Is Alcohol stalling your fat loss efforts?

Alcohol is deeply rooted in our culture as a way to have fun, let loose, and be social. Companies that market alcohol know exactly how to push our buttons. Our brains are seemingly wired to desire a stiff drink after a tough day at work or a nice cold refreshing alcoholic beverage on a summers afternoon. The effects of alcohol are widely known, but lets touch on them briefly: diabetes, liver disease, diminished performance, mental impairment and possible addiction – plenty of reason to steer clear of it.

One effect alcohol has, which is not widely discussed, is its impact on body composition. Every 1 gram of fat is 9 calories, 1g of protein is 4 calories, and 1g of alcohol is 7 calories. Unlike macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats – alcohol supplies what we health professionals often refer to as “empty calories”: calories without nutrition. To make matters worse, it is the first fuel to be used when combined with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.

While drinking, people usually will not stop to consider the impact alcohol is having on their bodies, in particular – their inhibitions or lack there of. Alcohol tends to have an appetite stimulating effect as it provides little in the way of nutrition, leaving a craving for other foods. Add this to the fact that fatty and salty foods tend to accompany most occasions featuring alcohol and you have a recipe for excess fat gain.

Testosterone, which has a powerful fat loss effect, is significantly lowered when alcohol is consumed, therefore preventing its full potential as a fat burner. Lowered testosterone also means fewer muscle gains, and less muscle means a lowered metabolic rate. A lower metabolic rate will make the job of losing fat all the more harder. Alcohol can stop you reaching your goals by impairing your performance, recovery and focus. Although it’s absorbed quickly, it metabolises slowly and can still affect the system up to 48 hours after consumption. It decreases strength, dehydrates & exhausts the body, impairs liver function, as it metabolises alcohol at the expense of glycogen & disturbs sleep.

Given alcohol plays a large role in celebration, here’s my solution to avoid being uninvited to social events: drink alcohol derived from fruit: wine & champagne. In particular, red wine as it has shown to decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer by elevating good cholesterol and is rich in polyphenol antioxidants for cell health. That being said, you cant have it both ways! Alcohol will negate any efforts to lose body fat and will alter performance for the worst. The best advice would be to totally abstain until and fat loss goals are achieved.