Sad but true: getting turnt and hitting the dance floor is not an exercise routine. Though alcohol has found its way into our cultural practices and traditions, it’s never going to be synonymous with health and fitness.
In fact, routine alcohol consumption is known to increase weight and increase fat gain in the body…All while cutting down on prized muscle gains.
Now, it can be used in moderation but some of the healthiest people choose to avoid it entirely, especially those on a diet.
Given the well-documented negative effects of booze – from diminished performance, mental impairment, possible addiction, diabetes and liver disease – maybe you want to steer clear of the hooch for a while.
Here’s a quick overview of how toxic alcohol can be to a healthy body and what you can do to stay fit and responsible in the presence of the sauce.
Alcohol Means Calories and Extra Fat
Alcohol is a depressant, so it slows the function of the central nervous system actually blocking a number of the messages from reaching the brain. This results in decreased inhibitions (you acting a lil’ wild) because the alcohol increasingly turns off the frontal cortex of your brain. This is when you feel more confident in your smooth pick-up lines!
It also means you’re more likely to eat that Philly cheesesteak at the end of the night. It’s already hard enough to resist fatty, sugary food with our heads on straight. This means it’s too easy to say “yes” to gutbuster meals when intoxicated.
And that’s after you’ve ingested all the calories from the alcohol.
FYI: Your body composition doesn’t respond well to this liquid. In its purest form, ethyl alcohol, supplies 7 calories per gram.
- Carbs – 4 calories
- Proteins – 4 calories
- Alcohol – 7 calories
- Fat – 9 calories
These are what’s known as empty calories, those without nutritional benefits such as vitamins, minerals, etc.
Because of the concentrated empty calories, our intake (during times of decreased inhibition) can really increase calorie intake quickly. And since alcohol is viewed by the body as a toxin (which it is), it receives caloric precedence and priority in the bloodstream.
When the body is focused upon processing alcohol, it is unable to properly break down foods containing carbohydrates and fat. As a result, these calorie are converted into body fat and tucked away for storage around the waistline.
Diet guru Robert Atkins has this to say about alcohol’s effect on fat storage:
“Here’s the problem with all alcoholic beverages, and the reason I recommend refraining from alcohol consumption on the diet. Alcohol, whenever taken in, is the first fuel to burn. While that’s going on, your body will not burn fat. This does not stop the weight loss, it simply postpones it, since the alcohol does not store as glycogen, and you immediately go back into ketosis/lipolysis after the alcohol is used up.
If you must drink alcohol, wine is an acceptable addition to levels beyond the Induction diet. If wine does not suit your taste, straight liquor such as scotch, rye, vodka, and gin would be appropriate, as long as the mixer is sugarless; this means no juice, tonic water; or non-diet soda. Seltzer and diet soda are appropriate.”
Take the example of a small glass of wine: a 5-ounce glass of wine will typically contain 110 calories, 91 of them are from the alcohol itself, while the other 5 grams come from carbs.
That’s an example of one of the lowest calorie options.
Alcohol Costs You Sleep and Increases Weight Gain
A 2009 study found that 58% of respondents were unaware that drinking can be detrimental to sleep. As a sedative and nervous system depressant, alcohol may make you sleepy, but it’s costing you rest. Alcohol affects sleep stages, lightens sleep and causes abrupt awakenings when it leaves the system.
While you’re “passed out” with alcohol in your system, your body is unable to enter deep REM cycles of sleep needed to wake up feeling rested. This means that after a night of drinking, you’re awakening tired – even if you were in bed for 10 hours.
For example, if you have two drinks in your system as you hit the sheets, you’re going to lose a minimum of two hours of rest. This means those eight hours (if you’re even getting that) are now just six. Studies show that sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of death from all causes by 15%.
Harvard Medical School found there’s a direct link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Lack of sleep is one of the main risk factors of obesity.
Sleep deprivation increases production of the stress hormone cortisol and decreases levels of leptin, which tells your brain if you’ve had enough to eat. In this state, your body also releases higher levels of insulin after you eat, prompting fat storage and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Your impulse control is also highly disrupted when you’re tired, so don’t expect to stick to your diet without getting your rest.
Sleep deprivation is also shown to reduce cognitive ability, reduce emotional stability, decrease immune system functions and decrease physical coordination.
Alcohol Increases the Appetite
How many times is a late night out followed by a stop by the convenience store, the fast food joint or a late-night eatery?
Unfortunately, more than are remembered.
Alcohol can increase appetite. The desire for salty foods, and their abundance at drinking locations, is a fixture in alcohol culture.
A Canadian study showed that alcoholic intake consumed before a meal increased caloric intake far more than a carbohydrate drink. Researchers in Denmark found that if a group of men were given a meal and allowed to eat as much food as they desired, alcohol – not a carbohydrate drink – would increase the amount of food they ate.
Alcohol Can Damage the Liver and Stomach
Because the liver is the body’s primary method for diffusing harmful toxins, it takes a real beating under the repeated hits of too much alcohol. If the liver starts to crack under the workload, it starts to develop fatty tissues and this leads to the disease known as liver cirrhosis – and possibly death.
As the liver strains under repeat alcohol abuse, it ceases to properly process other toxins that make their way into the body via processed and unhealthy foods, environmental influences and other inputs. This means the body begins to get blocked up, absorbing many additional toxins leading to disease and bodily deterioration. A bad liver is also ineffective at breaking down fats from food resulting in weight gain.
98% of alcohol consumed is processed through the liver with the rest expelled in the sweat, breath or urine. At very high levels of alcohol consumption, the liver is called upon to use a set of enzymes to drastically curb blood alcohol content, a process very stressful for the already overworked organ.
When the stomach weakens, the ability to digest food decreases. This means weight loss increases and the metabolism can spike.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes water loss and dehydration. Along with this water loss, you lose important minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. Many alcoholics die from malnutrition given their inability to maintain proper mineral levels. These minerals are needed to maintain the balance of fluid, facilitate chemical reactions, as well as muscle contraction and relaxation.
Also, repeat excessive alcohol use is shown to lead to stomach ulcers because it increases the amount of acid the stomach produces, causing the stomach lining to become inflamed.
Alcohol Reduces Testosterone
Testosterone is reduced when alcohol is consumed. This halts its full potential to burn fa and cuts into your metabolism.
As an anabolic hormone, testosterone is necessary for gains in lean muscle. Lowered testosterone means less muscle gain and a lowered overall metabolic rate (since lean muscle increases the body’s metabolism). For each additional pound of lean muscle, your body burns 50 extra calories a day. The higher the metabolic rate, the more calories the body burns while at rest. Interfere with the metabolism and see fat intake increase.
Drink Smart to Stay Healthy
This is something of a misnomer, but some alcohol choices are better than others. If you’re trying to avoid the beer gut, here are guidelines for drinking:
- Drink alcohol with lower calorie value and a higher alcohol percentage (such as wine or clear spirits). Less consumption means lower calorie intake.
- Avoid high-calorie liquors and avoid mixed drinks with sodas. A typical bourbon and Coke has over 300 calories … that’s 180 calories from the 95% sugar coke and over 120 from the bourbon.
- Keep healthy food on hand while drinking. Drinking will relax your inhibitions, so plan ahead and set yourself up for success.
- If drinking beer, aim for low-calorie alternatives.
- Drink ice water between alcoholic drinks to increase the full feeling, help with the hangover and reduce possible overconsumption. Plus, drinking an ice cold glass of water burns 50 calories by itself.
The Last Shot
No one’s saying you should give up drinking. But if you want to lose weight and keep fat loss at it’s max, drink in moderation, if at all. Though drinking can be fun and socially rewarding, the costs incurred by the body can be very severe. By planning ahead for drinking behaviors, you can minimize the negative side effects of drinking, like sleep loss, muscle loss and poor diet choices. Remember to drink responsibly – don’t drink and drive and don’t trash your body. That way, when you do go to the bar, you’re dropping jaws and turning heads!
Fitplan helps you achieve your fitness goals by sharing the exact training methods of the world’s top athletes!
Best of all? It’s free to get started!
[mks_button size=”medium” title=”Sign Up For Fitplan” style=”squared” url=”https://www.fitplanapp.com/subscribe?utm_source=blog” target=”_blank” bg_color=”#009d98 ” txt_color=”#FFFFFF ” icon=”” icon_type=””]