Happy New Year! And Welcome 2013! While New Year’s Eve is a time for celebration, if some of you despite being on track most days are excited to sip a glass of bubbly or could be planning for an all out party. No judgement here, but let’s go into the evening with our eyes wide open and strategize for decreasing the downsides of drinking. What happens to your metabolism when you drink? The unfortunate truth: *Fat burning at the cellular level comes to a halt. Alcohol can not be stored by the body, so when it’s ingested it takes priority to get metabolized. Thus every other calorie around (from fat, sugar, etc) gets put on hold. So although it doesn’t have any “carb” of it’s own it acts like a “supercarb” in the body shutting off fat metabolism and at the same time having about twice as many calories as other carbohydrates. *Because it temporarily “paralyzes” your liver by preventing its own sugar making (called gluconeogensis) it can abruptly lower blood sugar. This effect is “indirect” as alcohol on its own does not affect blood sugar levels. However when this happens, especially if you drink on an empty stomach you end up ravenous. Combine this ramped up hunger from low blood sugar and lowered inhibitions and you’ll quickly be reaching for the fried calamari, French fries or both. Think of all the breaded options in your typical cocktail party fare and you’ll see how you can be left to fight biochemical urges with mere willpower – and let’s face it you’re buzzed so you don’t really care! *It lowers growth hormone…and remember this: the more growth hormone you have, the leaner you are. Alcohol, because its metabolites are stimulants, can also really affect sleep. Lack of sleep also lowers growth hormone. Alcohol can also cause people to wake in the night or first thing in the morning feeling “starved” and that’s why the next day we will really crave those simple carbs like cereal and pancakes and waffles oh my! *It lowers testosterone in both men and women, making it harder to be lean. Alcohol increases the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in our body fat (a process called aromatization). If you are overweight (man or woman) and/or you have any issues with your menstrual cycle, low sex drive, just to name a few – then you are at least relatively “estrogen dominant” and thus alcohol will be an even bigger issue for you. And now for some better news! Red wine in particular is an alcohol that has some great health benefits – but only if consumed in moderation. These benefits have been demonstrated in men more than in women (likely due to the estrogen issue mentioned above, studies have shown alcohol consumption tied to breast cancer). The health benefit from red wine is due to a compound called “resveratrol” which is sort of a super antioxidant that is good for the heart. It reduces platelet aggregation or “stickiness”, inhibits oxidation of LDL – the bad cholesterol, and is anti-inflammatory. Resveratrol is believed to be the most powerful anti-aging supplements you can take – so if you can master moderation and are at your goal weight then a few glasses of red wine per week can indeed be a good thing. Wines that were grown in more stressful conditions contain more resveratrol. Pinot Noirs boast the highest concentration regardless of climate. Other grapes from cold, humid climates such as Cabernet Sauvignon and wines from the Bordeaux region of France or Canada are other good choices. Eat, Drink and Be Smart. It’s time to celebrate 2012 and ring in 2013. So let’s consider making a few BETTER choices tonight! Bring protection. Alcohol detoxification depletes B6 and other B vitamins, so pop a B complex or two this evening. Booze is a toxin as far as your liver is concerned, so protect it with 200mg of milk thistle before you head out and again before you go to bed. To avoid blowing all your weight loss progress, keep drinks to 2 (OK, 3 at the very most!) and follow each one with a glass of water. When you’re boozing, you are drinking your carbs for the night. Alcohol, often called “liquid bread”, is a lot like carbs to your metabolism, so choose veggie and lean proteins only (skip the carbs) at meals where you’ll be consuming alcohol. Drinking can really mess with folks’ blood sugar so you wake frequently after drinking, be sure to have a little protein based snack before turning in. Avoid mixed drinks in general or find sugar free mixers. Juices, syrups, sugar, and mixers will really pack in the sugar, calories and carbs (worsening the fat gain and the hangover). Opt for red wine if you enjoy it as it clearly has the most health benefits. Beer also has some health benefits like the calming effects of hops and even a few B vitamins. However the carb and calorie content will wreak havoc on your diet. For my gluten free readers, there are gluten free beers out there…and if you find a good one let me know! And just FYI the darker or less filtered the beer, generally the higher the carbs and calories. Flavored Vodka in a variety of fruit flavors or vanilla, with or without club soda and a fruit garnish. Try a vodka Gimlet (gluten free vodka’s include Tito’s, Chopin and Luksasova) made with fresh lime juice and a pinch of sugar vs. the traditional made with Rose’s Lime Juice which is loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Not on board with plain flavored vodkas? At least make an upgrade. Ask for half juice or mixer and half club soda. Opt for a flavored club soda instead of juice or try a drink with pomogranate juice (at least that’s loaded with antioxidants!). Try a Bloody Mary. Only 115 calories, and ripe with the antioxidant lycopene. Whiskey, Bourbon or Scotch on the rocks. Tough to drink quickly so it will slow up your drink ordering. Too strong? Cut it with water or club soda. Plain or Dirty Martini with Vodka or Gin. The olives contain great essential fatty acids to help metabolize the alcohol. And again this drink is a sipper, so you’ll likely lower the total drinks ordered for the evening. Dry Champagne. Unlike wine, there is some sugar in champagne (5-10g per glass). Dryer champagnes or Sparkling Wines will have less sugar (think Brut over Extra Dry). A Few Final Tips for Getting Tipsy. If you are going to drink all evening, slow it to 1 drink per hour; follow each drink with a glass of water. Order soda water with lime, orange, fresh mint, olives or cucumber for every other drink. Take your vitamins – B vitamins in your multi, fish oils and antioxidants can protect against some of the damage induced by alcohol consumption. And For Tomorrow… Start your morning with a long walk, drink some fresh filtered water with lemon (try 32 oz right before bed and upon waking). Nux Vomica 30c homeopathic remedy can be great for a hangover (5 pellets under tongue every 3-4 hours day after), pressing on Liver 3 – an acupuncture point between your big toe and second toe about 1 inch from the crease between toes will aid liver detoxification of alcohol. You’ll know it when you find it – it’s tender after a bender. And if you are on a weight loss program remember that alcohol will count as your “cheat” for the week so eat good,lean protein and veggies with your hooch and skip carbs at this meal. If you really want to keep the scale moving add in an additional workout that week to keep your progress going. Cheers!!