By 1st Lt. Lucas Grudi, Madigan Army Medical CenterApril 26, 2018
Having trouble losing weight? Just can't seem to lose that last pound? Cutting down on alcohol may be just the cure. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and one forgotten aspect of alcohol to be aware of is the calories.
Just like carbs, fats and proteins, alcohol contains calories. One gram of alcohol contains seven calories. Unlike the other three nutrients, calories from alcohol are always considered "empty calories" because they serve no nutritional benefit to our bodies. Wine, beer, and mixed drinks add empty calories in the form of sugar. Calorie content typically depends on the amount of added sugar in a particular drink.
A standard drink contains 98 calories coming strictly from alcohol but varies in total calorie content. A standard drink is defined as one of the following: 12 fluid ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40 percent alcohol). A 7-ounce rum and soda will provide about 155 calories with the extra calories coming from the soda. Other beverages such as regular beer (150 calories), margaritas (168 calories) and manhattans (164 calories) can have high calorie contents for one standard drink. These calories can add up quickly. Three mixed drinks for a night will provide about 450 calories!
So, how much is safe to drink? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend drinking in moderation -- one drink per day for women and up to two drinks for men. However, not all drinks served at bars are standard drinks. Certain beers such as IPAs, specialty beers and popular mixed drinks like long island iced teas contain vastly more alcohol than one standard drink. Even drinking at a moderate level adds up. One beer a night for a week comes out to about 1,050 extra calories a week.
One professional who routinely sees the effect of alcohol on weight is 1st Lt. Vladi Ivanova, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and Madigan Army Medical Center's assistant chief of Outpatient and Community Nutrition; she counsels individuals looking to make a change for their health.
"Research indicates some benefits to drinking alcohol, such as high amounts of trace minerals in craft beer and antioxidants in red wine. But moderation really is key. Besides providing empty calories from the alcohol and the mixers, people tend to make poor diet choices and overeat when intoxicated or hungover. When was the last time you craved a salad when hungover or drunk?" Ivanova said.
If drinking is a part of your life, there may be steps to reduce the impact of alcohol on your weight. Here are four tips to help with alcohol related weight gain
First, start with water. Whether it's dinner in or a night out, starting with water is always safe a bet. Drinking water helps you hydrate and allows for time to decide on the right drink.
You can also look up the calorie content before ordering. Knowing the calories in your drink is half the battle. Read the label or simply look up the calories online. A drink nearing 200 or more calories is either a high calorie drink or a non-standard drink. Either way, a lower calorie alternative may be a better choice.
In addition, you can decide to drink in moderation. Limiting the number of drinks you have can greatly reduce your calorie intake.
Finally, cut out one night of drinking per week. One night a week adds up. Over a year this could be a couple pounds or more lost simply from taking one night away from drinking.
Drinking empty calories can add up quickly. Eating a well-balanced diet within your caloric needs is key. For more information on a healthy diet visit https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/.