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Alochol and Fat Loss

Can you drink alocohol and lose fat

Many enjoy alcohol’s sedating influence and use it as part of their traditions, but alcohol and fat loss do not belong together. I’ve put together details about alcohol and will explain its main concerns, how it is processed, what it contains, and how it affects fat loss!

Alcohol’s effect on fat loss

Alcohol use—as a well-established part of human culture—has become almost as acceptable as eating and breathing. As a social facilitator and feel-good drug of choice for many, alcohol is prevalent indeed, with consumption at mass levels.

However, alcohol’s well-documented deleterious effects—diminished performance, mental impairment, possible addiction, diabetes, and liver disease to varying degrees in specific individuals—could be seen as an excellent reason to steer clear of it.

Having made that statement, many people enjoy its sedating influence, which plays a vital role in many of society’s traditions and practices. One effect alcohol has, which needs to be clear, is its impact on body composition. In its purest form, ethyl alcohol, which supplies seven calories per gram, provides energy, bumping up one total energy balance whenever consumed.

Unlike macronutrients such as carbohydratesproteins, and fats, alcohol supplies what nutritionists often refer to as empty calories: calories without nutrition. To make matters worse, alcohol is the first fuel used when combined with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.

Here is what diet guru Robert C. Atkins says regarding alcohol’s effect on fat storage:

“Here’s the problem with all alcoholic beverages and why I recommend refraining from alcohol consumption on a 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 glycogen, and you immediately go back into ketosis/lipolysis after the alcohol is used.

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.”

Although Mr. Atkins’s suggestions are valid ones, especially as he is advocating the elimination of additional sugars along with the higher calorie beers, any form of alcohol can pose problems for those wanting to shed unwanted fat to look their best.

The main concerns are as follows:

Alcohol and Fat loss
Mixers have lots of calories

Alcohol Supplies Almost Twice As Many Calories As Protein And Carbs

At seven calories per gram, alcohol supplies almost twice as much as protein and carbohydrates. Alcohol has only two fewer calories than fat, which has nine per gram. Remember, the calories in alcohol lack the nutrients beneficial for a healthy metabolism and will therefore hasten fat storage.

The calories found in the average alcoholic drink are quite concentrated compared to many foods, and this causes one to take in many more calories than would otherwise be consumed. Alcohol is quite deceptive in that it passes through the system rapidly, often before the drinker is aware of the number of drinks they have had.

Alcoholic drinks also contain calories from other sources, which add to overall caloric intake. Certain cocktails, for example, contain fats. Wine and beer both have high carbohydrate content. Although the effects these various calorie types have on the body are different—carbohydrates release insulin, which can hasten fat storage, while fats will be stored directly in the fat cells—the overall result is added body fat instead of fat loss.

An example of calories consumed in a small glass of wine: a 5-ounce glass typically contains 110 calories, 91 of which come from the alcohol itself (13 grams), with the remaining five grams from carbohydrates.

Beer contains more carbohydrates (although many of the “Lite” beers have a carb content similar to a glass of wine) and less alcohol than wine but is seen as more fattening due to its higher energy content.

Alcohol Loosens The Inhibitions

While drinking, people usually will not stop considering the impact alcohol has on their bodies, such as alcohol’s effect on loosening inhibitions. This relaxed thinking could mean more calories consumed and extra body fat gains. Those drinking might also eat more of the wrong food without considering the consequences.

Those drinking might also eat more of the wrong food without considering the consequences.

Alcohol tends to have an appetite-stimulating effect as it provides little nutrition, leaving a craving for other foods at the time of consumption. Add this to the fact that fatty and salty foods tend to accompany most occasions featuring alcohol (as well as alcohol stimulating one’s appetite for these kinds of foods) and the general loosening of resolve that goes with an inebriated mindset, and you have a recipe for excess fat gain. Alcohol has also been shown to affect motivation, making a healthy diet harder to stay on while it is being used.

Alcohol Can Damage The Stomach, Kidneys, And Liver

Given alcohol is a by-product of yeast digestion, it can irritate the lining of the stomach and gradually weaken the kidneys and liver, leading to serious health problems—even death in certain instances. Any weakening of the stomach will lessen the rate and efficiency at which food is digested, which ultimately interferes with a healthy metabolism and the weight loss process.

The liver—which processes toxins and breaks down fats for fuel—is crucial to maintaining healthy body composition. Alcohol is at its most destructive during the liver’s detoxification process.

Alcohol Lowers Testosterone

Testosterone, which has a powerful fat loss effect, is reduced whenever alcohol is consumed, thus halting its full potential as a fat burner. Also, testosterone, an anabolic hormone, contributes to gains in lean muscle mass. Lowered testosterone means fewer muscle gains, and less muscle means a reduced metabolic rate.

A lower metabolic rate will make losing fat all the more challenging. This is what governs the way we use energy. Those with a higher metabolic rate will burn more calories at rest. By interfering with testosterone production, alcohol indirectly causes the body to lower its metabolic rate (and thus the rate at which it uses energy) and directly prohibits testosterone from exerting its powerful fat-burning effects.

Lowered testosterone means fewer muscle gains, and less muscle means a reduced metabolic rate

Alcohol Increases Appetite

Touched on briefly in point two, alcohol can increase appetite, making the combination of alcohol and a fattening meal all the worse. A Canadian study showed that alcohol consumed before a meal increased caloric intake far more than a carbohydrate drink. Also, researchers from Denmark’s Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University showed that if a group of men were given a meal and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, alcohol, rather than a soft drink, would increase the amount of food consumed. Not only are you adding calories with alcohol, but also with food doubling the slow down of fat loss from alcohol.

How Is Alcohol Processed In The Body?

It is essential to know how it is processed in the body to understand why alcohol affects us the way it does.

After consuming the first alcoholic drink, 25% of alcohol is absorbed straight from the stomach into the bloodstream, the remainder taken through the small bowel. Alcohol is generally absorbed fairly rapidly, but its absorption rate is faster depending on several factors:

  1. The amount of food in the stomach (a fuller stomach slows the absorption rate).
  2. Whether the drink is carbonated (champagne is absorbed more quickly than non-sparkling drinks).
  3. Alcohol concentration of the glass (higher alcohol drinks are absorbed faster).

Around 98% of alcohol consumed is processed in the liver, with the other two to ten percent expelled through urine, breathing, or sweat. The amount of alcohol in a standard drink will take around 10 hours for the average person to process, which means the more consumed at any point, the greater the rise in blood alcohol content. When the liver processes alcohol, it does so in one of two ways.

Mostly, alcohol breaks down with the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH, contained in the liver cells). ADH then metabolizes the alcohol into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is broken down into acetate by another enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase. In the final stage, the acetate metabolizes to exit the body as waste products, carbon dioxide, and water.

Around 98% of alcohol consumed is processed in the liver.

The second way alcohol is processed is a less common alternative, using a different liver enzyme set. This alternative pathway, called the microsomal ethanol-oxidizing system, is used when the blood has very high levels of alcohol.

100 calories in a glass of wine

Calorie And Nutrient Content Of Popular Alcohol Drinks

The alcohol content of our most popular beverages varies, so it is essential to know precisely what percentage of alcohol is in any given drink if one wants to limit all the empty calories. The following percentages are usually contained in each standard glass—five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol) distilled liquor.

  • Beer: 5% alcohol
  • Wine: 12% alcohol
  • 100 proof liquor: 50% alcohol
  • 80 proof liquor: 40% alcohol

The caloric content and nutrient breakdown of several popular alcohol choices follow.

Beer

One Can Of Regular 4-5% Alcohol Beer Contains:

  • 14 milligrams of sodium (1%).
  • 12.6 grams of carbohydrates (4%).
  • 1.6 grams of protein.
  • 14.2 milligrams of calcium.
  • 96.1 grams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 153 (includes 97 calories from alcohol).

One Can Of Low Alcohol (2.3% Alcohol) Beer Contains:

  • 34.7grams of carbohydrates (12%).
  • Total Calories: 139.

One Can Of Lite Beer Contains:

  • 14 milligrams of sodium.
  • 5.9 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 0.98 grams of proteins.
  • 14.4 milligrams of calcium.
  • 75.6 milligrams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 105 (includes 78 calories from alcohol).

Wine

One Glass Of Champagne Contains:

  • 2 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Total Calories: 85 (includes 77 calories from alcohol).

One Glass Of Dessert Wine (Sweet) Contains:

  • 9 milligrams of sodium.
  • 14.1 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 0.1 milligrams of calcium.
  • 0.9 milligrams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 165 (includes 110 calories from alcohol).

One Glass Of Reduced Alcohol (6%) Wine Contains:

  • 10 milligrams of sodium.
  • 13.3 milligrams of calcium.
  • 130.2 milligrams of potassium.
  • 1.7 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Total Calories: 74 (including 66 calories from alcohol).

One Glass Of Red Wine (Claret) Contains:

  • 4.4 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 0.1 grams of protein.
  • Total Calories: 123 (including 105 calories from alcohol).

One Glass Of Table Wine Contains:

  • 7 milligrams of sodium.
  • 4 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 0.1 grams of protein.
  • 11.8 milligrams of calcium.
  • 146.5 milligrams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 124 (including 108 from alcohol)/

One Glass Of White Wine (Riesling, Chablis) Contains:

  • 5.5 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 0.1 grams of protein.
  • Total Calories: 120 (including 98 calories from alcohol).

One Glass Of White Sparkling Wine Contains:

  • 4 grams of carbohydrates (all of the white are sugars).
  • Total Calories: 93 (including 77 calories from alcohol)

Liquors

One Ounce Of Gin (40% Alcohol) Contains:

  • 0.6 milligrams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 64 from the alcohol content.

One Ounce Of Rum (40% Alcohol) Contains:

  • 0.6 grams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 64 from the alcohol content.

One Ounce Of Vodka (40% Alcohol) Contains:

  • 0.6 milligrams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 64 from the alcohol content.

One Ounce Of Whiskey (40% Alcohol Contains):

  • 0.6 milligrams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 64 from the alcohol content.

Liqueurs

One Nip Of Baileys Irish Cream Contains:

  • 5.8 grams of fat (3.5 grams of this saturated fat).
  • 14 milligrams of cholesterol.
  • 33 milligrams of sodium.
  • 7.4 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 1.2 grams of protein.
  • Total Calories: 121 (including 35 from alcohol).

One Nip Of Ouzo (40% Alcohol) Contains:

  • 11 grams of carbohydrates (10.9 of this is sugar).
  • Total Calories: 103 (including 70 from alcohol).

One Nip Of Schnapps (40% Alcohol) Contains:

  • 7 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Total Calories: 100 (including 70 from alcohol).

One Nip Of Curacao (35% Alcohol) Contains:

  • 6 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Total Calories: 95 (including 56 from alcohol).

One Nip Of Amaretto (38% Alcohol) Contains:

  • 17 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Total Calories: 110 (including 42 from alcohol).

One Nip Of Coffee Liqueur Contains:

  • 3 milligrams of sodium.
  • 11.2 grams of carbohydrates (all sugars).
  • 0.3 milligrams of calcium.
  • 10.4 milligrams of potassium.
  • Total Calories: 107 (including 63 from alcohol).

What Are The Best Alcohol Choices

If you have to drink, what are the best choices? Some lower-calorie brands to hit the market are promising, as are some of the more traditional alternatives.

As shown above, the total caloric content of various alcoholic drinks varies, with beer generally containing the highest number, considering the smaller amount of alcohol found in this drink than others. Different spirits (liquor) typically have around 64 calories per nip, but these add up depending on the drink’s strength (for example, a double will contain two nips or 128 calories).

Combine this with one glass of coke (around 180 calories, 95% of these from sugars) and your typical bourbon and coke could supply 308 calories—double the number found in the average can of beer. Wine generally contains around 100 to 125 calories per medium-sized glass. It also has more alcohol than beer given the same volume, making it a better choice calorie-wise, as less would be consumed at any one sitting.

Although usually around 100 calories per nip, liqueurs are often consumed with other, often-higher calorie mixers such as coke or milk to make cocktails, bumping the calorie content. Baileys Irish Creme, one of the highest calorie alcohols, contains 121 calories per nip, with a comparatively low alcohol content (17% compared to around 25-35 for most liqueurs). It is usually consumed 2-3 nips at a time, given its lower alcohol strength. It is one worth avoiding if weight loss is the aim.

Drink alcohol with a lower caloric value and a higher alcohol percentage (like wine, for example). Less alcohol is consumed, meaning lower overall calorie consumption.

The worst alcohol choices would be cream-based drinks such as eggnog (340 calories without the alcohol) and an Amaretto Sour (includes tequila and orange juice and contains 421 calories). The highest calorie cocktail would be the Vodka Mudslide, which contains coffee liqueur, Irish cream, and vanilla ice cream and supplies 820 calories.

It would be better to drink a smaller quantity of liqueur with a healthier, lower-calorie base, such as light milk or tomato juice (the latter being the base for a Bloody Mary cocktail).

Given alcohol, the taste is an individual matter, and people will usually choose what they like rather than what is advised to consume based on the health content of the drink. Trying to persuade someone to change their drinking habits is no easy task. The above information can, however, be used by one who wants to make some physical changes by lowering the overall caloric content of what they drink.

Some more general guidelines follow:

  1. Drink alcohol with a lower caloric value and a higher alcohol percentage (like wine, for example). Less will be consumed, meaning lower overall calorie consumption.
  2. Avoid high-calorie liqueurs. These are incredibly deceptive (they taste so good) and add enormously to your caloric content.
  3. Keep healthy food on hand when drinking. As mentioned, drinking will relax the inhibitions and cause one to compromise their nutritional habits.
  4. If drinking beer, try a lower-calorie alternative. Also, drink diet sodas with various spirits to significantly lower the calorie content of these drinks.
  5. Drink water between alcoholic beverages. This will increase feelings of fullness and may help to prevent overconsumption of alcohol.

Conclusion

So what is one to do? Given alcohol plays a significant role in celebration and social cohesion, can one entirely refrain from its use? It depends on the goals a person has. Most could probably consume moderate levels of alcohol (two or three standard drinks three to four times per week) without any problem.

More significant amounts (more than seven drinks at any one time), often described as binge drinking, can cause substantial problems and probably should not be advocated. Maintaining reasonable levels of health while enjoying a few drinks—using moderation as the key—should be no problem. However, athletes—not your average population—wanting to improve performance and those wishing to lose weight are entirely different issues.

Alcohol, as shown, will negate any efforts to lose body fat and alter performance for the worst. Until your weight and performance goals are attained, the best advice is to abstain from alcohol. If you are serious about losiing fat but need guidance, you read the right blog. That is what I do.

Ray Audette, the author of the NeanderThin Diet, provides sound advice for anyone wanting to lose weight while drinking alcohol. Remember, to be at your best physically, you can’t have it both ways, and Mr. Audette provides a good rationale as to why.

“Don’t Drink Alcohol[.] It is best not to consume alcohol in any amount from any source. Alcohol is a by-product of yeast digestion (the yeast equivalent of urine) and is known to damage the stomach, kidneys, and liver. Alcohol principally adds fat by producing cravings for it, other carbohydrates (see snack trays at any bar), and even other addictive substances (ask any former smoker.) It is almost impossible to drink alcohol and follow the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. If you must drink, do so only on special occasions (once or twice a year) and stick to alcohols derived from fruit (wine and champagne.)”

References 
  1. Buemann, B., Toubro, S., & Astrup, A. (2002). The effect of wine or beer versus a carbonated soft drink, served at a meal, on ad libitum energy intake. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 26, 1367-1372.
  2. Borushek, A. (2006). CalorieKing alcohol information.
  3. Shape Fit. (2006). How alcohol affects your weight loss—alcohol calories and fat. [Online]
  4. Tremblay, A., & St-Pierre, S. (1996). The hyperphagic effect of a high-fat diet and alcohol intake persists after control for energy densityAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63, 479-482.

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