Alcohol and it's Effect on Fat Loss.

Updated: Nov 2

Social events are part of life. Being with friends and loved ones is vital to our happiness and contentment and that contentment, in itself plays, in important role in our hormonal and emotional health. So trying to avoid them altogether, is unrealistic for most of us and can also be unhealthy.


The Comeback Challenge is not about avoiding social events. It's about keeping your desired health result top-of-mind for 5 weeks and allowing it to be the guide of your choices when out with friends or when deciding whether to have a drink/how many drinks to have at home.


To truly understand the effect alcohol is having on your ability to lose fat, it helps to understand the following three things.


1. Alcohol is a Macronutrient. A macronutrient is a nutrient molecule that can be metabolised to provide the body with energy (calories/kilojoules). Just like carbs, protein and fat are broken down through the digestive process to give our body the energy it needs for cells to function and for us to live, dance, move, walk, breathe and biologically survive, so too does alcohol when we consume it.


This point in itself does not pose the danger to our ability to shed the covid layer. Read onto the next 2 points to understand how alcohol hinders this.



2. Alcohol is a toxin so our body will not metabolise any other macronutrients until it is gone.


Alcohol is a toxic substance. So it's easy to comprehend that when we consume it our body initiates a 'red alert' response to eliminate it as quickly as possible. In the presence of alcohol, our metabolism ignores any other macronutrients (carb, protein, fat) to deal immediately with the toxic alcohol, break it down and get to out of the body. This means that any fat, carb or protein consumed around the time you are drinking does not get burnt off and instead gets stored in our bodies until we have burnt off all the booze. (That post-bender maccas run doesn't sound like such a great idea now, does it?)


With this understanding, we know that it's not the alcohol that is directly adding more fat to our waistlines. It's moreso what we are eating when we are drinking that's doing the damage.



3. Alcohol is relatively energy-dense, meaning it takes long time to burn it off.

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. Carbohydrate and Protein each contain 4 calories per gram and Fat contains 9 calories per gram.


As described in the point above, each gram of that alcohol needs to be burnt off before your body will revert back to burning it's preferred sources of energy: fat and carbs (remember; our body chooses to preserve protein so we protect our muscle mass). If we're drinking a fair amount in each session or each week, then we are significantly reducing the time our body is free to burn up those pesky fat stores!


(Note: There is no magic maximum number of drinks that we can recommend you consume before your ability to strip body fat and achieve your goals becomes affected. Each person's tolerance is different and I'll bet; you already know an approximation of the number of drinks you can get away with each week before it starts affecting your result.


Plus; is your standard drink really a standard drink?


A standard drink in Australia is measured as 10g of alcohol. This is equivalent to:

- 100ml of red wine, white wine or champagne

- 285ml (a pot) of full strength beer

- 30ml of spirits


Do something for me: go and find a measuring cup, pour 100ml of water into it from your tap, and now pour that into one of your favourite wine glasses.


Is that how much you'd normally pour for yourself?


If your answer to that is yes, then you have won my respect. Because that's definitely not how much I'd free-pour for myself after a stressful week! (That looks more like the dregs leftover in the wine glass at the END of a cracking night 😳)


If we're going to get some great results in this challenge then we need to be aware and be honest with ourselves. If you're pouring your nightly wind-down wine to be closer to the top half of the glass than the bottom, then you're more likely having 1.5 - 2 standard drinks every time you pour a new one. It. All. Adds. up.



So how then, do we achieve the body composition we want when our calendar is overflowing with social events or our cupboard is overflowing with alcohol to help us wind down after these stressful weeks? Well, I'm betting you can come up with some practical tips for yourself here to help curtail your alcohol consumption. Tips just as good as any of us trainers could suggest.


If your brain is feeling a little battered after the info you've just learned above, here's a few strategies to get you started:


  • Commit to going alcohol free Mon- Thu

  • If you're missing the ritual of having a glass in your hand as you relax in your favourite chair each night, pour some soda with a fresh lemon into your favourite glass and pop your feet up!

  • Cap your consumption at 2-3 standards drinks per day on Fri, Sat and Sun.

  • Set a goal for yourself to drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink. (It slows the alcohol consumption plus increases your hydration. Double bonus!)

  • If you're a wine drinker, take a leaf out of your mum's book and pour half wine - half soda water! (or maybe that's just my mum 🤔)

  • Always choose diet mixers (soda, mineral water, diet tonic, diet lemonade, diet coke, etc)

  • Opt for low-strength beers or even experiment with a non-alcoholic version of your favourite bev! (Read the nutrition panels here as many non-alcoholic drinks may be full of sugar.)

  • Keep your eating clean and lean when you are drinking. ie: lean proteins and fibrous, veg. Especially avoid refined carbs and sugar. (Eg: order steak and salad instead of pasta, pizza or rice, eat the antipasto but none of the crackers/bread.)



Sources:

How Alcohol can Effect Your Body Composition - Turof, 2017


Role of substrate utilization and thermogenesis on body-weight control with particular reference to alcohol - Schutz, 2000


Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance - Shelmet et ll 1988


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