Holiday Drinking

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The holidays are here! This means family, friends, festivities… and drinking. A glass of punch here, a champagne toast there, and some wine with holiday dinner can be fun; they can also create the perfect storm of sugar and calories, leaving you dehydrated, heavy and bloated. So how do you partake in the holiday spirit (pun intended) while still taking good care of your body?

For years, I sat out as the one guy not drinking; this felt unsocial to me.  As with food, alcohol is about choices in quantity and quality.  I now savor martinis; I love a classic Grey Goose with 3 olives and recently found an even healthier alternative. Voli is a new low calorie vodka that contains only 80 calories for every 1.5 fluid ounce — that’s 25% fewer calories than other vodkas.

A pomegranate martini?  Not a good choice if you’re looking to control liquor calories. Mixed drinks involving sugary fruit juices and sodas pump even more sugar into your bloodstream. A better choice, if you cannot handle a straight up martini, would be a peach martini made with peach puree (no added sugar) or any other martini where fresh fruit is used.

Between drinks? Water. Before ordering your second glass, chase the first with a tall glass of water. The main cause of a hangover is tissue dehydration. While this does not diminish calories or increase metabolism, it may make the next day more enjoyable.

Egg nog, though a traditional holiday favorite, is a big no-no. This drink is jam packed with calories. I strongly discourage anything but a “tasting sip.”

People always ask me if it is better to drink wine vs. liquor with respect to calories and weight gain. The answer? It doesn’t matter. If the number of calories delivered in one glass of wine equals the number of calories in a martini, they have the exact same effect on your body and fat.  What you want to consider her is quantity.  People usually drink many more glasses of wine since the alcohol content is lower.  So, at the end of the night, 4 glasses of wine may equal the alcohol content of 2 martinis.  But, the wine calorie content will be much higher (4:2) and contribute to fat increase.

Liquid calories have a direct effect on fat production.  Calories delivered in food must be metabolized in the body before they are either deposited for storage (fat) or excreted.  I have heard people say, “liquid calories (liquor) go straight to your hips.”  Liquid calories are not necessarily digested prior to absorption in the stomach.  This explains the high one experiences after one glass of champagne.  The digested alcohol (sugars) are rapidly absorbed, produce a dramatic insulin spike, and the body shunts the sugars into storage (fat) to keep blood sugar even.

Have you ever noticed that the shape of people who drink a lot of alcohol is typical?  Think of young men after freshman year in college and their hard, protuberant bellies, or women who drink heavily who have obesity in the trunk and not in the extremities.  The culprit? Yellow fat. The fat that is formed is deposited around the intestines, inside the abdomen and not typically in the fat below the skin of the abdomen.  I call this look the “man-belly.”  When I was at conference in Vegas two months ago, I saw so many young men looking 6 months pregnant, usually standing at the bar or walking around with a beer.  All the exercise in the world isn’t going to make these bellies flat.  This shape is all about calories, diet and yellow fat and the power of alcohol in destroying a flat tummy.

My advice? Enjoy your holiday, and approach indulgence with moderation, moderation, moderation.