“Go on, have a drink” – words that circle in your head again and again. You have had a stressful day, all you want to do is wind down and there’s no better way to do so than with your favorite alcoholic beverage. Before you know it, you give in and you start sipping on a bottle of your favorite craft beer, or maybe even a cocktail. New words begin to run through your mind, “I can’t believe I gave in? I was eating so healthily and being so good!” At this point, you know that you have begun your downward spiral. Feeling guilty and beaten by desire, you go for another drink, perhaps even polish off an entire bottle of wine. From there you break through the food barrier and grab that box of chocolates or a bag of chips – why not? You’ve already ruined your diet anyway, right? Or have you? No doubt, you and many other people can relate to the all too familiar scenario above (I know that I can). Well don’t fear! I am here to inform you that drinking can actually aid your diet and benefit your health in certain ways. There is no need to feel guilty for having a drink at the end of each day to loosen up, it is perfectly fine.
Before I let you in on the secret to having that drink and losing weight while having it, let me explain the way in which alcohol is processed in the body. First of all, I owe my mother for passing on her knowledge of nutrition to me, which in turn allows me to help you understand how your body works. An alcoholic beverage is essentially made up of just ethanol (which is pure alcohol) and carbohydrates. The ethanol, when consumed, is absorbed through the lining of your stomach which then makes its way into your bloodstream – this is what causes that buzz that alcohol is renowned for. Whatever ethanol cannot be disbursed into the bloodstream is diverted to your liver. The carbohydrates cannot be absorbed through the lining of the stomach, instead they are passed on to the digestive system so it can be processed into a form your body can use. Since there is very little to no fiber in a drink, the carbohydrates from drinking are essentially just sugar. Some of this sugar is passed on to your cells to burn for energy and the excess is stored in fat cells or creates new ones.
If you have read some of my other articles, you’ll know that the limit for women is one alcoholic beverage a day and for men it is two. I have also mentioned that one drink can be explained as 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Drinking in moderation is far healthier for you than saving all your drinks for the weekend because then you just over do it. Overall, people who drink with restraint practice healthier habits and their body is more familiar with dealing with the alcohol they consume on a daily basis. When you go overboard on the alcohol, your body can’t learn to disregard its nutritionally empty calories and ends up storing them as fat – causing you to gain a beer belly or even a beer butt.
Drinking in moderation is not the only secret to losing weight with alcohol, oh no! There is even more to it than that. The types of alcohol that you consume effect your body’s ability to shake those extra pounds. Tequila, red and white wine as well as vermouth are the best alcoholic beverages to help you lose weight because they contain different properties that aid the fat burning process.
Of all the distilled spirits, tequila is the best weight loss tonic because of the plant it is made from. Tequila is made from Agave Tequilalana, also known as the Blue Agave plant, and it contains a sugar known as Agavins. According to Alexander Sifferlin for Harvard.edu, the body is unable to digest Agavins which do not raise your blood sugar levels. Agavins also help your body to drop weight and decrease glucose levels in people with type two diabetes. How cool is that? I think the only spirit I’m drinking from now on is tequila.
Another weight-aider is wine. Which type of wine? Well, both red and white aid in weight loss and both have their perks. White wine contains fewer carbohydrates per 5 ounces than red wine does, but red wine is richer in antioxidants – especially Ellagic Acid. According to researchers, Niel Shay and Gail Wells, at Oregon State University, Ellagic Acid is a compound found in Muscadine grapes. This compound can delay the growth of fat cells, stop new fat cells from developing, and strengthen the liver’s ability to breakdown extra fat. Wine just does not stop impressing me. Not only are red and white wine good for your diet, Vermouth can be too. Vermouth is a fortified wine that is usually mixed into other cocktails, but can also be drunken neat. Vermouth, considered as an aperitif in certain parts of the world, must be consumed on its own in a 1.5 ounce dose in order to qualify as moderate. When it is drunken neat, the polyphenol compounds in it help with losing weight.
If you’re one of those people who cannot stand liquor straight or do not appreciate wine, you might be wondering what drink could suit your needs. Just because you need your liquor with various mixers or juices does not mean that they have to be packed with sugar. Instead of sweetening your drinks with sugar, honey, syrup or other liquid sweeteners, try using a healthier, chemical free sweetener called Xylitol or Stevia. There are many liquid forms of Stevia that are ready to be mixed with your cocktail. Xylitol however has to be melted into hot water first in order to mix into your drink as it does not dissolve like sugar. If you’re looking for juice for a bit of sweetness instead of Xylitol or Stevia, then my advice to you is to keep it fresh and blend fruit into your cocktail. By using whole fruit in your drink, you are able to consume the fiber a fruit has to offer and not just the sugar. If you prefer soda with your cocktail then I would recommend Zevia, a brand of sodas sweetened with Stevia. There is never an excuse for you to break your diet with sugar when you have these substitutes available to you.
Liquid carbohydrates are the worst! When you consume carbohydrates that are in liquid form, your body is able to digest them quicker than anything else because there is no fiber, protein or fat to break down and slow the release of the sugars into your blood stream. So drinking sodas, juices and liqueurs that are high in sugar just spike your blood sugar levels and then leave you feeling fatter and more tired than you were before. Diet sodas and chemical sweeteners are just as bad because they actually damage your body in ways you cannot believe. Liqueurs with healthier sugars and fewer carbohydrates are harder to come by, however this doesn’t mean you have to break your diet for them. Try infusing your own flavor combination into spirits with a little bit of xylitol to try and simulate your favorite liqueur.
I hope that I have given you the ability to drink that one drink at the end of a long day with some peace of mind. As long as you stay within the moderation guidelines you will be good, and if you replace more fattening drinks with the above secrets then you will actually aid your body in losing weight without having to go to the gym. Stay away from sugar, liquid sweeteners, sodas, chemical sweeteners, diet sodas (that contain chemical sweeteners), fruit juice that contains no fiber and just sugar, and sugary liqueurs. Remember to consume alcohols that are better for your weight loss process (if you are trying to lose weight) and keep it fresh, sugar free, and chemical free. Also keep in mind that if you are not trying to lose weight then there are other alcohols that benefit your health significantly – you can find that information in my other blogs. So drink up, drink in moderation and with responsibility. Bottoms up!
Written by : Mixologist Ciara Webster, April 3, 2016