Alcohol and Nutrition – What does it do to your body?

For those of you on diets and trying to lose weight, questions about alcohol usually come up. Can I drink alcohol while trying to lose weight? Is there a “healthy” alcohol? How many calories are in margaritas? Read more to get all the answers to your questions about alcohol and nutrition.

The Metabolization of Alcohol

When you consume alcohol, your body quickly tries to metabolize it because there is no way for your body to store alcohol. Twenty percent of the alcohol you consume will go directly into your bloodstream which will transport it to your brain quickly. The other 80% of the alcohol you consume will go to your intestines, where the other nutrients you consume is absorbed. Only a small amount of the alcohol you consume will be released through your sweat, saliva, urine and breath. Your liver is primarily responsible for metabolizing alcohol by detoxifying and removing it from your blood through oxidation, which is why heavy drinking is associated with liver damage.

BAC. BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration. After five minutes of having a drink, the alcohol you’ve just consumed can be measured in your blood. BAC can be influenced by these factors: gender, race, if food was consumed, chronic alcohol consumption, drinking pattern and medications.

Alcohol Effects. Alcohol is a depressant, inhibiting brain cells and slowing down your vital body functions (heart rate and breathing). Immediately after consuming alcohol, you might experience slurred speech, excitement, euphoria, confusion, loss of coordination, disturbed perceptions, impaired judgment and slowed reaction times. You may have overdosed on alcohol if you have the following symptoms: vomiting, inability to feel pain, unconsciousness, coma and death. If you drink alcohol excessively for a long period of time, you are at higher risk for: liver damage, heart damage, brain shrinkage, diabetes, gastric ulcers, impaired immunity system and certain cancers.

Alcohol and Weight

To maintain your weight, you need to eat a set number of calories. Any lower and you will lose weight. Any higher and you will gain weight. The number of calories depends on your height, weight, age, gender and exercise regimen. Alcohol can directly cause weight gain due to its calories and indirectly cause weight gain because it causes most people to eat more calories after drinking alcohol. Research has shown that alcohol increases feelings of hunger which makes you want to eat food. Make healthier choices when consuming alcohol by having one nonalcoholic drink after each alcoholic drink, choosing “light” beers, eating before drinking, staying hydrated by consistently drinking water, and sipping instead of chugging or shooting so your drink lasts longer.

Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

Generally speaking, alcohol has approximately 7 calories per gram. These calories have no beneficial vitamins and minerals, so they are considered empty calories.

Beer, lite, 12 oz.                                    100 calories         4.6g of carbs

Beer, regular, 12 oz.          150 calories         13.13g of carbs

Brandy, 1.5 oz.                     98 calories

Cosmopolitan, 2.75 oz.  146 calories

Frozen daiquiri, 4 oz.       216 calories

Gin, 1.5 oz.                             110 calories

Mai tai, 4 oz.                          310 calories

Manhattan, 3.5 oz.            164 calories

Margarita, 4 oz.                   270 calories

Martini, 2.25 oz.                 124 calories

Mojito, 6 oz.                          143 calories

Pina Colada, 9 oz.               490 calories

Rum, 1.5 oz.                          96 calories

Vodka, 1.5 oz.                       96 calories

Whiskey, 1.5 oz.                  105 calories

Whiskey sour, 3.5 oz.       160 calories

Wine, champagne, 4 oz. 84 calories

Wine, red, 5 oz.                   125 calories         3.5 g of carbs

Wine, dessert, 4 oz.           180 calories

Wine, white, 5 oz.              121 calories         3.5g of carbs

Wine spritzer, 4 oz.           49 calories

The “Healthiest” Alcohol

Wine. The French paradox is the fact that the French live longer and are healthier than Americans even though they smoke more, exercise less and eat a lot of foods that are high in fat. Numerous studies hypothesize that the French’s lower mortality rate is due to their consumption of red wine. Studies have shown that wine drinkers have lower risks of stroke, cancer and mortality in general than their beer and distilled spirit drinking counterparts.

Beer. A study in Germany found that those who drink mainly or only beer are negatively correlated to heart disease. Studies with animal subjects show that beer prevents osteoporosis and carcinogenesis. The hops in beer are hypothesized to prevent type 2 diabetes and fight atherosclerosis.

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