In Mt. Airy, a lot of people have a glass of red wine, a beer or mixed drink after a long day to wind down and relax. One of the most frequent questions I get is whether the alcohol is sabotaging their weight loss efforts and whether it’s unhealthy. Let’s address the second question first. Studies show that a glass of red wine a day may actually be heart healthy. It can help increase the good cholesterol, boost circulation, help reduce stress and help build stronger bones. Red wine is loaded with polyphenols, like resveratrol, which can help you stay younger. It may also help boost your immune system.
With all the health benefits, how can it be bad?
The problem is not whether a glass or two of wine a day can boost health benefits, it’s about whether you consume it in moderation or not. In fact, compared to other alcoholic drinks, wine is pretty healthy. Unfortunately, if you’re dieting, wine still contains calories. Just five to six ounces, one small glass of wine has between 125 to 160 calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, those extra calories can slow the process and make it more difficult. It also has some other effects that can slow weight loss.
The body uses the alcohol in the wine first.
The calories from alcohol aren’t stored but used immediately. The body sees alcohol as a poison so it’s sent to the liver to be converted to a state that’s not lethal. The liver detects it as dangerous and immediately breaks it down to CO2 and water to flush it out of the body, putting it first, before other nutrients. The other calories in your diet are stored as fat and if you’re past menopause, with lower estrogen levels, the enzyme ALDH1A1 causes the excess weight to forma around your midsection, creating belly fat.
The alcohol in the wine slows the process of burning fat.
When your body burns the calories in alcohol, it affects how glycogen works. Glycogen is the hormone that breaks down fat and increases glucose levels. While the body is burning the alcohol, since it does consider it poison, it prevents the liver from performing other tasks, one of which is breaking down fat. With the liver busy, the blood glucose levels drop, leaving you feeling ravenous, which makes you eat more. If you drink less, you’ll eat less, pure and simple.
- The alcohol in wine can cause insulin spikes. While wine is lower in alcohol content than other alcoholic beverages, those insulin spikes still make weight loss harder.
- When comparing alcohol calories to other macronutrients, alcohol has twice as many calories than protein, more than carbs and at 7 calories per gram, is close to fat, which is 9 calories. However, the body needs fat to survive, it doesn’t need alcohol.
- Alcohol has two times the calories for each gram than protein and even more than most carbohydrates. It has 7 calories per gram compared to fat at 9 calories per gram, but fat is necessary for your body to function right, including for weight loss.
- Alcohol can lower testosterone levels, which affect the creation of muscle tissue. Since the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn 24/7, that reduce your metabolism.
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