Alcohol and Body Fat
You already know what is the connection between the heavy alcohol consumption and muscle growth. You should also know by now that weight loss and weight gain all come down to energy balance—how many calories you consume versus how many calories you burn. Yet, you can often hear that you must avoid alcohol if you want to lose weight. So, it can be hard to believe that it’s possible to drink alcohol and lose weight. Or maybe it’s not that hard to believe? Therefore, it’s time to inspect the real connection between alcohol and body fat (alcohol and weight loss).
If you don’t currently consume alcohol and don’t plan to, you can skip this post. If you do imbibe, take the time to read this information and make your own decisions. We realize that drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and we’re not about to lecture you or say that you must give it up. But we are going to make a strong argument that you should attempt to limit your consumption of alcohol as much as possible. This will greatly improve your ability to reach a higher level of fitness and your goal weight, especially when it comes to weight and fat loss.
#1 problem: calories in alcoholic drinks
To start, consuming alcohol has a few strikes against it when it comes to your body weight and your well-being. Alcohol’s first problem is that it has a lot of calories! Take a look at the following comparison of calorie sources:
|Calorie sources||Calories per gram|
As you can see, alcohol has almost as many calories as pure fat.
Also, it is important to remember that the calories in alcoholic drinks come from more than just alcohol (alcohol contains 7 calories per gram). Most alcoholic drinks contain calories from a combination of alcohol and carbs, either from added or residual sugar.
Strictly speaking, the calories from alcohol are no different from the calories in carbs, protein, or fat. As long as you consume fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. What’s different between the calories from alcohol and the calories from carbs, protein, and fats is the way that our body metabolizes it.
#2 problem: alcohol causes you to store food as fat
How the body processes alcohol? Why alcohol causes you to store food as fat?
Carbs, protein, and fats are functional nutrients for the human body. The body’s metabolism is designed to use their calories for a range of physiological functions. The body also has specific pathways to store excess calories from carbs, protein, and fats. The situation with alcohol is slightly different.
Alcohol is metabolized differently than carbs, protein, and fats because it’s a toxin. The calories from alcohol are broken down into a compound called acetate. But the human body has very little capacity to turn acetate into body fat. In fact, research has found that as little as 5% of the calories from pure alcohol (ethanol) is stored as body fat. Since the calories from alcohol aren’t easily stored, the body must prioritize the use of alcohol for energy. While your body burns the calories from alcohol, the body reduces the use of carbs and fats for energy.
Therefore, the honest truth is that alcohol and fat loss are definitely not friends.
#3 problem: alcohol can stimulate your appetite and increase the urge for tasty high-calorie foods
Now if you only consumed the same number of calories as you burned, then you’d have nothing to worry about. The problem is that most people don’t compensate for the calories in alcohol by eating less. In fact, most people tend to do the opposite because alcohol can stimulate your appetite and increase the urge for tasty high-calorie foods. As a result, alcohol can cause some people to consume as much as 25% more calories from food alone.
#4 problem: alcohol is even worse than eating pure fat
As you can see, alcohol has almost as many calories as pure fat, and when it comes to gaining weight, alcohol is even worse than eating pure fat. Fat has nutrients that you need, alcohol doesn’t. Fat also plays a role in telling you when you’re full, and the inclusion of it in your diet can actually help you stop eating at meals. Alcohol, however, is absorbed almost immediately from the stomach and dumped right into the bloodstream. From there, it can be quickly converted to body fat. Since it doesn’t occupy any space in your stomach, you can drink it and then immediately fill up on foods to double the damage!
#5 problem: Alcohol slows down your metabolism
But probably the worst effect of alcohol as far as your weight is concerned is that it slows down your metabolism. This effect can linger for days, changing the rate at which you burn calories.
Testosterone, which has a powerful fat loss effect, is reduced whenever alcohol is consumed, thus halting its full potential as a fat burner.
Maintaining the balance between fat-burning and fat-storing hormones is a crucial factor in losing weight. Having high levels of just one fat-storing hormone can completely wipe out all of the effects of the fat-burning hormones, and alcohol will disrupt this delicate balance.
#6 problem: negative motivational effects
Alcohol consumption can have negative motivational effects as well. It’s no secret that alcohol tends to dampen your enthusiasm for eating the right foods. And it certainly doesn’t make you feel like having strong workouts. Athletes asking about alcohol and fat loss are usually seeking some kind of justification for their drinking.
Simple ways to cut down on your consumption of alcohol
Since alcohol and fat loss do not go hand in hand, here are simple and effective ways to cut down your consumption of alcoholic drinks:
- When you feel like having a drink, try nonalcoholic beverages. Healthy snack foods can also be a substitute. You can also try hot, herbal tea or soup, since having something warm can be a comfort.
- When you feel like having a drink to relax, find alternative activities to do. Take a walk, play a sport, read a novel, take a bubble bath, meditate, or just play soothing music.
- When you do imbibe, use less alcohol in your drinks. You can make a wine spritzer with sparkling water or cut your hard liquor drinks with water, tonic, or other mixers. Or follow your first drink with club soda with a twist of lime.
- Be sure to have plenty of water and try eating before you attend a social event at which you know alcohol will be served. By being full, you’ll feel less like drinking once you’re there.
- One drink is considered to equal one ounce of hard liquor, one glass (or six ounces) of wine, or twelve ounces (one can) of beer. With that in mind, estimate your average weekly alcoholic drink consumption. If you’re not sure of what your normal consumption is, keep an accurate record for one week. You can use the log below to do this. Be sure that the week you choose represents a typical week for you.
Closing thoughts about alcohol and fat loss
While the calories from alcohol aren’t inherently fattening, alcohol often causes us to eat and drink more than we should. Therefore, to balance alcohol and weight loss, we simply need to manage how much we eat and drink.
In short, if you need to lose weight, avoiding alcohol is a wise decision. There’s no doubt that consuming alcohol makes the weight loss process that much more difficult. All told, alcohol derails your weight loss efforts in direct proportion to how much you consume. So our advice? Eliminate it if you can. If you’re not willing to go that far, then at least cut your consumption in half. Simply estimate the amount of alcohol that you consume in an average week and cut that amount in half. This will dramatically help your weight loss efforts. Isn’t it really the first glass of wine that tastes the best anyway?
Just remember that the more you restrict your alcohol consumption, the lower your weight will be and the better your overall health will be. You’ll also notice that the fitter you become, the more sensitive you’ll be to alcohol, making it easier to further cut your consumption.
Alcohol and weight loss are important to think about. Especially if you have been stuck in your endeavor to lose fat.