly those pigs-in-a-blanket seem like an excellent source of protein. Let’s face it: You wouldn’t make your best business decisions after two glasses of wine, so you certainly won’t make your best eating decisions either.


How does alcohol affect your body temperature and hydration?


As we head into the summer, keep in mind that alcohol dilates blood vessels, which increases blood flow to the skin. In cold weather, this can impair the natural regulation of your body temperature, which in turn can increase your risk of hypothermia. However, in the summer temperatures, although the effects of alcohol vary from person to person —in general the less a person weighs the less alcohol it takes to cause dehydration — increased blood flow to the skin can step-up your sweating and lead to further dehydration.


Does alcohol affect your workout?


If you’re a person who works out or exercises regularly, of course one drink won’t derail your training or vigorous gym workoutHowever, even a little booze does take a toll on your body. For example, drinking alcohol the night before your morning planned physical activity in the gym (or on the tennis court perhaps) can trigger exercise fatigue by increasing lactic acid production. Lactic acid is the metabolic waste product that makes you sore post-exercise, so why would you want to bump up its manufacture with alcohol? Liquor also dehydrates and robs you of electrolytes, both of which can cripple your exercise performance. And it is, of course, much easier to become dehydrated in the hot summer temperatures even without alcohol!


I would recommend the following if you are going out for drinks with friends, and if you feel that alcohol must be part of the socializing:


  1. Drink one glass of water for every cocktail or glass of wine you sip.  Chances are you’ll end up drinking half the calories you normally would and you’ll wake up feeling a lot better the next morning.
  2. Avoid ALL creamy drinks: They’re much higher in calories and contain loads of fat.
  3. Avoid after-dinner liqueurs/cordials — they are very high in sugar.
  4. Ward off the munchies while you’re out by eating a healthy full meal (not a snack, if you can help it) before meeting your friends at the bar.
  5. Prepare nutritious snacks (raw veggies, pieces of fruit, whole grain crackers) to bring with you in lieu of binging at the bar on junk food.


While all alcoholic beverages are not alike — some have higher calories, some less — there’s one thing they all have in common: Calories from alcohol usually settle in the belly. So if you want six-pack abs, put down the six-pack.


Rethink your drink.



Recommended reading on what alcohol does to your liver:

This is Why You Should Think Twice Before Slurping Down That Alcohol
by Rishav Sinha

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