You can't always have your wine and drink it, too -- at least not when you're trying to achieve a flat stomach. Not only can a fruity cocktail bust your diet in a few gulps, but alcohol may lead to bloating and even increase levels of belly fat. Plus, women are more vulnerable to the negative effects of excess alcohol consumption, such as liver disease and premature menopause, according to Harvard Health Publications -- so regardless of weight goals, limit alcohol to one drink per day.
Alcohol and Calories
To lose belly fat, you need to shed fat from your entire body -- and the only way to accomplish this is to take in fewer calories through food and drinks than you burn through physical activity. At 7 calories per gram, alcohol contains nearly double the calories of carbs or protein -- and sugary mixed drinks can pack hundreds of calories into a single glass. Alcohol also triggers "the munchies" and lowers inhibition, making you more likely to overeat. Even if you do manage to drink alcohol and stick to your calorie goals, you lose out nutritionally because alcohol contains few if any vitamins or minerals.
Alcohol and Belly Fat
Not only can booze throw your diet into a tailspin, but it may actually tell your body to store fat precisely where you don't want it: your belly. That's because the enzymes used to metabolize alcohol are concentrated in your abdominal region, where they convert those calories into fat, according to registered dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman. You may know this phenomenon as the "beer belly," but all types of alcohol may produce a similar effect.
Achieving a flat belly requires more than just fat loss -- you need to knock out bloating, as well. As a diuretic, alcohol leads to dehydration, which in turn spurs your body to retain water as a conservation effort. When you retain water, your belly becomes bloated along with the rest of your body. What's more, women are more prone to bloating, according to the West Virginia University Student Rec Center, because their tissues more readily expand in order to accommodate pregnancy.
A perfectly flat belly isn't in the cards for everyone, and genetics determine how slim your stomach becomes; however, by losing total body weight you can shrink your stomach proportionately. Accomplish this by living on whole, natural foods such as crunchy veggies, juicy fruits, beans, low-fat dairy and whole-grain products -- all in controlled portions. In addition, aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise per day, five days per week -- jogging, swimming and cycling are all good choices. At least twice weekly, perform strength-training exercises, which include lifting weights or doing squats, pushups and yoga moves.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.