Bad News; Alcohol is Making You Fat

ALCOHOL CAN AND WILL MAKE YOU FAT

If this happens to catch you mid-sip on a glass of wine or beer, then grab some water while I take you on a journey; not exactly a magical one, but it will be mind boggling for sure.

When it comes to consuming alcohol, most people can wedge themselves into one of these categories:

  • Casually having one drink with dinner

  • A bit less casually having a bunch of drinks with dinner

  • Going cold turkey during the week, but then tossing a few back Thursday thru Sunday

  • Taking a a week or two of sobriety, but then binge a few dozen like you’re on college spring break

  • Not being someone who consumes alcohol at all (aside from a rare celebratory champagne toast)

If you happen to be one of the few who don’t drink at all, you may not find this article extremely helpful for your personal body. However, I absolutely encourage you to share this with someone who does, plus, it’s a great way to host a party without sabotaging the health of your guests…unless you’re into that sorta thing, not cool.

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You’re probably wondering how having a mezcal mule, dirty martini or delicious IPA can contribute to weight gain, ability to utilize foods as fuel and take a hit on your fitness.

I WONDERED THE SAME THING BEFORE HEARING ABOUT IT…THIS IS NOT A DRILL PEOPLE, SUPER SERIOUS STUFF

If you’ve made it this far, then you are interested enough to potentially alter a habit and improve your body, +1 for you, I love it! Before diving in, this isn’t a post saying not to enjoy celebrations, gatherings, or the luxury of rewarding yourself with an over-21 adult beverage (to an extent, of course). It’s important to exercise that ability too. Rather, it is to make you aware of how to not sabotage your body through when you drink, what is actually happening, and avoiding storing unnecessary macro-nutrients in all the wrong places. Now let’s dive in.

HOW ALCOHOL MAKES YOU FAT, WITHOUT IT HAVING ANY FAT

It’s not voodoo magic, but it is absolutely true. To see what I mean, let’s follow our good friend Oliver as he is having his glass vodka lemonade on the rocks, his favorite.

As he takes his sip(s) of vodka & sugar free-lemonade, the alcohol enters the digestion process. To be broken down and absorbed, it splits into two compounds, fat and acetate. The fat is transported and stored wherever he primarily holds fat, and the acetate enters the bloodstream to be used as Oliver’s fuel. Uh oh, we have a problem.

The primary fuel our body uses are those macro-nutrients we eat; fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It as if the acetate throws handcuffs on them and sneaks its way throughout our body, creating a surplus of fats, carbs, and protein with nowhere to go or be utilized. But then what happens to it? That’s right, stored as pesky fat in all the wrong places.

A very small amount of fat is derived of the alcohol itself, but the main effect of alcohol is the reduction in burning pre-consumed fat as an energy source. After consuming the vodka, Oliver’s acetate levels measured 2.5x over the normal, putting an aggressive halt on his fat loss.

OH DAMN, SHNIT JUST GOT REAL

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Yeah, you bet it did! A study showed that even consuming two vodka and sugar-free lemonade drinks (totaling less than 200 calories) showed a a reduction in whole body lipid oxidation (a measure of how much fat your body is burning) by more than 70% (source)

In this graph, the left bar represents fat burning prior to alcohol consumption with the right being after consumption.

So let’s recap quickly:

  • Alcohol is broken down in the body into fat and acetate
  • Acetate is metabolized as energy before fats, carbs, and proteins in your body
  • Acetate is responsible for drastically slowing the body’s ability to burn fat
  • By suppressing the ability to use especially fats as a fuel, it is easily stored everywhere you don’t want it to

But There’s a Catch. At social gatherings, parties, or restaurants, alcohol gets a bad reputation in regards to weight loss because it acts as an potent appetizer; an aperitif.

Aperitif : An alcoholic drink taken before a meal to increase the appetite.

So that waiter/waitress who is extremely kind enough to offer the drink list prior to ordering food is priming you to consume more food and sabotaging weight management…so think about that before leaving a hefty tip. Studies have shown a spike in caloric intake when alcohol is consumed prior to a meal when compared to water or even soda or a soft drink. Restaurants aren’t dumb, but the host of that party might not know, and can unknowingly be providing a great time mixed with over-consumption.

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It is extremely easy to float into the heavy moderate/heavy drinking category, especially when surrounded by others drinking. Precision Nutrition is great at assisting develop mindfulness and positive habits for nutrition, and alcohol falls into that category too!

Learn More How Precision Nutrition Can Change the Way You Think of Eating Here

GOING COLD TURKEY ISN’T THE ONLY WAY, IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE

A German study consisting of 49 overweight subjects were assigned to one of two 1500-calorie diets. The first included a glass of white wine every day, while the other a glass of grape juice (no wine).

After three months, the first group (consuming white wine) resulted in a higher amount of weight lost – 10.4 pounds – versus 8.3 ponds lost by the juice drinkers. Eliminating alcohol isn’t the magical answer, it is all about balance, moderation, and mindfulness. The over-consumption of anything can have negative, non-ideal effects.

Practicality let’s me believe this won’t make you give up drinking alcohol. But, what it should being is awareness for your next social event or while sitting back after a long workweek, so I will leave you with some takeaways to implement right away:

  • Use lots of ice. It makes your drink seem larger without adding more (plus it will stay uber cold)

  • If forced to choose between soda or a fruit juice mixer, opt for the fruit juice (or club soda)

  • Drink water as much as possible. 2 glasses of water per drink of alcohol as a good rule of thumb

  • Avoid snacking while drinking! The salty pretzels, buts, and hors d’oeuvres are a trap

  • Buy higher quality alcohol. Pay some extra cash to sip it slowly and savor it. It will help reduce over-comsumption while giving you a more rewarding taste

Our best intentions disappear while drinking, so set yourself up in a position where those daunting decisions are mitigated. And be sure to follow up with a dose healthy fats or protein before bed or early the next day instead of a pizza, salty snacks, or refrigerator raiding to curb the cravings. A handful of quality nuts or avocado with black pepper & aztec salt will help get your body back on track. So next time, avoid self sabotage without sacrificing a good time with some extra mindfulness!

Wishing You Great Health and Strength,

Sean

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