The Alcohol and Weight Connection

In the past decade, I have worked as a naturopath with patients in a clinical setting, and with groups in relation to nutrition and weight loss. I have noticed one significant change in recent times: the increase in alcohol consumption. This noticeable increase has a strong correlation with one’s inability to lose weight. In the past, people might enjoy 1-2 alcoholic drinks per week; it is now more common to be drinking 2-4 drinks EVERY day. It seems to have become more acceptable in society to do this.

In three parts, I will explain how alcohol contributes to weight gain, and also hinders an individual’s chance of shedding it.

PART 1 – Calories

Aside from the mental and social problems that can be attributed with increased drinking, alcoholic beverages have very little nutritional value. They are laden with calories! So, for individuals struggling to lose weight, this is something that must be addressed.

To grasp the extent of the problem, let’s use the example of one piece of thinly sliced white bread, at 53 calories. Now compare the caloric component of these beverages:

  • Red wine (150ml) - 67 calories
  • White wine (150ml) dry – 68 calories
  • White wine (150ml) sweet – 99 calories
  • Champagne (120ml) – 89 calories
  • Beer (375ml): full strength – 140 calories, light – 105 calories
  • Premixed Gin and Tonic (250ml) – 213 calories
  • Espresso martini – 283 calories

So, before you open a fresh bottle of wine, or order the next round of drinks, consider all those extra calories that are getting stored in your body!

PART 2 – Food Choices

Acknowledging the extra calories being consumed from alcohol, the food choices we make when drinking should also be considered. As the alcohol kicks in, our inhibitions relax, and we tend to make poor food choices and increase our portion sizes. Let’s face it: it’s more common for the chips, cheese and crackers to be eaten with a beer or wine, as opposed to carrot sticks and celery. And what happens when we eat salty chips? We feel thirsty! So we’ll have another drink! This eventually reduces the signals our body produces to tell us we’re full, and we’re more likely to have a second helping of lasagne, or order that dessert when we’re dining out. Add this to the aforementioned extra calories in alcohol (think the equivalent of 2-3 slices of bread in one drink in some cases), and over time, the weight gain escalates.

PART 3 – Metabolism

Over time, increased alcohol consumption can cause a fatty liver, in which the liver is damaged and fat infiltrates it. This leads to poor liver function, which hinders digestion, causes fatigue, and lowers metabolism. We feel fatigued. When the metabolism is sluggish, it’s harder to burn calories, and weight gain occurs. Zinc, B-vitamins and magnesium may also become depleted.

Alcohol may also disrupt our blood sugar levels. After consumption of an alcoholic drink, we have a rapid rise in blood sugar, which makes us feel good! But then it rapidly drops, and we crave more foods that are quickly absorbed i.e sugar, or more alcohol. The cycle continues.

Ever woken in the morning, feeling bloated after a few beers the night before? This is because the yeast component of beer feeds the bad bacteria in the gut! The more these bad bugs are fed, the more they grow! It’s not helpful on the waistline either! When this continues over time, leaky gut can occur, and this in-turn puts a further burden on the liver!

In conjunction with dietary changes, naturopathic treatment can get the liver and gut back in fine working order again!