Hey Guys, today’s guest post is by Melissa Griffin, a certified personal trainer. This post is also a part of my Back To School series. In college, I would beat myself up if I ate too much pizza or nachos but rarely gave a second thought to my alcohol consumption. I thought this blog was really interesting and I think you will too.
Fall is knocking on the door; school is back in session and we are already picking our fantasy football teams for the season. The days at the beach may be numbered, but there is one past time that remains steadfast with the changing seasons; drinking. Happy hour, wine nights and blurred weekends are never deterred by the weather.
For some, fall marks the start of another school year and an increase in drinking. Football games, frat parties, and bar crawls marks the beginning of a new year. For many college students the intoxicating nights will gift them with something they cannot forget; weight gain. It is no secret that excessive alcohol consumption is the main cause of weight gain amount young adults. Unlike binging on food, it is socially accepted and encouraged to binge drink. While the person giving into that extra piece of cake is looked down upon as having weak willpower, the person who shot guns their fourth beer of the night is praised. Most people also struggle to comprehend how much caloric damage they are doing each weekend. What if you translated your calories from alcohol and turned them into your favorite cheat food? How many cheeseburgers do you think you drink each Friday you go out on the town?
Let’s take two college co-eds Dawn and Mary and see how their Friday nights stack up against each other. Dawn, whose boyfriend had just broken up with her, has decided to stay in tonight. Dawn has decided to spend the evening self-medicating with her favorite fast food restaurant and a night cap of Ben and Jerry’s. In her moment of weakness Dawn eats three cheeseburgers, one large fry and a pint of Double Baked.
Mary on the other hand has a bar crawl planned. Mary starts the evening with a beer in the shower; a common college tradition. After the intoxicatingly refreshing shower, Mary and her roommates start the long process of perfecting their outfits before the night out on the town. While dancing around to JT they take shots of vodka in hopes of spending less money at the bars. Right before the cab arrives all the girls take a final shot of vodka to conclude their pre-gaming. Throughout the night Mary has three vodka lemon-aids, a dirty girl scout, and a jager bomb before stumbling into her cab ride home.
In the past I have used a similar scenario and have asked my clients to pick which girl ingested more calories that Friday night. People’s first instinct is to go with Dawn, because they can easily envision the greasy depiction of gluttony. Caloric intake via alcohol is harder to envision, which makes drinking so easy to get out of hand, especially after a solid buzz. At the end of the night Dawn ingested an additional 1,950 calories. Each of her cheeseburgers was roughly 300 calories, her fries were an additional 500 calories and her ice cream was roughly another 550 calories.
So let’s turn our focus to Mary. Her refreshing shower beer starts her caloric tab at 200 calories. The two shots she had before leaving for the bars were 300 calories. The three vodka lemon-aids which were roughly 300 calories, adds 900 calories to her caloric tab. Her two shots at the end of the night closed out her tab with a final 350 calories. In total Mary racked up a caloric tab of 1,950 calories, just as many calories as Dawn. Mary drank an equivalent to 6 cheeseburgers in one evening out. If Mary is like most college students; Friday night is not the only night she will be drinking; if she goes out for round two on Saturday Mary is looking at drinking over 11 cheeseburgers in two days! However, unlike the cheeseburgers, there is not any nutritional value to the 2,000-5,000 additional calories of alcohol.
Now even though both Dawn and Mary have ingested a considerable amount of extra calories their bodies are going to react differently. Alcohol is essentially a poisonous substance and your body will treat it as such. For the next 24-48 hours your body is going to go into DETOX mode. Most people feel that they can undo the damage they did by working out the following morning. In college I have spent one to many Saturday mornings next to someone whose body was pouring out the smell of stale beer. Their hope is to burn off the beer much like one would burn off those cheeseburgers. However, excessive calories from alcohol are very different. Unlike extra calories from food which contain energy, energy in which we can burn, alcohol actually shuts down your body’s fat burning capabilities for 24-48 hours in order to bring your body back to a homeostatic state. So those workouts will not start burning fat again until Monday or Tuesday if you drank all weekend.
In addition to fat storage caused by excessive caloric intake, in women alcohol creates an increase in the hormone estrogen. That same hormone that is responsible for our feminine features such as hips and our bust, can wreak havoc on our body when our estrogen levels are elevated. Any women that may have been put on the incorrect dose of birth control bills can attest to the unpleasant side effects. While some women may enjoy simply having a larger cup size without the pain and expense of going under the knife, the majority of women experience an increase in fat storage. Once they march into their OBGYN’s office and have their dose of estrogen changed their weight will go back down to normal. Think about excessive drinking as taking a double or triple dose of your birth control pills.
Any time a women binge drinks (which according to the CDC is anything over one drink for women, two drinks for men) her estrogen levels increases. That excess in hormone signals the body to store more fat, or worse create new fat cells. Weekend after weekend of excessive drinking can have detrimental effects on the female body; and not fitting into those skinny jeans could be the least of your problems. The continued increase in estrogen can eventually lead to more serious diseases such as breast cancer, heart disease, and even infertility.
So this Friday before you crack open that first beer of the night, ask yourself “do I really want to drink multiple cheeseburgers tonight?” Practice moderation, drink lots of water to help your body flush toxins and choose lower calorie drinks such as vodka and water. You will enjoy your weekends out and be able to rock those skinny jeans all year round.
Footnote: calorie estimates based on nutrition facts.
Thank you so much for the insight into how many calories I’ve really been ingesting!
Erica @ In and Around Town says
Great guest post! feeling better about my cheeseburger obsession 😉
Jillian D. says
What an awesome post and a great way to look at it!! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Becky @ Olives n Wine says
This is SO interesting! I especially appreciate the estrogen level discussion. I definitely don’t drink as much now as I did in college but am going to be even more aware of it now!
Runner Girl Eats says
I CRINGE when I think of how much I drank in college and how it was considered a normal night out. The empty calories REALLY sneak up on you and the after effects are crazy too. Thanks for sharing!
Best post I’ve read in a very long time! THANK YOU.
Tess S. says
Such an interesting and informative article. It’s so true that we easily “forget” about those calories consumed in alcohol for one reason or another. Thinking about it, the second character in the story could have easily saved 150 calories per lemonade vodka drink (450 calories saved right there) which doesn’t make those extra calories acceptable, but just goes to show how small changes can really add up. Great piece!
This is definitely eye opening. Alcohol is something that I think everyone trying to lose weight struggles with because it’s the thing we have the least control over. We can eat healthier and nobody will really judge us for our choices.. but there will ALWAYS be those people who say “What?! You’re not drinking?!” or… “You’re only having ONE DRINK?!” As if we are from another planet or something.
I get the point of this post but some of those calorie estimates are way off -- I mean, I wish a pint of B&J was only 550 calories, and those are a couple of big vodka shots for 300 cal! That aside I love what you said about how it’s socially acceptable, even condoned, to binge drink -- whereas binge eating is the exact opposite, yet drinking has the same impact on our bodies (or even worse as you pointed out). Thanks for the post and sorry to nitpick but couldn’t help myself, as someone who definitely took down a pint of B&J every now and then in college and then had to face up to the nutrition label.
lemonade would account for the extra calories.
what a great post! you should look at kimberly snyder’s blog too. she also has two health books that changed my life.
this is crazy!!! seriously downing thousands of calories in drinks….good thing I’m a lightweight! but really great to know all these things for sure- I’ll be keeping them in mind this weekend!
Marissa @ Barefoot Colorado says
This was very eye opening! I really did not know that your body won’t burn fat for a while afterwards… hmm who would’ve thought!
Rachel @ LouLouBelleBlog.com says
Great post! And what a wonderful way to put alcohol consumption into perspective! Thanks for the guest post!