As Little As One Drink Of Alcohol A Week Can Significantly Reduce Fat Loss
Here is the common statement- if you eat well and exercise regularly having a drink once a week or so isn’t going to affect your weight loss that much. Unfortunately, having worked with hundreds of people over the course of almost two decades I can tell you from personal experience that it will. In fact my observations over the years have borne out that by having as little as one drink of alcohol a week is more than enough to reduce your weight loss by over 60-70% as compared to those following the same dietary plan and exercise regime. More important is that for those final pounds to come off those that consistently had as little as one drink a week were never able to attain flat and rippling abdominals while those that did not drink were consistently able to do so while following the prescribed dietary and exercise protocols. Working with the individuals that indulged I was also always able to tell whether they were drinking or not as their performance in the gym was noticeably reduced if they consumed alcohol for well over 48 hours after consumption. Why does alcohol have such a negative impact on weight loss and performance- the standard idea is that alcohol is high in calories and to lose weight one must at all times burn more calories that you are taking in- but in reality this has nothing to do with why alcohol has such a negative effect as even low calorie alcoholic drinks are problematic. The real problem is that alcohol works to reduce the amount of fat your body is able to burn while increasing your appetite and lowering your testosterone levels for up to 24 hours after your last drink.
- A some of the alcohol consumed is converted into fat.
- Your liver converts most of the alcohol into acetate.
- The acetate is released into your bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.
- The alcohol raises levels of the stress hormone, cortisol which also acts to increase muscle breakdown.
- The alcohol also reduces testosterone levels.
- The alcohol intake will increase your appetite thus making it more likely that you will overeat without being aware of it.
How Alcohol Inhibits Fat Loss
As we said earlier conventional thought is that beer bellies are caused by the excess alcohol calories being stored as fat- but studies have found that on average less than 5% of the alcohol calories you drink are converted by the liver into fat. Rather, the main problem with alcohol is that it reduces the amount of fat your body is able to burn for energy. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 8 men were given two drinks of vodka and sugar-free lemonade in half hour intervals. Each drink contained less than 90 calories and fat metabolism was measured both before and after consumption of the drinks. For several hours after drinking the vodka, whole body lipid oxidation which is the rate at which your body burns fat was reduced by 73%,!
Instead of being stored as fat, the tendency for your liver to convert alcohol into acetate. Acetate is used by your body as an alternative fuel source- one that replaces fat as a primary fuel source when it is present and available in your system. So when acetate levels rise your body burns more acetate and consequently significantly less fat. In the study it was found that blood acetate levels were 250% higher than normal and this sharp increase in acetate goes a long way in inhibiting fat loss.
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Alcohol Makes You Eat More
The combination of alcohol and a high-calorie foods creates an even bigger problem as alcohol works to stimulate your appetite. The word aperitif is French in origin and refers to the alcoholic drink taken before meals to increase your appetite and has been a tradition for hundreds of years. A Canadian study showed that an aperitif increased calorie intake far more than a carbohydrate-based drink . Many other studies have validated this and the bottom line is that you will always eat more when you consume alcohol with your meals.
Alcohol Reduces Testosterone Levels
As if it wasn’t bad enough, not only does too much alcohol inhibit fat loss, but it also decreases testosterone levels. Studies have shown that one bout of high alcohol consumption drinking raises levels of the muscle-wasting hormone cortisol and increases the breakdown of testosterone for up to 24 hours . Even more alarming is the fact that it was found that the damaging effects of alcohol on testosterone are made even worse when you exercise before drinking . The testosterone reducing effects of alcohol on testosterone could be one reason that people who drink a lot carry less muscle and thus are unable to achieve the levels of muscular development and fat loss required for a lean and sculpted physique. A 1993 study showed conclusively that alcoholic men have bigger waists and smaller muscles than those who abstain from alcoholic beverages .
Can You Have Maximum Weight Loss And Still Drink Occasionally?
Having alcohol with a meal will increase your metabolic rate, but will also reduce the amount of fat your body burns for energy — far more so than high protein, high carbohydrate, or high fat meals . A drink once in a blue moon might not do that much but it is important to understand that if you really want to maximize your fat loss and muscle building efforts to create a truly lean and sculpted physique, alcohol is more of a liability than an asset. It isn’t always easy especially in many social situations, but at the end of the day it is important that we understand fully the consequences of our actions rather than pretending that a drink or two a week won’t make much of a difference.
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1. Siler, S.Q., Neese, R.A., & Hellerstein, M.K. (1999). De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70, 928-936
2. 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
3. Valimaki, M.J., Harkonen, M., Eriksson, C.J., & Ylikahri, R.H. (1984). Sex hormones and adrenocortical steroids in men acutely intoxicated with ethanol. Alcohol, 1, 89-93
4. Heikkonen, E., Ylikahri, R., Roine, R., Valimaki, M., Harkonen, M., & Salaspuro, M. (1996). The combined effect of alcohol and physical exercise on serum testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and cortisol in males. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 20, 711-716
5. Kvist, H., Hallgren, P., Jonsson, L., Pettersson, P., Sjoberg, C., Sjostrom, L., & Bjorntorp, P. (1993). Distribution of adipose tissue and muscle mass in alcoholic men. Metabolism, 42, 569-573
6. Raben A, Agerholm-Larsen L, Flint A, Holst JJ, Astrup A. (2003). Meals with similar energy densities but rich in protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol have different effects on energy expenditure and substrate metabolism but not on appetite and energy intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77, 91-100
Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training 10 Minute Workouts™ and one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City. Get a copy of his free weight loss ebook here.