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What You Drink Impacts Your Diet, Part Ten: Alcohol

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As we conclude 2010 and begin a new year, alcohol is usually part of the celebration. But before you pop that cork and “party on,” let’s stop and briefly take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly surrounding this beverage.

The Ugly:
Even though this is not the focus of our beverage expedition, the dark side of alcohol should be noted. Other than that nasty hangover after a night of drunkenness, this beverage choice causes poor judgment, behavioral problems, and for millions it leads to alcohol abuse, and even death. Sadly, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), who “serves a victim or survivor of drunk driving every 10 minutes,” statistics are grim: “every minute, one person is injured from an alcohol-related crash.” And alarmingly, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that “10,839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2009 –– that’s one every 50 minutes.”

The Bad:
As far as the fitness aspects, you should be aware that alcohol has short-term effects on health and body fat; its nutritional value is nil –– as in tons of empty calories, and those mixed drinks pack on more calories than you think. Drinking a lot of booze can also cause dehydration, create electrolyte imbalances, and alcohol can indirectly make you fat –– “while your body uses up all the alcohol circulating in the blood, the oxidation of fats, carbohydrates and protein becomes suppressed.” Translation: these macronutrients are not used for their intended purpose and are “forced into storage.”

The Good:
Now, you may not be a heavy drinker, which is a good thing, but perhaps you are under the impression that “moderate drinking –– about one drink a day for women, about two for men –– is a central component of a healthy lifestyle.” Are you are convinced by what some “experts” have been touting for years? That alcohol is good for your health –– reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia –– mainly.  Not so fast my friends because the New York Times shed “doubt” on the case in 2009; highlighting that some scientists take issue with these claims, and in reality “it may be that moderate drinking is just something healthy people tend to do, not something that makes people healthy.” Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic, who lists some of the health benefits of moderate drinking, also points out that “the evidence about the possible health benefits of alcohol isn’t certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks.” 

Yes, you may snag some antioxidants and a “sense of relaxation” from that red wine, but then again, it’s possible to benefit more from a glass of grape juice, a massage, and soothing music. Keep in mind too, that 1 glass (3.5 fl oz) of wine is 85 calories and if you consume a glass a day; that adds up to 595 calories per week. Beer on the other hand, ranges from 95 to over 200 calories, while cocktails can top 700 calories for just one. And for those “watching their weight,” calories do count.

RECAP:

Before we complete our beverage journey, let’s recap. First and foremost, water is essential to life and critical for health, wellness, and weight loss. Coffee is good in moderation if you skip the cream and sugar and tea (without the sugar) offers countless health and wellness benefits, while green tea helps fight obesity and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Milk is highly overrated. Consuming too much soda has dire consequences to your overall health and fitness level. Some sports drinks as well as fruit and vegetable juices can be a good way to hydrate and catch a few vitamins and minerals while you’re at it; however, sugar and other additives may be in the mix too.  Meal replacement drinks have their place in our fast-paced society, providing you read labels or make your own. Lastly, good news for our beloved abstainers, if you are serious about losing fat, alcohol must be off limits. However, alcohol (in moderation; as in a few a week, not a day) can be a beverage choice when you are on a maintenance plan.   


In closing, it’s important to understand that “what you drink does impact your diet” –– good and bad –– when it comes to overall health and weight loss. An occasional detour from healthy and fit beverage choices will not harm your efforts, but staying on the wrong path for a long period of time will. 

Add this to your 2011 New Year’s Resolution list: “I will drink more water and clean up my other beverage choices.” Place it on your frig and other places as a reminder and motivator.  I guarantee you will feel and look much better.

May you have a safe, healthy, and prosperous New Year! 

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About Christine Lakatos