Want those six pack abs, but just can’t put that six pack down? This article should help get that….abs that is. When we consume alcohol, it gets broken down by the liver into a substance called acetate. Acetate gets released into our bloodstream and inhibits the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, also called macronutrients. Our body takes precedent over the acetate first, before any other macronutrient gets broken down and is used for energy. As a result, our body’s ability to burn fat comes to a screeching halt, and takes a back seat until this acetate gets removed. Thus, the more alcohol we consume, the longer it will take our body to break down our stored fat.
From a caloric perspective, pure alcohol contains about 7.1 kcals (calories) per gram, which compared to 4.3 kcals in protein and 4.1 kcals in carbohydrates, makes it nearly twice as calorie dense and just under the 9 kcals per gram of fat. This means if you’re trying to lose fat weight by minimizing excess kcals, alcohol is not the best choice to do so, it’s extremely counterproductive.
Some studies suggest that in short term, alcohol stimulates food consumption and can also increase subjective feelings of hunger. In regards to how this affects weight gain, the more food we consume, the higher our caloric intake; thus, the more weight gained.
Other research has shown short term that consumption of alcohol negatively impacts blood sugar levels. It increases insulin secretion, which causes low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), and impairs the hormonal response that would normally rectify the low blood sugar.
Consuming alcohol also increases the level of the hormone cortisol, which significantly decreases the level of the hormone testosterone. Cortisol acts by breaking down our lean muscle mass, which in turn leads to a decrease in our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR); see previous article “Factors That Influence Metabolism” to learn more about BMR.
As far as alcohol and its relationship with exercise, it can reduce our strength, endurance, recovery capabilities, aerobic capabilities, and muscle growth, among others. In addition, the communication between our nerves and muscle cells can be impaired, resulting in a loss of strength. Alcohol can damage muscle cells by causing inflammation to them. In the long term, these damaged cells can lead to less functional muscle contractions. Consumption also leads to muscle soreness after workouts, which leads to a longer recovery time. Endurance capacity is reduced as a result of heat loss through the stimulation of our blood vessels dilating. Cold muscles result in slower and weaker contractions. The end result of all this is less weight we’re able to lift and fewer calories being burned during cardio. limiting our lean muscle gain and fat loss.
All these negative side effects outweigh what little benefit alcohol might have on our body. The list could go on as far as alcohol being a diuretic, having no nutritional value as it displaces vitamins in our body, etc., etc. Alcohol definitely tends to limit people’s success in achieving their fitness goals. I am not saying you should never drink alcohol; nor am I saying that if you do, don’t bother working out because you’re just wasting your time. Obviously, moderation is key. The take home message is to understand what’s happening internally and really take a look and see to what degree it is inhibiting your fat loss.