Holiday Spirits and Your Bottom Line

People often enjoy hot-buttered rums, cranberry martinis, champagne and bourbon eggnogs while celebrating the holiday season. In addition, hip wine bars, wine tastings and beer brewing are a new, social phenomenon. The temptation to enjoy an adult beverage is all around us, especially at this time of year. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy a nice beverage at the end of a long day or at a social event.

But is drinking alcohol affecting our fitness, our weight loss progress or affecting our ability to maintain our ideal body weight?

In many cases, the answer to these questions is yes.

First, alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions and self control. 

Often times, the reduction of inhibitions causes people to nibble — especially on holiday goodies — more than they’d like, and this is not good for a person’s bottom line. This is a double whammy to the waistline — extra calories from food and from alcohol. 

Second, alcohol is a depressant. And not only is it a depressant, but drinking alcohol slows your metabolism.  According to Laura Dudley, R.D. and owner of Balanced Body Nutrition, “This means you actually reduce the amount of calories your body burns after you drink alcohol. When we drink alcohol the chemistry that takes place in our bodies (I’ll spare you the details) displaces the substance required for metabolism to work normally, effectively slowing it down. In addition, your body favors the energy from alcohol rather than other energy sources in your blood such as carbohydrates and free fatty acids. This leads to less use of fatty acids in the blood and higher triglyceride levels.”

Last, alcohol is a toxin.

The human body has to break down alcohol into acetaldehyde and then to acetate to metabolize it which increases acid levels in your body. Because alcohol is a toxin, most people will feel the effects of drinking alcohol the next day. This “groggy” or slightly sluggish feeling, even if it’s not a full-blown hangover, may impact the quality of a good workout. People who have a slight headache, or feel tired are less likely to wake early to get a workout in, or they may not have the energy, coordination or balance to exercise as intensely as they normally would.

Sure, sure. Some of you may be saying “But I’ll only drink alcohol and consume fun foods on the weekends through the holidays. How bad can that be?”

I want to assure you it is much better than drinking alcohol on a daily basis, but let’s do the math. There are nine weeks between Halloween and New Year’s Eve, which makes for a total of 63 total days — 45 week days and 18 weekend days. There are approximately 150 calories in a 5 ounce glass of red wine. If you drink two glasses of wine each of those 18 weekend days, you are consuming an extra 5,400 calories in a nine-week period of time. This could mean close to two pounds of weight gain due to alcohol consumption alone — yikes.

So, here are some ways to still enjoy your beverages in moderation, but reduce the impact on your waistline:

Plan ahead: Before you arrive at an event, make a decision about how many drinks you will have (if any), and stick to your plan.

Water is your Friend: For every alcoholic beverage you consume, drink two glasses of water. Be sure to drink the water in between your alcoholic beverages.

Clear it Up: Drink alcohol that is clear in color. These types of alcohol generally have fewer calories per serving than their more colorful counterparts.

Sugary Drinks: Avoid drinks that have large amounts of sugar added to them. These would include liquors, or mixed drinks made with sugary syrups.

A Low-Cal Bubbly: In mixed drinks, use club soda instead of tonic water or soda pop.

Safety First: Volunteer to be the designated driver for the evening. This gives you two fantastic reasons to not drink alcohol: your waistline and your (and others’) safety.

This season, reduce your chances of gaining those extra holiday pounds by being smart when you consume alcohol. Even more importantly, if you choose to drink, make sure you have a designated driver. Be responsible with your (and others’) safety this season. Happy Holidays.

Angie Gooding is an educator and a personal trainer certified through ACE (American Council on Exercise) and owner of Inspire Fitness & Training. She lives locally, and trains clients in a private location in Marysville. She can be reached at AngieGooding@comcast.net or www.inspirefitnessandtraining.com.

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