How alcohol inhibits fat loss
by - Dr Jeffrey Life
The benefit vs risk factors surrounding alcohol consumption are ongoing.
We’ve heard the research that says alcohol may be good for our hearts and help raise our levels of “good” cholesterol. For some of you, it may even be your favourite form of “liquid carbohydrate,” and carbs are essential to any nutrition plan, right? The truth of the matter, however, is that even though alcohol is a type of carbohydrate, we are unable to convert it into glucose and store it as glycogen. Instead, alcohol is a “priority fuel,” which means our body puts the metabolism of all nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) on hold and reduces many of its vital functions until every bit of the alcohol we have consumed is cleared from our bodies. In other words, our body is forced to devote all of its metabolic machinery to getting rid of alcohol—the toxin.
This creates problems with carbohydrate metabolism and causes very high as well as very low blood sugars and abnormal insulin levels, which can contribute to insulin resistance—the development of diabetes and abdominal obesity.
Fat accumulates in our liver and both muscle and liver glycogen stores are decreased. Our ability to burn our own body fat for energy comes to a complete standstill and, at the same time, excess calories we have eaten are immediately converted into fat, increasing our body fat. Our fat-loss efforts are temporarily sabotaged until all the alcohol is metabolized.
And, to make matters worse, calories from alcohol (Which there are many—7 per gram— almost as much as fat!) do not trigger satiety signals in the brain, and we remain just as hungry—frequently consuming even more calories.
In fact, for those who have trouble controlling their eating, alcohol can lower their inhibitions and break down their resolve, causing a total loss of control and setting the stage for binge eating.
And for many people, a drink can mean activation of triggers for certain high-calorie foods. This invariably results in a nutritional disaster that may take days to recover from. Alcohol is not a good drink for athletes for several other reasons as well.
For one, it is not a natural nutrient and its calories are “empty,” meaning that they are completely devoid of any beneficial nutrients.
Another problem, it has a dehydrating effect that results in the loss of valuable fluids that are all-important for the biochemical reactions and enzyme systems we all depend on for the energy we need to build muscle, burn body fat and exercise hard. Even small amounts of alcohol have a depressant effect on our central and peripheral nervous systems. This can interfere with our coordination and balance, which decreases our exercise performance including our strength, muscle endurance and aerobic endurance.
On the other hand, alcohol has been shown to actually reduce our risks for a heart attack or stroke by raising our levels of HDL, the “good cholesterol” which protects against atherogenesis (the development of fatty blockages in arteries) and inhibiting blood clotting.
The problem is that many people have used this as an excuse for drinking on a fairly regular (and I might add, fairly heavy) basis. Unfortunately, these benefits from alcohol were seen only in people that drank less than one drink a month, and they rapidly disappeared as consumption went above two drinks a day.
The other very big problem with alcohol is that it is easy to become dependent on it for our sense of well-being and relaxation.
Today, alcohol is the second most abused drug in the western world (nicotine is the first). It is responsible for more than 100,000 deaths
a year in the U.S., countless non-fatal illnesses and injuries and about 15 percent of all our healthcare costs. Ten percent of all that use it are addicted and another 10 percent to 20 percent are abusers or problem drinkers. So 30 percent of all drinkers shouldn’t be drinking at all!
Alcohol consumption contributes greatly to obesity and, at the same time, is also considered to be one of the major causes of nutritional deficiency. When consumed in excess, alcohol can injure virtually any part of your body and can cause high blood pressure, myocardial injury (weakened heart muscle), muscle weakness, erectile dysfunction, some forms of cancer, liver disease and diabetes. When you put all this together, you may decide that alcohol is just not worth all the potential problems it can cause. Over the past few years, I have come to believe that alcohol really makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for me to achieve and maintain my fitness and physique goals. I have, therefore, chosen to not drink alcoholic beverages. If you do, however, enjoy an occasional beer or other alcoholic beverage after a hard workout or for social reasons, be sure to keep well-hydrated by consuming plenty of extra water while you are drinking. And, be sure you consume your beer or wine with a filling meal that’s low in energy density.
Remember, drinking in moderation means no more than one drink per day - that is 125ml - hardly worth the effort.
If you drink alcohol on a regular basis, I would suggest that you give your body a rest from alcohol two to three days a week. Don’t drink on an empty stomach to avoid intestinal irritation, and be sure to take your B-complex supplement daily to replace the B vitamins you lose from the alcohol, especially B1 (thiamine).