If you are trying to maintain a healthy weight, the first step is to look at what you eat regularly and assess whether it helps you meet your nutritional goals. But it's not just about food. What you drink is also a big factor, and it includes the beer you can open on a sunny summer day or a bottle of wine you share with a friend during dinner.

Weight is certainly not all-in-one when it comes to health, but if you think alcohol may come into play when it comes to yours, there are a few things you may want to know about alcohol intake and body composition.

Alcohol prevents the body from burning fat

You may have heard the term "empty calories" used in connection with alcohol. This means that your body can convert the calories from alcohol to energy, but those calories contain little or no beneficial nutrients or minerals.

Alcohol is not treated like other nutrients in food; in fact, the digestive system works extra hard to eliminate it from the body and prioritizes the elimination of alcohol over all other nutrients. If you were to eat a meal with your alcoholic beverage, the nutrient uptake from the meal would be greatly reduced because the body worked so hard to eliminate the alcohol from the body.

Carbohydrates are usually the body's first choice to digest for energy from food, but that changes completely when alcohol is consumed. The body recognizes alcohol as toxic and shuts off its ability to access all other stored macronutrients. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats - to be able to use and burn alcohol first.

Although you may have heard the term "beer belly" before, the belief that alcoholic beverages cause increased fat deposits around the stomach area is actually not correct. In fact, a very small percentage of the calories you drink from the alcohol itself are converted to fat. The main effect of alcohol is to reduce the amount of fat that your body can burn for energy. You basically shut down your metabolism, which then leads to weight gain.

It is high in calories

In general, alcohol is high in calories. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 but alcohol has 7. When you look at juice, soda, syrup, cream, whipped cream or coconut milk, the calories in an alcoholic beverage can be really high.

Speaking of syrup and whipped cream, some cocktails can be high in calories. Some margaritas, daiquiris and pina coladas can contain a lot of sugar and saturated fat ”.

If you want to drink alcohol and keep your weight in mind, it is recommended to stick to low calorie options. Recommendations include beers with lower alcohol content (alcohol by volume), such as Pilsners or Lagers (which is about 100 calories per bottle, compared to 150 calories in a "regular" beer) and dry red or white wine (which is about 120 calories per glass ).

If beer and wine do not make your taste buds rejoice, alcohol mixed with water or soft drinks can also be a caloric alternative, such as vodka and soft drinks, which contain 133 calories per standard glass of 225 grams.

Your hormones are in trouble

Hormones play a crucial role in the healthy functioning of all the body's tissues and organs. When the hormonal system works properly, the right amount of hormone is released at exactly the right time, and the body's tissues respond exactly to these messages ”.

Drinking alcohol can impair the functions of the glands that release hormones and the functions of the tissues that these hormones target, which can result in a number of health problems. Alcohol consumption causes increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which has been linked to weight gain.

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how much alcohol is causing this increase in cortisol. There is no black and white answer here; all are unique in how their bodies react and break down alcohol. It is noted that many studies on this subject include a “drunk” study group and / or alcohol-dependent individuals, who may require a greater amount of alcohol to be affected.

Alcohol makes it harder to get quality sleep

It is not uncommon for people to use alcohol as a sleep aid. Because alcohol has calming effects that can induce relaxation and drowsiness, it can help a person unwind and fall asleep more easily. It is pointed out that alcohol consumption - especially in excess - has been linked to poor sleep quality and duration. In fact, individuals who are addicted to alcohol often experience insomnia symptoms.

Again, there is a link to hormones, in this case melatonin, that have long been associated with controlling the sleep-wake cycle. Many people find that their sleep is quite disturbed after drinking alcohol, and lack of sleep is strongly linked to weight gain over time.

It can make you feel hungry

After a few drinks, hunger often kicks in - which means you are more likely to take a quick and easy snack without thinking about it.

That hunger is caused by a couple of different things. First of all, alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop. This can trigger hunger pangs and sometimes cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods.

Researchers have also found that alcohol affects an area of ​​the brain that controls appetite and this can cause intense hunger, especially the day after drinking. A study showed that nerve cells in the brain hypothalamus which is generally activated by actual starvation can be stimulated by alcohol. These intense hunger pangs can cause you to reach for high-calorie foods, such as pizza and burgers.

There is also evidence that alcohol can affect hormones linked to feeling full, such as leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which inhibits food intake. One study showed that consuming "moderate" amounts of alcohol inhibits leptin secretion in healthy subjects.

This is paired with the fact that alcohol lowers inhibitions, which means that many people reach foods that they normally avoid, such as those that are high in fat or sodium.

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