With the hot summer days and barbecues ramping up, along with an underlying anxiety with the uncertainty of the world, many of us are finding good reason to have a cool “adult” beverage in our hand. I often get asked if alcohol can be incorporated into a healthy diet. The answer is — it depends.

If your goal is weight loss and enhanced immunity, then it’s best to steer clear and here’s why:

Alcohol is processed through the liver, and for 4-8 hours after downing a single shot, the liver will stop fat burn in order to process the alcohol. While the liver is preoccupied, the carbs from carb-heavy beverages like beer, sweetened drinks such as cosmos, margaritas, mojitos, or hard liquor with mixers (including tonic water) are building up with nowhere to go but into your fat stores.

Keep in mind that alcohol is calorie dense, and, unfortunately for us, has no nutritional value. It is the first fuel source to burn when ingested, which means that fat will not be utilized as long as alcohol is in the system. Depending upon your body size, one shot typically takes about 4-8 hours to process through the liver, but every subsequent shot adds on exponentially. Be aware that one night of heavy drinking, even if you’re drinking low carbohydrate beverages, could lead to 1-2 days of no fat burn.

The best choices of alcohol to drink while attempting to maintain your weight are hard liquors mixed with seltzer water or dry white or red wine (but be aware that no matter the type you choose, they will all cause the same reduction in fat burn).

From an immunity standpoint, alcohol compromises the immune system and has the potential to increase risk of poor health conditions. Also, it is during stressful times like these that we establish long lasting habits and relationships; thus, we want to be aware of the habitual relationships we are currently creating with our food and drink. As always, no matter what you choose, be sure to enjoy responsibly.

Ashley Lucas holds a PhD in sports nutrition and chronic disease. She is also a licensed, registered dietitian. She is the founder and owner of PHD Weight Loss and Nutrition, offering In-Office and At-Home/Virtual weight management and wellness services. Serving WNC and The Upstate. Visit or call 828-552-3333.

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