Many of us have gone through the beer binge/food binge cycle where we pound the drinks and put on the pounds. No one is surprised by a headache and belly bloat the next morning. On International Beer Day, the key to avoiding a hangover and the weight gain is to drink in moderation.

Moderate drinking is defined as having up to four alcoholic drinks for men and three for women in any single day, for a maximum of 14 drinks for men and seven drinks for women per week, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA). Yet, 23 percent of adult men admit to binge drinking five times a month, averaging eight drinks per binge, while 12 percent of adult women admit to binge drinking three times a month for an average of five drinks per binge. This kind of drinking can easily lead to a bloated belly, and as a result, weight gain.

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When we drink alcohol, it temporarily stops our body from burning fat, since the body can't store calories from alcohol the way it does for food. Therefore, the metabolic system prioritizes getting rid of alcohol first, and whatever we ate prior to drinking will get stored as fat. Alcohol decreases fat burn in the belly, hence why we often hear about getting a "beer belly."

"It takes at least an hour for the liver to process a standard drink: 12-ounce (oz.) beer;  5-oz. wine; 1.5 oz. hard liquor," Dr. Keith Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist and registered dietician at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, N.Y., told Medical Daily.

This means having a couple of drinks within an hour can have a dramatic effect on our body's fat burning ability. For example, a UC Berkeley study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people who drank an ounce of alcohol from two cocktails had a 73 percent decrease in fat burning after two hours. The consumption of large quantities of alcohol add on the calories and have a negative effect on the body's fat burning ability.

Therefore, to have your beer and drink it too, even if you're on a diet, follow these five tips to prevent weight gain.

Know the difference between light beer, low-alcohol beer, and low-carb beer

"Light" beer, "low-alcohol" beer, and "low-carb" beer sound like attractive options for people who want to limit their beer calories. But, it's important to know the differences between these three types of beer before you order a light draft at the bar. Light beer has been brewed to be lower in alcohol, lower in calories, or both, while low-carb beer has been brewed to remove carbohydrates, but it could still have the same alcohol content.

This suggests a low-carb beer could have a very similar calorie content as a regular beer. As for light beers, they're lower in alcohol, but some drinkers may have more, because it takes a higher quantity to get the same buzz. In the end, drinkers may end up consuming more calories and more alcohol than intended.

Moreover, light beers can vary by brand. For example, Bud Light has 110 calories and 6.6 grams of carbohydrates per 12 oz., while Coors Light has 102 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates. Therefore, light beers are brewed with minimal ingredients to be made light, which means they end up with almost no nutritional value. Contrastingly, Samuel Adams Boston Lager has 2 grams of protein and 270 milligrams of potassium.

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If you can drink beers moderately, then light beers may be a good choice for dieters.

Drink slow and steady

Drinking beer slow and steady is integral to moderation. It takes at least an hour for the liver to process a standard drink, therefore, drinking one beer in under an hour will lead the body slow down its fat burning ability and store more fat in the body.

According to Ayoob, "The more slowly you drink any alcoholic beverage, the more time you give your body to metabolize it.

A Canadian review also supports this belief: researchers found moderate volumes of alcohol do have heart-friendly benefits, but only if the volume is spread out evenly, with one or two drink a day, rather than sporadic binges. Specifically, an average of one to three drinks a day was tied to a reduction in the risk of heart-related disease and death as much as 60 percent. But, these results varied across different studies, which means beer's heart-protective effect is borderline.

Drink water before, during, and after

A drink of water for every drink of alcohol can help with moderation and preventing a hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it will cause us to become dehydrated. But, if we drink plenty of water before drinking, this will keep us from feeling thirsty and prompt us to drink slowly.

Ayoob adds: "It substitutes water for an alcoholic drink of the same volume."

Watch the shape of your beer glass.

The shape of our beer glass has an effect in our drinking behaviors. A 2015 study found using straight-sided glasses led to less alcohol consumption than drinking from curved glasses. Moreover, when glasses included marked volume measurements, drinkers had a slower drinking rate of 10 minutes compared to 9.1 minutes

People who are mindful of their drink portion and glass size are better able to monitor their intake. According to Ayoob, if a standard portion of beer is about 12-oz., or 360 milliliters (ml), this would be about 154 calories. Therefore, an 8-oz. glass would have about 100 calories. Light beer will have less, depending on its alcohol content, from 55 to 95 calories in a 12-oz.

Eat protein

Indulging in protein before or during drinking can help curb how many beers we drink in one sitting. Protein is a satiating macronutrient and has a  thermic effect of food (TEF) of 20 to 30 percent, which means 20 to 30 percent of the calories in protein are used when the body's processing it. A protein-rich meal before drinking will control blood alcohol levels.

Protein is effective in decreasing the absorption rate and increasing the elimination rate of alcohol. High-protein meals can stimulate the liver and delay gastric emptying, reducing alcohol entering the bloodstream to under 40 percent. This means a good meal can cut the potential damage of alcohol in half.

Good proteins include, turkey, grilled chicken, and tuna, among many others.

These five tips will help you enjoy your beer without the belly bloat.

See Also:

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