Alcohol Could Sink Dieting Plans
By COSHANDRA DILLARD
If attempting to drop a few sizes, those daily beers or even weekend margaritas might hinder progress. While a healthy lifestyle can include moderate consumption of certain foods and drinks, alcohol could leave people spinning in circles if they want to lose a significant amount of weight.
Ross Campbell, a personal trainer at Premier Fitness, said many of his clients have unknowingly consumed their way into a weight-loss plateau.
"That's so common because most people don't count those calories," Campbell said. "They don't count that into their daily intake. The best thing to do is to cut it out all together during the weight-loss process. Another take on it is to just avoid the drinks that are high in calories, high in sugar. So really, it just depends on how much weight the person has to lose and how their bodies respond to (alcohol)."
Twelve ounces of beer has about 153 calories, and a few drinks in a week can easily add up.
"A couple of beers or glasses of wine a night could add up to a couple of thousand (calories) per week," Campbell said.
Mixed drinks -- and all their added sugar -- are worse. Most cocktails are made from fruit juice or syrups, so they have the most calories. Some contain 400 or more calories depending on the serving size and recipe. Low-calorie alternatives include spirits, drinks made with reduced-calorie mixes or those mixed with club soda or water. However, Campbell noted that "light" drink mixes contain artificial sweeteners, which may not be desirable for some people.
And it's not all about the calories. Alcohol metabolizes differently in the body, making it easier to gain weight.
Alcohol is metabolized in the liver first, since the body recognizes it as a toxin. The liver becomes strictly focused on processing alcohol first, so the carbohydrates and fat that was consumed is not broken down properly by the body. Instead, it is stored as fat.
That's why just a few alcoholic drinks can derail an exercise regimen and possibly create health problems.
"The byproducts of alcohol are converted into fatty acids that may be stored in the liver or in other tissues, hence the beer belly," said Erin Langewisch, registered and licensed dietitian at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler in a previous interview. "Increased alcohol use also is associated with a higher triglyceride level, which is a type of fat found in the blood stream."
For the occasional drink, health experts recommend red wine because it has antioxidants and resveratrol, which is known for its anti-aging properties and its ability to boost HDL, or good cholesterol.
"If they were to drink, and they can't cut it out all together, red wine would be a good choice, but keep it to one glass," Campbell said.ALCOHOL EFFECTS
While alcoholic drinks might not be ideal for a healthy diet, it also could have damaging effects on vital organs because alcohol is toxic. Here are a few ways in which binge drinking or years of heavy drinking can hurt the body, according to information provided by the Task Force On College Drinking, an advocacy group developed by federal agencies:
Brain: Alcohol-related disruptions to neurotransmitters in the brain yields mood and behavior changes such as depression, memory loss and seizures. Alcoholic liver disease affects the brain, which could create problems including sleep disturbances, anxiety, shortened attention span, coordination problems, coma and death.
Heart: Long-term heavy drinkers' heart muscle is weakened. This may lead to damage to organs and tissues, as a weakened heart cannot properly pump enough blood to all organs. Binge and long-term drinking can also lead to high blood pressure and stroke.
Lungs: Heavy drinkers increase their risk of acute lung injury following major trauma or a bacterial infection.
Liver: An essential organ that filters the blood and eliminates toxins, the liver can experience significant damage from alcohol, which the body recognizes as a toxin. Heavy drinking causes inflammation in the liver and makes it fatty. In addition, constant inflammation hinders blood supply from reaching liver cells. Cirrhosis occurs when these liver cells die and are replaced by scar tissue.
Pancreas: Chronic drinkers may experience pancreatitis due to constant inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is a risk factor for pancreas cancer.
Stomach: Alcohol irritates the stomach and increases hydrochloric acid, which aids digestion. It could deter the digestive process, preventing vital vitamins and minerals from getting to the body. There also could be damage to the stomach lining.
Kidneys: The kidneys regulate the composition of body fluid. Alcohol has a diuretic effect, causing dehydration. Binge or chronic drinking may interfere with kidney function.