beer-820011_1920There are few things better than summertime in Chicago. Your weekends are often filled with BBQs, concerts, street festivals, pool parties and the great company of friends and family. Unfortunately, these social outings often accompany some tasty cocktails and fancy craft beers. It’s well known that alcohol won’t help your weight loss efforts, but you might find it surprising just how much alcohol contributes to weight gain. Read below to find out how those few drinks on the weekend are holding you back from achieving your goal weight. And don’t forget summertime in Chicago is also a great time to get outside and be active. Try bike riding along the lake or playing a game of beach volleyball to make sure you aren’t undoing all your hard work during the week.

1.) Calorie Fest: It’s no secret that alcohol is full of empty calories that offer zero nutritional value. Most servings of alcohol contain between 100-120 calories. Avoid using soda, tonic water or juice for mixers or you can count on doubling or tripling those calories. The bigger problem when you down 3 or 4 drinks in a night, is that your body will have hundreds of calories to process before it can return to breaking down “food calories” or stored fat (see #2). Scary Fact: the average margarita from a restaurant has 500+ calories!

2.) You Stop Metabolizing Fat and Sugar: the body sees alcohol as a toxin so it prioritizes metabolizing alcohol first. Since your liver is busy breaking down the alcohol, your body won’t metabolize other fats and sugar as efficiently. Think of this as a temporary pause on your metabolism, since it’s busy getting rid of the alcohol, whatever you recently ate is turned into fat.

3.) Alcohol Causes Blood Sugar to Drop: When your blood sugar drops, your body craves it. This is why that Coca Cola sounds so good the morning after. And remember, excess blood sugar that is not burned off is turned into fat.

4.) Decreased Mindfulness: Alcohol impairs the part of you brain that helps you think clearly and make good choices. While your prefrontal cortex is napping, you’re much more likely to make poor decisions, and often poor food choices. So while you might be able to control yourself around free donuts during the day because you’re able to think about your long term goal, this self control often goes out the window after a few drinks.

5.) The Body Doesn’t Burn Extra Calories to Metabolize Alcohol: Our bodies expend energy (burns calories) to break down protein, fat and complex carbohydrates for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. This is known as the thermic effect of food. But because alcohol is so easily absorbed, our bodies don’t need to expend any energy for it to enter the bloodstream. The same goes for soda and juice that you might be using as your mixers.

6.) The Morning After Nightmare: the morning after a night of drinking brings a new challenge for your waistline. If you wake up with a headache, chances are you won’t make it to that zumba class you penciled in. Alcohol is a diuretic, which can cause you to become dehydrated. Dehydration is often misinterpreted as hunger, causing you to consume extra calories. The body needs energy to combat the negative effects of your big night out. Fat is the richest source of energy which is why you find yourself fighting the craving for that greasy cheeseburger.

Let’s face it, sometimes there’s nothing better than sipping on a tasty cocktail poolside. If you are going to have a drink, make sure it’s low in calories and sugar. Check out some- dare I say- “healthier” recipes below!

 

Skinny Mojito- 75 calories

1.5 ounce Rum

2 oz. Lemon or Lime LaCroix

Squeeze of lime

Squeeze of orange

2 mint leaves

 

Lean Lemon Drop- 85 calories

1 1/2 oz. Citrus vodka

1/2 oz. Lemon LaCroix

squeeze of lemon

 

Slender Cape Cod- 70 calories

3 oz. Cran-Raspberry LaCroix

Splash of cranberry juice

1 oz. vodka

squeeze of lime

 

Slimmed Screwdriver- 76 calories

3 oz. Orange LaCroix

Splash orange juice

2 orange slices muddled

1 oz. orange flavored vodka