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Carbohydrates In Alcohol

A Dieter’s Guide to Carbohydrates in Alcohol

As you may or may not know, there are indeed carbohydrates in alcohol.  Although the carbohydrate count is low, most diet regimes recommend staying away from some kinds of alcohol, like beer, for example.  We have all, of course, heard of the infamous “beer belly.”

Yet other kinds of alcoholic beverages seem not to have the same negative association.  Some wine lovers claim that wine, for example, can be a healthy dietary supplement if taken in moderation.  While our Russian friends argue that Vodka will not produce any negative affects when you hop on the scale the next day.  So what are we to make of these seemingly contradictory statements?

Differentiating Alcohol from Carbohydrates

Although there are carbohydrates in alcohol, they are, of course, not identical.  Our digestive system treats them very differently, for example.  If we only consider them in terms of their pure energy producing capacity, we can see that there are some even more suggestive differences.  Our digestive system seems to prioritize the calories it takes from alcohol, dissolving its calories first before carbohydrates, proteins, and fat from other sources.

Why does our system prioritize alcohol?  This is partly because our digestive system recognizes alcohol as a toxin that needs special attention and partly because alcohol, because of its composition goes to the walls of the liver first where the liver goes to work on dissolving it before getting to work on any other carbohydrates, proteins, or fats that may also be present.  Furthermore, since the carbohydrates contained in alcohol have no real nutritional value, these carbs simply turn into fat in the body.

Atkins type diets, with their emphasis on low carb intake, argue against beer and wine drinking in the initial stages of the diet.  The dietary reasoning here is that if you add the alcoholic wild card to your diet, you will cause your blood sugar levels to rollercoaster in an unpredictable fashion.  In addition, often you are doing so little eating in the early phases of dieting that the wallop of alcoholic beverages is a bit overwhelming.

Why are there carbohydrates in alcohol?   

Both the source of wine (grapes) and the source of beer (wheat hops) are growths that have high carbohydrate counts.  So why aren’t there even more carbohydrates in alcohol?  Fermentation reduces the carbohydrate counts because the yeasts that are a part of this process, feed on the carbohydrates.  In fact, this feeding creates alcohol.  The surviving sugars are what determine the final carbohydrate count of the alcoholic beverage.  For example, a dark red wine like port might be very low in carbohydrates, while one of these fruity “yuppie” wines that were so popular in the nineties with the Dockers wearing crowd might be fairly high in carbs.  In addition, many vintners will add even more sugars to sweeten their beverages even more; this, of course, also increases the carb count.

On the other hand, alcoholic beverages like vodka and whisky do not have any carbs.  This is because they have been distilled rather than fermented.  This high temperature process gets rid of carbohydrates in these beverages.  However, just as with wines, companies often add carbs when they add sweeteners to make them into fruity mixes.  If you are at a bar, a good way of avoiding getting the extra carbs is to substitute lemon or lime juice instead of getting pre-mixed drink.

Certain types of drinks, however, already come mixed and there is simply no way of avoiding the extra carbohydrates.


Other Negative Affects of Alcohol

If your main concern is dieting, alcohol also has some other negative effects as well.  Alcohol will sap the moisture from your body, dehydrating you.  This is because it is a diuretic.  Not only does alcohol dry you out, it also keeps you from getting the positive effects of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.  Without these minerals, you are more prone to cramping and muscle fatigue, meaning that you are less likely to get an adequate workout—probably the best way to lose weight.

Therefore, if you’re really serious about weight loss, put down your shot glass and squeeze on your running shoes.

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