With one of the biggest drinking holidays in America right around the corner, let’s take a moment to talk about the nutritional effects of alcohol. People may not think of alcohol as having any nutritional value and it is very easy to ignore alcohol’s effect on our diet. This may be due to the fact that alcohol does not have nutritional facts on their labels. Why does alcohol get a pass for this? It is because alcohol does not fall under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration. Beer, wine, and liquor do not need to have serving sizes or nutrition facts anywhere on the package. So, let’s talk about the nutrition behind alcohol and why overindulgence can easily lead to weight problems.

Did you know that alcohol contains the second highest number of calories per gram of the four macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat, alcohol)? It is true! One gram of alcohol is 7 calories. That’s almost twice as much as carbohydrates. A regular can of beer will have an average of 14 grams of alcohol. That’s almost 100 calories per beer in just alcohol. This isn’t even including the carbohydrates or proteins also found in these drinks. What if I am drinking straight liquor or mixed drinks? A shot of 40 proof vodka contains around the same amount of alcohol as one beer. That means each shot you do is another 100 calories. Also, mixed drinks contain a lot of added sugars from the mixers which can bump up the calories per drink.

Well when I drink, it just goes right through me and I pee like crazy! How can I be getting the extra calories if I am just peeing it out? The alcohol is not being removed from your body, only water. In fact, alcohol specifically prevents the kidneys from reabsorbing water. This is why you pee more when drinking. The alcohol stays in your bloodstream and your body uses it for energy, just like sugar. This becomes a problem because your body will prefer to use the alcohol for energy. While you are burning off the alcohol, the body won’t use its sugar supply for energy and will store it as fat. Alcohol also takes a long time to burn away (1 drink per hour). Every hour you are burning alcohol, you are storing everything else as fat.

If alcohol has so many calories, why do I get the urge to eat when I am drunk? Alcohol affects the central nervous system. Dizziness and loss of inhibition may be some of the effects you are familiar with, but there is much more that alcohol does to the brain. A region in the brain called the hypothalamus has a region that is responsible for telling you that you are starving to death. For some individuals, alcohol can activate this region causing hunger cravings. As we said earlier, the alcohol will be burned first, and any food you eat due to these cravings will be stored as fat.

So, I should stop drinking alcohol? We don’t want that to be the take away message. Just like most foods classified as “unhealthy,” most are fine in moderation. The key to having a healthy diet is being aware of what you are eating and knowing how that food is going to be processed in your body. Our nutrition program here at your favorite Rochester chiropractor, Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, is all about giving you the tools to make healthier choices. If you are in the Rochester area and are interested in starting our nutrition program, give us a call to schedule your free consultation today!