Alcohol-What does it do?*

Friday, 27 May 2016, By Matt Firth


Being Australians one of our favourite and most common past times is social drinking. It's a part of our social culture and we enjoy it. Alcohol and weight loss are not a good mix when attempting to lose weight but an occasional drink can have a place in a healthy lifestyle. Many health experts say 1 drink a day can lower blood pressure and lead to a healthy lifestyle. If you are exceeding that though then you are sabotaging your weight loss and damaging your health.


Alcohol contains 7 grams of calories per gram and offers NO nutritional value.  It only adds empty calories to your diet so use your calories wisely and choose good macro nutrients. For example one 200ml glass of red wine weighs 18.3 grams which is equivalent to 128 EMPTY calories. When adding that up to 3 glasses that's 384 calories already. A big night or afternoon you could easily clear 600 calories.


Now if we go back to things we have learned so far and how important it is to get our body hydrated and drinking plenty of water as we know we can't burn fat when de hydrated. Then the alcohol situation becomes the enemy of hydration as alcohol is a diuretic. That means when we drink we are de hydrating our bodies and that is stopping fat loss. Especially a session before bed when we should be burning fat in our sleep not gaining it.  Not only do you lose water you also lose important minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc.


Now to important fact. Quite often as trainers a client will say I had quite a few drinks yesterday so I have lots of energy to burn but that isn't the case. Alcohol is metabolized differently than other food and drinks. From food your body gets its energy from the calories in carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which are slowly digested and absorbed within the gastrointestinal system. Which is great BUT when alcohol is consumed the body breaks it down a different way. Alcohol gets immediate attention because the body and brain recognises it as a toxin and will break it down and do its best to flush it out as quickly as possible.


On an empty stomach, the alcohol molecules push through the stomach wall fast and can reach the brain and liver in a couple of minute. This process is slower when you have food in your stomach, but as soon as that food enters the small intestine, the alcohol grabs first priority and is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. As the alcohol reaches the liver for processing the liver needs to process all the alcohol first and gets all the attention. If you drink very slowly, all the alcohol is able to be collected by the liver and broken down strait away and avoids all the other body's systems. If you drink fast, the liver cannot keep up with the processing needs and the alcohol continues to circulate in the body until the liver is available to process it. That's why drinking large amounts of alcohol affect the brain centres involved with speech, vision, reasoning and judgment. At this point you're "drunk". When the body is focused on processing alcohol, it is not able to properly break down foods containing carbohydrates and fat. Therefore, these calories are converted into body fat and are carried away for permanent storage on your body.


Alcohol lowers your self-consciousness, which is vital to your diet plans and the food you choose to eat. Alcohol actually stimulates your appetite. Research shows that if you drink before or during a meal, your will power decreases and giving in to temptations for food that wouldn't help you achieve your weight loss goals kicks in. In this state, you are more likely to start over eating especially foods high in the fats we talked about last week saturated and Tran saturated fats which we learned are not good for health as well as fat loss. To avoid this, wait to order that drink until you're done with your meal. Many foods that go well with drinking alcohol in a social setting such as peanuts, crackers and chips are salty, which can make you thirsty, encouraging you to drink even more. To avoid over drinking, sip on a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage. Also those high fat snacks such as cheese and pate will really blow your fats out for the day.


Quite often I hear clients tell me I'm not going to eat so then I save my macros for later when I drink and eat bad food, THIS IS EVEN WORSE THING TO DO.. Knowing that drinking adds extra calories, it may be tempting to put aside some calories by missing a couple of meals. This is a bad move. If you go out to and event feeling hungry, you are even more likely to eat badly and drinking on an empty stomach just increases the chance of being "drunk". If you're planning on drinking later, eat your daily meals as planned. You'll feel fuller, which will stop you from over drinking. If you know you have a really big event coming up just prepare for it, ensure you have had a great week of eating well and sticking to your macro's and following your training plan in the lead up to the event that day eat your normal 1st and 2nd meal that day.


So I need to clear the age old theory of I won't have carbs for a few days because I am drinking this weekend. You might think that drinking alcohol is better for your diet because it has no carbs, while both wine and beer do contain carbs. But people trying to lose weight and drinking you need to watch calories, and alcohol only has a few calories less than beer or wine. Plus, it is often mixed with other sugary drinks, adding even more empty calories. Hard liquor contains around 100 calories per shot, so adding a coke to it your calories shall go through the roof. If you are going to mix liquor with anything, opt for soda water with lime.



*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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