Welcome to blog post Monday! Today’s topic is alcohol, and yes, everyones least favorite subject because nobody wants to quit drinking. I understand times have been tough for everyone during COVID and work, but the detriment effects of drinking will not only impact your weight, but will also impact your mental health and clarity.
Back to the reason we’re here. From my own clients, to members of the public, I’m here to provide with the bad news, alcohol IS preventing you from losing weight and achieving your transformation! We are about to understand why this happens. But before we do, take a minute to reflect on why you started this journey in the first place. For some it is vanity, for others it is for loved ones, and for many it is for health. We are all well aware on the detrimental effects alcohol has on our health and wellbeing, here’s more;
The Empty Calories for Alcohol
Hopefully I have educated my clients enough and with the vast amount of research available to us now, I think many of you are aware of the calories in each of our standard macro nutrients. One gram of Protein contains 4kcal, Carbohydrates 4kcal and Fats 9kcal. But what you may or may not realize is that alcohol contains 7kcal per gram.
So what does “empty calories” mean anyway? What is doesn’t mean is that they’re negligible or irrelevant. Empty calories basically means alcohol provides us with calories however with little to no nutrient benefit whatsoever.
For example; One 12oz can of beer contains approximately 155 calories, while one 5oz glass of red wine contains 125 calories. Now take a look at your typical night out when you consume 3 or more drinks, thats 375cals that are absolutely useless to you! And this isn’t even including any of the mixers you may add.
Primary Fuel Source
When you consume alcohol, your body chooses to burn/metabolize this first before any other macronutrient. Meaning glucose from carbohydrates or lipids from fats.
The reason for this is due to the fact that alcohol is metabolized in the liver, and because the body recognizes it as a poison, it has priority over everything else. When this happens, alcohol becomes the primary energy source and we don’t end up using out fat stores and excess glucose.
Further to this, excessive alcohol consumption can result in what is known as “alcoholic fatty liver.” This damage to the liver impacts its ability to metabolize and store carbohydrates at fats. Altering this makes it even more challenging to lose weight!
Excess Belly Fat
The “beer gut” isn’t just a myth, and its not just attributed to drinking beer. Foods high in simple sugars such as candy, soda and beer are also high in calories, not to mention they’re super easy to consume in multitude! Extra calories are stored as fat in the body. Simple, if you consume more calories than you expend, you WILL gain weight.
Unfortunately with alcohol, a 1996 study on moderate alcohol consumption and its relation to visceral fat and plasma androgens in healthy women discovered that both waist circumference and waist-hip ratio as well as plasma androgens increased with daily alcohol intake. Furthermore the results of this study found that moderate alcohol consumption also correlates with abdominal distribution of body fat.(1)
Alcohol and Sex Hormones
Many research papers depict how alcohol impacts our hormones, in particular, testosterone.
Testosterone is a sex hormone that played a role in many metabolic processes, including muscle formation and fat burning capabilities. Yes, ladies, you also have testosterone, it is important hormone for all of us!
Research shows that after only 30minutes of alcohol consumption, testosterone has declined.
How does this happen?
When you drink alcohol, the body must metabolize ethanol, alcohols primary compound. Ethanol metabolic lowers the amount of NAD+, a coenzyme responsible for testosterone production in the liver and testes.
In addition to a decline in the production of testosterone, alcohol can also cause an increase in estrogen, the female sex hormone, testosterone converted in to estrogen AND increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can destroy testosterone. (We all know what cortisol does to our belly fat!)
To add insult to injury, low testosterone levels may predict the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Potentially resulting in the following;
High blood pressure
High blood sugar levels
High body mass index
Furthermore, alcohol consumption impacts your sleep schedule, which decreases your ability to produce testosterone.
Alcohol Impacts Digestion and Nutrient Uptake
Alcohol causes stress to the stomach and the intestines, decreasing digestive secretions and movement of food through the digestive tract.
Digestive secretions are an important component of maintaining healthy digestion. They enable us to break down the food we consume in to basic macro and micronutrients in order for us to absorb them and use them in the body. Alcohol intake impairs our bodies ability to perform this task and greatly impacts the metabolism of organs that play a vital role in weight management.
I understand that alcohol may be a necessary part of life for many AND summer is around the corner, but in order to get the desired effect from weight-loss through training, maintaining and building lean muscle and losing fat from that lower belly, cut the alcohol and make the change!
Cigolini M, Targher G, Bergamo Andreis IA, Tonoli M, Filippi F, Muggeo M, De Sandre G. Moderate alcohol consumption and its relation to visceral fat and plasma androgens in healthy women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1996 Mar;20(3):206-12. PMID: 8653140.