Physiologically, alcohol consumption does not directly result in fat storage. Guess what? Generally the over-consumption of food (particularly fats and carbohydrates) like nuts, chips and dips that you eat when you are enjoying your crisp white 'chardy' or 'cleansing ale' is the problem.
To put it simply, when alcohol is ingested your body treats the beer, wine, spirit and mixers like a toxin. Your body wants to process it first and as quickly as possible so it sends the toxins off to the liver. Any other stored carbohydrates are no longer required as a fuel source and these 'carbs' consumed with the alcohol are quickly stored in the muscle cells and liver.
Unfortunately our liver is not a bottomless pit so excessive drinking can cause an over-supply of carbohydrates to be stored as fat. The facts are simple; alcohol has 29kJ of energy per gram which is almost double the energy value of 1 gram of carbohydrates. So it is going to take your body almost twice as long to burn up alcohol - with the knock on effect of delaying your body's ability to use its carbohydrates and fat stores.
Let's compare foods and alcohol in terms of energy intake:
So imagine you're at a party and you consume 5-6 bourbon and colas over the course of a 6 hour timeframe - this may be thought to be quite acceptable. However, consider how you would feel (and how it would look) if you ate 10-12 potatoes at the same party i.e. the food equivalent of the 5-6 bourbon and colas!
But wait there's more:
Alcohol is a diuretic: causing water loss and dehydration, not to mention the loss of valuable minerals like zinc, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Fluid balance, muscle movement and chemical reactions are affected if these minerals are not maintained.
Alcohol and sleep don't mix: although alcohol might induce sleep, the sleep you get isn't very deep sleep so you ultimately get less rest.
Alcohol doesn't fill you up: in fact it will stimulate your appetite, not like the comparable amount of energy you get from food. Research has also demonstrated by drinking before or during a meal, your willpower and inhibitions are reduced. So the chances of you consuming more food than you normally would eat are much higher along with poor choices like a kebab and chips.
Alcohol and the 'bank': you can't store up your carbohydrate intake in a 'bank' by skipping meals before hand and then 'withdraw' them at the bar or party. You will be so hungry by the time you get to the function that you're much more likely to munch on all those salty, fatty snacks.
Alcohol and salt: peanuts, pretzels and chips are all salty, making you thirsty and encouraging you to drink more. Avoiding these snacks can help limit the damage.
Here are 8 tips to help you minimise the effects of alcohol:
1. Drink water or at least a diet soft drink in between each
2. 'Blind refills' - put a clean coaster on top of your beer or wine glass to stop automatic 'top ups' by other party goers.
3. Eat a healthy protein rich meal before going to the bar or party.
4. When drinking spirits, use water or diet soft drinks as the mix.
5. When drinking beer or wine choose low alcohol and low carbohydrate varieties.
6. Be aware of the foods you eat in the hours prior to and while drinking. Steer clear of high carbohydrates and fat rich foods.
7. Watch the foods you eat over the next few days as a drinking session will supply your body with a higher than normal carbohydrate intake and may easily lead to fat gain.
8. A low to moderate exercise session may be useful on the day after a party to work off the oversupply of energy (BUT keep up water consumption, as exercising when you are dehydrated is not recommended).
So now you have an understanding of the impact of alcohol on your health, you can make an informed decision on when and where you think it is appropriate to consume an alcoholic beverage. Special occasions and celebrations do provide an opportunity to enjoy 1 or 2 of your favourite drinks, but be aware of the effects of alcohol and plan your intake.
Finally... Fail to Plan: Plan to Fail