COVID-19, Prediabetes

Alcohol and Prediabetes During COVID-19

Five Ways Alcohol Can Cause Weight Gain
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

If you have prediabetes, weight loss, exercise, and healthy eating may be just what the doctor ordered to slow or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. A healthy lifestyle can often lower blood sugar and reverse insulin resistance, but COVID-19 may put a damper on efforts to make healthy choices.

The pandemic, which has upended so many aspects of pre-pandemic life, has made it difficult for many people to hit health goals, as gyms may be closed or feel unsafe to use, food may be too close for comfort when staying at home so much, and stress may cause anxiety, fatigue, and difficulty following intended healthy behaviors. 

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Those trends are bad news if you are trying to lose weight to lower diabetes risk, and there is another trend that may add fuel to the fire: home alcohol consumption has increased during COVID-19. It is up by 5 to 10%, and drinking while working from home has become far from uncommon [1].

Too much alcohol can be harmful for anyone, and there are additional concerns if you have prediabetes.

Alcohol and Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a condition with higher-than-normal blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance in the body.

Effects of alcohol can include higher blood pressure and higher blood triglyceride levels. Both of these are risk factors for heart disease, and people with prediabetes are already at higher risk for heart disease.

Alcohol, COVID-19, and Weight Gain

Weight loss is a primary goal within your Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) because losing extra weight can dramatically lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can make weight loss more difficult if it is harder to get in a workout or stress or boredom eating has increased. 

Alcohol consumption can also lead to weight gain for many reasons

  • Alcohol has calories, say, 100 to 200 per drink.
  • People are likely to eat high-calorie foods while drinking.
  • Alcohol can lead to feelings of hunger after drinking although the body does not need those calories.
  • Low blood sugar from alcohol may lead to carb and sugar cravings.

Why are people drinking more at home? In part, it is likely because there is nowhere else to go. Bars and restaurants may be closed or perceived as risky places for spreading COVID-19, so social drinking may move to the home using video chats to connect. In addition, workplaces are closed, and happy hours may be taking place at home, too.

Stress and anxiety may be leading to home drinking. In addition, people may choose to drink while working from home – but keep in mind that employers may have alcohol use policies and employees can easily get caught.

Bucking the Trend

Why let alcohol and a pandemic get in the way of all that hard work to lose weight and reverse insulin resistance? These are some strategies for reducing alcohol use at home.

  • Finding something else to do when the urge to drink happens.
  • Building and using a social support system.
  • Keeping alcohol out of the home.
  • Setting a daily maximum of 1 drink (women) or 2 drinks (men).

Professional help may be necessary if drinking is interfering with daily life, is out of your control, or is otherwise becoming a problem.

Safe(r) Drinking with Prediabetes

If you are intent on having the occasional drink, there are ways to do it more safely with prediabetes. For example, never drink on an empty stomach. Having a light snack or meal before having a drink can slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, as can drinking slowly. Of course, it is necessary to also take the same precautions everyone should take, such as not driving while under the influence. Sticking to your predetermined limit is the best route to go.

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While drinking, having a few lower-carb, nutritious foods, such as yogurt, chicken, and salads can help limit calorie consumption and keep down carb cravings later. Drinking plenty of water while drinking alcohol can help prevent dehydration and reduce alcohol-induced feelings of hunger.

The risks of alcohol are likely to outweigh the benefits of drinking, but there are safer ways to drink if you do choose to drink. Keeping it under control and limiting extra calories can help you stay on track with weight loss and your healthy lifestyle for prediabetes.