7 Tips for Including Alcohol in a Healthy Lifestyle

By Jim F

Alcohol consumption and fat loss has long been a controversial subject.

First, the BBC dismissed the “beer belly”. Now, new research contradicts this: liquor consumption in men is associated with a larger waist circumference.The research (published in Obesity) concludes:

However, high alcohol intake was associated with abdominal obesity, which might explain the higher diabetes risk previously observed in high alcohol consumers.

What is often overlooked is the sheer number of Calories in alcoholic drinks. Tom Venuto provides 7 tips to think about if you want to include alcohol in your lifestyle.

  1. Don’t drink on a fat loss program.
    Although you could certainly drink and “get away with it” if you diligently maintained your calorie deficit as noted above, it certainly does not help your fat loss cause or your nutritional status.
  2. Drink in moderation during maintenance.
    For lifelong weight maintenance and a healthy lifestyle, if you drink, do so in moderation and only occasionally, such as on weekends or when you go out to dine in restaurants. Binge drinking and getting drunk has no place in a fitness lifestyle (not to mention hangovers aren’t very conducive to good workouts).
  3. Don’t drink daily.
    Moderate drinking, including daily drinking, has been associated with cardiovascular health benefits. However, I don’t recommend daily drinking because behaviors repeated daily become habits. Behaviors repeated multiple times daily become strong habits. Habitual drinking may lead to heavier drinking or full-blown addictions and can be hard to stop if you ever need to cut back.
  4. Count the calories.
    If you decide to have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine or two (or whatever moderation is for you), be sure to account for the alcohol in your daily calorie budget.
  5. Watch your appetite.
    Don’t let the “munchies” get control of you during or after you drink (Note to chicken wing and nacho-eating men: The correlation to alcohol and body fat is higher in men in almost all the studies. One possible explanation is that men tend to drink and eat, while women may tend to drink instead of eating).
  6. Watch the fatty foods.
    When drinking, watch the fatty foods in particular. A study by Angelo Tremblay back in 1995 suggested that alcohol and a high fat diet are a combination that favors overfeeding.
  7. Enjoy without guilt.
    If you choose to drink (moderately and sensibly), then don’t feel guilty about it or beat yourself up afterwards, just enjoy the damn stuff, will you!

It can be all right to drink responsibly, but things are a little different when there’s teenage alcohol abuse involved. So, be mindful of how alcohol could be affecting any kids in the household as well.

20 Comments

  1. JB

    I think many researchers looking at alcohol and health are missing some of the other factors that go into the health of the individual. First, moderate drinkers, tend to make up the majority of individuals, and are a socially accepted group. Abstainers, which I used to be one, may not be as socially accepted as the casual drinkers, and may actually be frowned upon for their lack of social drinking. Just looking at alcohol consumption in numbers may result in missing a bigger aspect that the health is related to feeling good about yourself, your life, your family, etc. A moderate/social drinker may be that sort of person, but a heavy drinker, or in some cases an abstainer, may not feel the same about themselves. By the numbers, it may appear that consuming alcohol is good for your health, but it may have more to do with your lifestyle, self esteem, and feeling of social acceptance.

    Reply
  2. Um.no

    No Kidding!!!

    Reply
  3. stanley

    i def agree with u Christie,even studies show that red wine boast ur heart and increases ur blood. so dont give up ur red wine…i luuuuv red.enjoy

    Reply
  4. katrina webber

    this probaly doesnt work like it say it does it is a waste of time and your life just get lipo suchtion!!!! ohh and dont forget a tummy tuck fat ass!!!

    Reply
  5. zay?flama

    Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  6. Dui Defense

    You should also add do not drink and drive. We cannot forget there are around 14,000 deaths each year in the United States caused by alcohol related accidents.

    We tell each client about that fact. Drinking and driving is bad for your health too.

    Reply
  7. tenspeedsf

    When I wanted to lose weight before I got married, the ways in which I altered my diet were few: no cheese, no alcohol. My husband and I are wine enthusiasts so almost as soon as I resumed drinking 1-2 glasses of wine 4-6 times a week I started gaining again. In 1 1/2 years since our wedding I’ve gained back 10 of the 30 lbs I lost. (Our trip to cheese-a-riffic France probably didn’t help things.) That said, I agree with Christine. I will cut calories in every other way, exercise 5 times a week… anything to keep from giving up wine.

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  8. Christine

    I’m. Not. Giving. Up. Wine. I gave up potato chips, chocolate, french fries, cookies…but NOT my wine. I eat a low-fat diet all day long and exercise daily. My 2 glasses of red at night is my “treat”.

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  9. Alexandra

    Men have a lot less breast tissue, and far less estrogen (many breast cancers are highly affected by the amount of estrogen you have in your body–the more you have, the more likely it is that these cancers can develop) so your chances of getting breast cancer are much higher if you are a woman. There are a number of risk factors, that is true. Too much weight is very dangerous, because women with higher weight also have more estrogen floating around. There is benefit to exercise–though ironically, I don’t think a super-healthy diet has been shown to have that much of a protective effect.

    Here are links for the studies:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21083325/

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21009784/
    “Compared with light drinkers — those who had less than one drink a day — women who had one or two drinks a day increased their risk of developing breast cancer by 10 percent. Women who had more than three drinks a day raised their risk by 30 percent.”

    Having said that, I know that everyone has his or her vice and everyone enjoys something naughty. Also, when it says increasing your risk by 10 percent, it doesn’t mean you have a one out of ten chance of developing cancer. It means a much smaller percentage than that. Still, I know wonderful people with breast cancer and I would dearly love to avoid it myself.

    Some people have reason to worry about breast cancer more than others do. One good tool to check your risk is called the Gail Model ( you can do this online if you want) and then you can feel free to worry or not based on the results!

    http://www.halls.md/breast/risk.htm

    Reply
  10. Ren

    With the breast cancer issue, how does it affect men? I mean, they have breast tissue as well…i’m not sure what the statistics are for male breast cancer, and this is a big generalisation, but men typically drink more than women…

    Reply
  11. Spectra

    Deirdre–Good point! The other thing I was going to mention about the breast cancer link is that cancer is usually caused by multiple lifestyle factors, not just one thing. Diet, exercise, genetics, and weight all play a role in whether or not a woman will get breast cancer. I figure, I eat healthy 80-90% of the time, I work out, I have low levels of body fat. I think I can have a drink per day and not feel too bad about it.

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  12. Deirdre

    Alexandra’s breast study aside (I’ll have to look into that), I disagree with several of these points. I far prefer the French Women Don’t Get Fat view. I drink one glass of wine with dinner on most nights. We always enjoy a homecooked, sit-down family dinner, often with a glass of wine and a very small piece of very dark chocolate afterwards. I look forward to my evening meal, and knowing that I have it to look forward to helps me to eat better during the rest of the day. It’s easy for me to avoid snacking and other bad habits when I have something special ahead of me.

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  13. Alexandra

    According to the latest study, even one drink a day raises women’s chances of breast cancer. That, and the high calories, are enough to keep me away. I’ll have my calories from food, thank you!

    Reply
  14. Dr.J

    Natalia said:
    Natalia[…]

    Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  15. Natalia

    Well Dr. J, your wish is my command. I probably drink three glasses of wine a year or so (just the rare glass at special celebrations), which I would think makes me basically a nondrinker. However, from the numerous studies coming out I do think that wine a few times a week or a glass every day can be healthy and provide benefits to the heart. I just don’t really like the taste and think you can get the same benefits from grapes and berries so I choose that method for my antioxidents. Well that and the occasional dark chocolate=) On the other hand, I don’t think that all alcohol is healthy in moderation, though I wouldn’t say it is unhealthy either. Other alcohol I would classify as empty calories, which is fine so long as the rest of your diet is relatively nutritious.

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  16. Spectra

    I drink one drink a day…usually a lite beer or a diet soda mixed with a shot of vodka. It’s just enough to get me relaxed and it makes me feel good, but it’s not enough to loosen my inhibitions to the point that I want to eat everything in sight. I work off the calories…I feel like life is too short to not enjoy yourself a little.

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  17. Dr.J

    Not that a Mike’s is that potent a potable, but just once I’d like to hear “Everything is OK but in moderation,” and “Alcohol actually can be healthy,” from someone who doesn’t drink it.

    Reply
  18. top weight loss site

    I like to have a “Mike’s Hard” once in awhile when I am out on the lake. Everything is ok but in moderation. The only reason people gain weight is overeating and mis using certain foods at certain times of the day. Alcohol actually can be healthy so keep that in mind.

    Reply
  19. Brittany

    Since I stopped drinking and started working out, my tolerance has gone WAY low. The other day I decided to have some wine with dinner as a treat and half a glass later I was feeling quite tipsy. I didn’t even finish my glass!

    When I drink I tend to eat (some girls worry their lower inhibitions might lead them to girls gone wild – I worry that mine will lead me to the candy aisle!) so overall it’s just not worth it.

    Reply
  20. Flying Trapeze

    The problem that I have with drinking while reducing is that either a) I am drinking on a near-empty stomach so I am rapidly three-sheets to the wind, OR b) I’m so hungry that I follow up any drinking with food I would never eat if I were in my right mind. So the “calories” imbibed, already bad, become only part of the picture!

    Reply