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Carol Ann
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A Toast to Fat: The Effects Of Alcohol On Fat Metabolism

posted on9 December, 2010

‘Tis the season to indulge in holiday cheer a little more than usual. However, the amount of alcohol consumed determines the fine line between drinking moderately to prevent cardiovascular disease along with other diseases and drinking heavily leading to liver disease, some cancers, and accidental death. Remove the two-faced nature of alcohol and one is left with how alcohol can be a detriment to one’s weight loss and fitness program. Therefore, while you are ramping up for the party season, it is beneficial to understand the effects of alcohol on the body’s metabolism. Even having a drink or two can be counter productive for one who is striving to follow an exercise and nutrition program for fat loss.

How Valuable is Alcohol?
There is no set standard for what is considered one serving of alcohol. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans set by the USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggest that one serving of alcohol equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor, such as vodka or whisky. Each delivers about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol. This level of alcohol equates to about 84 to 98 calories per one drink just in alcohol alone. This caloric value doesn’t even account for the sugars in alcoholic drinks and the amount of calories in the juice that may be mixed with hard liquor. Add another 100 calories that is contained in a mixed drink of hard liquor and juice totaling 184-198 calories per drink. Now add the extra holiday cheer of more that just one drink, and you could very well be multiplying that figure by three!! Believe it or not, alcohol is second only to fat in terms of how many calories per 1 gram. Below is a comparison of how many calories are in 1 gram of each macronutrient.
Fat = 9 calories
Alcohol = 7 calories
Carbohydrate = 4 calories
Protein = 4 calories
As aforementioned, research studies have suggested that moderate drinking, especially drinking red wine, has some cardiovascular benefits. In addition, two studies conducted by the department of nutrition of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA determined that moderate drinking can be extended to preventing type 2 diabetes and gallstones. Because of such findings, moderate drinking has been defined as no more than 1-2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink per day for women.

Metabolism of Alcohol
A car engine typically uses only one source of fuel. Your body, on the other hand, draws from a number of different energy sources, such as carbohydrate, fat, and protein. The body uses whatever fuel is available that one feeds it. For example, by limiting one’s carbohydrate intake, fat and protein are utilized more in order to burn energy. Depending on what is available, the body goes through the metabolic work of beta oxidation to break down fat or glycolysis to break down carbohydrates in order to produce acetate. When alcohol is consumed, it pbottomes from the stomach and intestines into the blood and goes straight to the liver. There, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenate converts alcohol to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is then quickly converted to acetate by other enzymes. Acetate then returns to the bloodstream to be utilized as fuel instead of the use of carbohydrates or fat, thus stopping the fat burning process necessary for proper weight loss.

The Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Weight Gain
1. Slowing Down of Metabolism: As was stated earlier, when one consumes alcohol, the fat-burning metabolic work is turned off. This slowing down of the metabolism is due to the elimination of important metabolic steps the body takes to break down carbohydrates, fat, and protein in order to burn energy. Converting alcohol to acetate automatically eliminates those important metabolic enhancing steps thereby slowing down the metabolism. Even small amounts of alcohol have a major impact on fat metabolism. A study conducted by the Department of Nutritional Sciences of University of California at Berkeley determined that after drinking just two drinks of vodka and sugar-free lemonade separated by 30 minutes, whole body lipid oxidation (a measure of how much fat your body is burning) dropped by a mbottomive 73%.
2..Missing Workouts from a Hangover: Working out the morning after a huge party may seem like a good idea in order to sweat out the toxins, but quite frankly, most forego the workout in order to sleep “it” off. There are some negative costs to a strenuous workout with a hangover such as dehydration, clumsiness, and overall fatigue which can lead to poor performance and injury. If you find yourself with a hangover, focus on a lighter workout such as yoga, eat healthy meals, and drink lots of water. Missing too many workouts over time will catch up to you.
3. Extra Food Consumed when Drinking: The combination of feasting and drinking during the holiday season is especially toxic to a fat-burning metabolism. When one drinks alcohol with a meal, he/she is more likely to eat more than if the meal was consumed with a non-alcoholic drink. A study conducted at the Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory of Laval University in Quebec, Canada demonstrated that a high-fat diet and alcohol favored subsequent overfeeding in 12 adult males. In other words, one will more likely continue to eat when drinking alcohol, thereby sabotaging his/her weight loss program.

As you raise your glbottom this holiday season, keep in mind that although moderate drinking may be health beneficial in some ways, over indulging does not mix well with a lean, strong body. Cheers, everyone!

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