Can alcohol keep you from losing weight?

Think twice before you reward yourself with a cold beer after a tough workout. Despite some interesting research regarding the potential health benefits of polyphenols, such as resveratrol found in grapes and red wine, your favorite frosty beverage still doesn’t qualify as a health food. (Sorry.) In fact, drinking can wreak havoc on your weight-loss efforts in more ways than one.

But, if you’re not willing to sacrifice sipping adult beverages until the end of time — and I know that could be really hard — here’s what you need to know about alcohol’s effects on your fitness goals, and ways to balance those out.

You’ll weaken your willpower.

If you’ve ever raided the fridge after a night out, you know alcohol doesn’t inspire the best nutritional choices. Alcohol loosens inhibition and can make you more likely to indulge in guilty pleasures. Alcohol has also been found to lower your leptin levels, the hormone that tells your brain when you’re full. This can lead to overeating, making it potentially detrimental to weight loss.

You’ll rack up empty calories.

carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram, alcohol 7 calories per gram — almost double. Even one drink can put a ding in your plan: A bottle of beer has about 150 calories, a 5-ounce glass of wine has about 125 calories, and a diet soda with a nip of rum has 100 calories — even a whiskey on the rocks has about 140 calories. And those calories don’t exactly have spectacular nutritional benefits.

You’ll screw up your sleep cycles.

Sleep is crucial for weight loss but alcohol sabotages your sleep quality by disrupting your sleep cycle. Regular drinking has also been linked to an increase in sleep disturbances and insomnia. Skip the nightcap, and you’ll get a better night’s sleep — and a better chance of hitting your goals.

Of course, if cutting it out makes you miserable, you won’t stick with it for very long, so don’t swear off drinking if it’s going to be a deal-breaker. As is the case with any indulgence, moderation is key.

And if you tend to snack when you’re tipsy, keep junk food out of sight. When you do drink, make sure you have healthier options around to snack on.

My top tips

  1. Save your alcoholic beverage for your treat night, a Saturday night in my house. Avoiding the wine bottle every night will make huge changes to your health and your pocket!

  2. When choosing your alcohol, its not all created equal. Lager and beer contain huge levels of sugar as does wine. Drinking vodka or other clear spirits will reduce your sugar intake.

  3. As when choosing alcohol, you need to be careful choosing your mixer too. Avoid sugar laden lemonades, colas and fruit juices. Better options are soda or tonic water.

  4. Have healthy snacks available, We all know how the munchies hit when we've been drinking.

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