People are often shocked when I inform them that their alcoholic beverages are preventing them from getting leaner. True, a glass of red wine a day has been linked with many health benefits. Unfortunately fat burning is not one of them. If getting leaner is on your priority list, then I’m afraid you need to ditch the grog, or at least really limit its consumption. Otherwise, no matter how well you are eating and training, your efforts will go unnoticed.
Here are some crucial facts about alcohol and its effects on your body:
Alcohol prevents lipolysis. In lament’s terms, lipolysis being the body’s natural ability to break down fat in cells. Whilst you have alcohol in your blood stream, lipolysis is not happening. So if you have spent the day eating super clean, and trained like a trooper you just counteracted all of that hard work with your glass of red, white or gold.
Alcohol also prevents protein synthesis which then effects the repair and rebuilding of cells in the body. This means you won’t be able to build muscle whilst alcohol is in the blood stream. The less muscle you have, the less fat that will be metabolized (burned).
Alcohol decreases the amount of digestive enzymes your body produces from the pancreas, preventing your body from breaking down nutrients from your food, into usable molecules. This leads to nutrient deficiencies. These nutrient deficiencies can lead to further absorption issues. An example of this is the deficiency of folate. Folate contributes to the formation of the cells lining the small intestine. This can then further impair the absorption of other nutrients including water, vitamins and minerals.
Alcohol interferes with the production of GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), which is a primary neurotransmitter. GABA acts to calm the central nervous system, acting as a natural tranquilizer. When the body does not create enough GABA the body’s nerve cells continue to fire excessively, leaving a person in the state of angst most of the time. Low GABA levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, cognitive impairment, premenstrual tension, sleep issues and much more. So if you are drinking to help ‘relax after a busy day’ (which I often hear from clients), you are in fact physiologically, doing the opposite by having that drink.
The fact that low GABA also interferes with your sleep quality means it is also interfering with your fat burning capacity. Because if you are not getting adequate good quality sleep, your body is going to stay stressed and not burn fat. Refer blog “How to Burn Fat Whilst you Sleep!” for more on how lack of sleep effects your fat burning.
For those of you that count your calories here’s something fascinating for you: alcohol has 7 calories per gram! Consider this; protein has 4 calories per gram, carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. So you could be eating twice as many carbs if you ditch the grog! Now 7 calories per gram, is only taking into account the pure alcohol. Depending on what sort of alcohol you are drinking you add extra calories if it contains any sugar, carbs, creams etc. Cocktails, beer and colored spirits are laden with extra calories!
In case all of this wasn’t enough, the other problem with alcohol is that the body knows it is toxic. So as soon as it enters the blood stream, your body stops using all other energy sources and focuses on the alcohol first. It needs to metabolize it and get it out of the body urgently. If it can’t use it as energy straight away, it metabolizes it into fat and stores it as back up fuel. Now if you already have ‘back up fuel’ you are simply adding to something that will just continue to pile on. Depending on how much alcohol you are consuming, you are also then running the risk of Fatty Liver Disease, which then smashes all of your ‘get leaner’ goals out of the park! Is that glass+ per day really worth it?
If you are going to drink alcohol, and your goal is fat loss, save the grog for special occasions, social events, and try to limit to no more than once per week. If you don’t, you can kiss your fat loss and muscle building good-bye.
– Terri Batsakis