Alcohol. Love it, hate it, or abstain from it, it’s a confusing subject when it comes to health, fat loss, an
d metabolism. To figure out if and how much alcohol can be included in your meal plan, you have to take a look at your overall goals. Are you trying to lose fat? What types of alcohol do you usually drink, and how much at once? Are you in control when you drink and able to make good decisions regarding other foods and drinks, your health and safety?
While alcohol is not a bad choice healthwise, and it does provide some health benefits (it can raise good cholesterol, and some types, such as organic red wines, have antioxidants and health-promoting components), too much at once is an absolute drag to your metabolism. Binge drinking must be avoided for anyone who’s seriously trying to lose fat. And, while many might think binges only happen in frat-house parties, I’ve found that many adults unwind with 5, 6, or 8 drinks on a weekend night after a hard week. Here
’s why it’s a metabolism and fat loss saboteur:
1) First, there’s the issue of the calories. Hard liquor contains ~100 calories per shot. Wine has ~150 calories per 6 oz. And beer is variable depending on its alcohol content, but usually spans between 80 and 250 calo
ries per 12 oz. (many times, the darker the more caloric). That’s just for the alcohol. Then, add any flavoring or mixes with it (I talking to us margarita-lovers) and you can easily top 600 calories per drink. During a real binge, 5+ of these drinks can completely wipe away any efforts at the calorie or carbohydrate deficit you’ve created over the week.
2) Next, it relaxes any inhibitions about overeating food. Sure, if you’re eating broccoli while drinking beer, there’s little chance of a food calorie overload or issues (besides maybe a lot of gas:)). But, most alcohol-food combos involve rich, high-calorie party foods, desserts, salty snacks, etc. Not only is the calorie/carb deficit wiped out, there’s a good chance of being in the red and causing a gain in weight/fat post-binge.
3) Alcohol, once converted to acetate in your bloodstream, becomes your body’s fuel source. Sounds great, right? Surely, you’ll burn it off. Well, the issue is that you’re not burning fat. In fact, fat breakdown becomes completely halted as your body and your liver deal with burning through the acetate. A big binge can affect fat oxidation (breakdown) for as many as 3 days. Now, not only have you wiped out the calorie deficit for last week, you’ve annihilated any chance of fat breakdown for half of next week.
4) Then, binge drinking reduces testosterone. For both men and women, lower levels of testosterone means reduced muscle mass and higher fat mass. It means less daily calorie/fat burn and more fat accumulation as hormones are imbalanced. Testosterone is your metabolism’s friend. We lose it slowly as we age – don’t expedite the process!
5) Lastly, while you may feel extra-relaxed after a binge, binge drinking can screw up your natural circadian rhythms, which messes up your blood sugars and glucose metabolism (with or without carb intake, this can increase fat storage and reduce oxidation), cortisol balance (this stress hormone leads to fat accumulation) and sleep patterns. All of these spell trouble for metabolism and fat breakdown.
If you’re one of the many who looks forward to a drink with dinner every night, and it’s part of your calorie allotment or you’re at your goal weight, cheers! Even if you’re actively trying to lose fat, a portion-controlled evening drink, or even a couple on the weekends in place of a nightly treat can still work. You’ve got to enjoy life, right? But, if you look forward to 10 drinks on the weekend and you’re frustrated because you’re not meeting your fat-loss goals, stop the party-bus. Enjoy the company, the event, and the conversation rather than the drinks. If you can handle keeping your drinks to only a couple, that’s a start. If this ball rolls out of control the minute the first drip hits your lips, it’s time to set your goals and take a break from this habit.
I like alcohol, too. And, when it’s consumed in a smart manner, it can be a small part of most anyone’s eating plan. Enjoy life, but don’t spend your time being frustrated with fat loss while sabotaging yourself each weekend. Make up your mind, determine your goals, and work on daily habits to meet them. You can do it!
Eat Clean. Train Mean. Get Lean. ~Fresh Fit Life~
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