We all enjoy an occasional drink after a long day at work, but overdoing it can lead to some real weight gain. "Alcohol temporarily keeps your body from burning fat," explains integrative medicine specialist Pamela M. Peeke, MD, author of The Hunger Fix.
"Drinking presses 'pause' on your metabolism, shoves away the other calories, and says, 'Break me down first,'" explains Peeke. The result is that whatever you recently ate gets stored as fat. And even worse, according to Dr. Peeke, "Research has uncovered that alcohol especially decreases fat burn in the belly. That's why you never hear about 'beer hips,' you hear about a 'beer belly.'"
So is there a way to enjoy a glass of wine without packing on the pounds?
According to a long-term study published in the Archives of Intern Medicine and International Journal of Obesity, "middle-aged and older women who drank moderately (about one drink a day) gained less weight over time than those who never imbibed at all; they were also less likely to become obese."
Health.com recently investigated the question and found others ways besides tried-and -true exercise and dieting that allow you to have your wine, and weight loss too.
Rule #:1 Always eat when you drink
Experts agree it is always important to eat right than to eat less, and skimping on food to "make room" for the calories in you drinks will only come back to haunt you later. "Most cocktails are loaded with simple carbohydrates, so during a night of drinking, people end up with soaring blood sugar, followed by a 'crash' that leaves them ravenous," says Jason Burke, MD, an anesthesiologist and hangover researcher.
You can fight this effect by snacking on foods that give you long-lasting energy, like greek yogurt, or a protein shake. "They stabilize your blood-sugar levels without slowing down your metabolism," says Karlene Karst, RD, author of The Full-Fat Solution.
Dr. Peeke also explained how skimping on food can cause you to toss your normal diet out the window (i.e. "I had a hard week at work, I deserve this cheesesteak"). "So after a certain amount of alcohol (and it's different for everyone), you're going to feel yourself not caring and letting it rip with food and probably drinks."
Try to have a pre-drinking meal with fiber, protein and a little bit of healthy fat, and remember to have an eating strategy once you begin drinking.
Rule #2: Know that some drinks make you hungrier than others
In terms of health-friendly cocktails, it's important to remember that simpler is better. The sugary and fancy drinks often have more calories, and can make you hungrier since your blood sugar jumps higher than it does on beer, wine, or a shot, making the crashing and cravings even worse.
"So if you're going to drink, have something straight up and simple like wine or beer," Peeke advises. "Any wine or beer works, but to trim about 10 calories per glass, choose a rosé or white wine instead of a heavier red. A whole pint of a dark beer is around only 170 calories (compared with 195 for the same amount of regular beer) and may leave you feeling fuller than, say, Champagne, because it's so starchy and rich." Vodka, gin, or bourbon with club soda are also better choices.
Rule #3: Stick to a drink or two, tops
Although one drink a day is the widely accepted standard for women, there is a large misconception that if you don't drink all week, you can save your seven drinks for the weekend.
"That's the worst thing you can possibly do for your weight," Peeke says, "It has a much bigger effect than one drink a day."
According to Health.com, when you down three or four drinks in one night, your body has many hundreds of alcohol calories to process first before it can continue to break down food calories or stored fat, not to mention your low blood sugar is going to make you feel famished. Research shows, "the extra calories alone are enough to pile on the pounds; have four drinks every Saturday night and you'll be up about 10 pounds in a year."
Rule #4: Beware that gnawing, starving feeling the next day
Perhaps the most challenging day of a diet is the morning after drinking. Forget a hangover, you'll probably spend the day fighting cravings for cheesy, greasy foods. "Part of the problem is that you're dehydrated (don't forget, alcohol is a diuretic), and that can make you feel even hungrier," Karst notes.
"The body needs energy to resolve the effects of a big night of drinking, so it wants the richest source of energy it can find, which is fat," Burke says. "Also, greasy foods tend to settle the stomach a bit."
Ways to avoid this feeling can range from drinking a large glass of water for every drink you have, to having more water before bed along with a snack that is high in fiber and protein like cereal or oatmeal. "You'll get important nutrients into the body that were lost during alcohol consumption," Burke adds. "Plus, foods rich in fiber stay in the stomach longer, so you'll be less prone to hunger in the morning."
For the full story visit Health.com.