Thursday, May 4, 2017

Lose weight by being conscious about what you drink

People all over the modern world are concerned about one thing, and one thing only. Weight loss.
Or a six pack of beer... as it were.

Okay, okay. Hyperbole aside, weight loss is actually a huge concern for a lot of us out here in the real world. For me, I stopped having the "eat everything you want and take names later" mentality a couple of years ago, when I turned 29. For me, the issue was that I had a slowly accumulating mass around my love handles -- but what I was hoping to do was achieve the mythical six pack that I hear so many stories about. One of the obvious things that I could do to achieve the six pack was to cut out another type of six pack. It's not news to anybody that beer contains a lot of calories, right?

Something which you perhaps have not thought too much in depth about is where the calories in alcoholic beverages come from? Typically there are two answers to that question: sugar and alcohol.
That's pretty much how I look any time I get an
opportunity to geek out. Hold onto your butts for
impending Wikipedia links!

Here is a quick break down of the science:

The way that alcohol is formed is through ethanol fermentation -- fermentation is another, less efficient way that organisms can generate energy when their normal method is exhausted. Animals actually engage in a process of fermentation as well, called lactic acid fermentation. Normally your body meets its energy demands through cellular respiration, where sugar is converted into usable chemical energy (ATP). The secondary process kicks in when you can't get enough oxygen to process sugar, or when there is a backlog of sugar -- this is where fermentation comes in. It is a less efficient method of generating ATP, which leaves the waste product "lactic acid" -- or in the case of yeast, and ethanol fermentation, the waste product "ethanol." Ethanol and lactic acid are fairly complex compounds compared to the waste products formed out of cellular respiration, ergo they are loaded with a ton of stored molecular energy. When those compounds are broken down, the energy of the molecular bonds is either released as heat, or converted into other molecular bonds.

This is exactly the kind of thing you want to avoid if you're planning
on cutting weight off of your gullet. OMG WHY IS IT SO GUD.
What you need to understand here is that molecular bonds store energy, and through the magic of simplification, we measure our energy input and output in calories. How this translates to the calories in the energy you drink is that alcohol is actually a chief source of calories, because of all of the energy in those molecular bonds.

I already touched on the fact that sugar is part of the fermentation process -- you don't have to rub too many brain cells together to figure out at this point, that high sugar content foods are normally used for fermentation. This comes out as the heavily starchy potatoes, and grains, or the high fructose grapes used for wine -- even honey is used for the fermentation of mead. Aside from the ethanol being a major source of calories, the left over sugar from the fermentation process is also high in calories.

After spending this whole time talking about how bad beer is
for you, it's on natural that I put tantalizing photos of what
you'll be missing out on, once you stop drinking beer.

The TLDR of this is that beer is high in calories. White and red wine are actually much better for you, in terms of calorie content. And spirits such as whiskey are even more forgiving. There are two things you have to take into consideration when watching what you drink, however. The first thing is more on the food science side of the equation -- higher alcohol content means less sugar, and sugar has more calories than alcohol; therefore higher alcohol content is going to be less calories. The second thing is that if you are going to be conscious of calorie intake when drinking, you also have to consider how much farther the effects of higher alcohol content beverages go. To seasoned drinkers, this isn't that big of a deal, but even if you have been drinking for a long time, and this whole time it's been mostly beer, you might be shocked by how much quicker wine or straight whiskey hits you.

I was able to lose a considerable amount of fat around my waist simply by switching to whiskey -- which wasn't that hard. I was already becoming somewhat of a whiskey snob, so it was just a step away to entirely drop beer as my go-to drink. I also did not have to worry about the progression of severe alcoholism, because I had made considerable cut backs to how much I'd been drinking well before I made the switch to whiskey. Now, in my case, I discovered the glorious app known as Untappd, so I ended up getting back into beer as my go-to drink when outside of the house -- but that being said, I think it needs to be restated just how effective switching from beer to wine, or beer to whiskey can be.

If straight whiskey isn't your style, you can always mix
with tea, a bit of lemon and a bit of sugar for a Hot Toddy.
I wouldn't recommend it because I hate Hot Toddies, but
it's all you man/woman! 

A single ounce of whiskey contains as much alcohol as a pint of beer. The difference in calories is pretty shocking. Your average pint of beer contains 260 calories, while a single shot of whiskey has only 70. If you were looking for something with meal value more similar to beer, a five ounce glass of wine contains roughly 125 calories. By switching from beer to whiskey -- among other things -- I was able to make considerable cutbacks to caloric intake, and this translated into me losing 3 waist sizes over a period of one month, while still gaining around my biceps and chest. That should be a pretty attractive incentive to men such as myself, who want to hit the gym and see positive gains without putting on the fat that often comes alongside it. And then of course there's the other side of it: aside from looking better because of the change in your body, you'll also look better because you're delving into more sophisticated territory!

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