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Fitness: Count the Drinks!

by Oscar Saucedo

How many pounds will you gain during this holiday season?  It is almost a certainty that most of us will add some body fat.  It’s the perfect storm of cold weather that gives us an excuse to skip cardio and stay in bed, days off from work and hanging out at home surrounded by tamales and sweets, and some of us will have some alcoholic drinks.  When you are assessing the damage and counting how many calories you are consuming, remember to count the drink calories!

It isn’t only beer that causes weight gain.  We hear the term “beer belly” used quite a bit to describe a round midsection that protrudes forward past the beltline more than it drops under the beltline.  But beer is not the only type of alcohol that can cause a large belly.  Whiskey, vodka, tequila, gin, rum, etc., all have plenty of calories—even before adding the mixer.

In addition to being a fitness professional with decades of experience, I am also a Forensic Scientist specializing in alcohol.  So I am especially qualified to write about the effects that alcohol can have on the body.  And let me tell you…alcohol can help make you fat!

Pure alcohol has calories.  To give you a comparison, a gram of protein has 4 calories, a gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories, and a gram of fat has 9 calories.  A gram of pure alcohol has 7 calories—almost double what carbs or protein has.  This is counting only the pure alcohol.  This does not include the carbs and protein in beer and wine or the mixers used in cocktails.  One ounce of fluid weighs almost 30g.  So an ounce of pure ethanol can have almost 200 calories all by itself!

To make things worse, alcohol calories are “empty calories”.  This means that it gives you food energy that can help you gain weight, but has no nutritional value.  So you get calories, but you do not feel like you’ve been fed anything.  The following can be a very typical scenario leading to excess calories and weight gain:  A person hears that beer is bad and that vodka is a “diet drink” (it is not).  So they make themselves some vodka with tonic water.  Each of those is about 200 calories, if not more.  While drinking that, they could easily snack on chips without measuring the serving.  Assuming all of this is done responsibly, the person could easily consume almost 1000 calories (3 drinks and 2 servings of chips) even before getting hungry for dinner!  Now the person is hungry despite the fact that he or she has consumed about 1000 calories already, and the judgement is impaired.  So we can expect that this person is not going to make the greatest decisions in what they eat or how much they eat.

When people ask me to help them create a weight loss plan, I ask them to detail the things they eat, drink, and how much they exercise.  Invariably, they leave out the alcoholic beverages.  It’s funny to me that the adult beverages are not regarded as “food”.  In my opinion, many people can have significant weight loss simply by cutting out the adult beverages!

I hope you enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.  Eat, drink, and be merry moderately and responsibly.  But when you are inputting your calories into your fitness app, don’t forget to count the drinks!

 
Slender is a non-stimulant fat burner.  You can take this any time of day and even add it to a preworkout powder or another stimulant fat burner.  It contains L-Carnitine, raspberry ketones, white willow bark, and also can help avoid energy dips and joint pain.

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