Whilst we (should) all know the dangers of drinking too much, the effect of alcohol on fat loss often seems poorly understood to many of our new clients. New Year’s Eve is fast approaching! The thought of the hangover one may suffer is often enough to help us reduce our alcohol intake. However, there are a number of considerations we advise which can help shape responsible drinking and mitigate the effect of alcohol on fat loss and general health.
Drinking responsibly is very simple but it involves a significant amount of restraint and self-control. Typically, as soon as you have had one or two drinks, chemical changes in your brain effect your ability to exercise that restraint. Doing all you can to stay hydrated, choosing drinks that have the least impact on your health (and on fat loss), and understanding how/what to eat before you start drinking alcohol will result in far less suffering the following morning. Following the guidance below, you may make it through the holiday period will little impact on your health and fat loss efforts!
Try to avoid combining alcohol and caffeine. Even if you’re exhausted on your way in to the event (and the first alcoholic beverage has made you drowsy), drinking coffee or energy drink seems a logical thing to do. However, coffee/caffeine and alcohol will come together in a significant, overwhelming burst of energy that makes you jittery. Inevitably, you will then experience a crash in energy and repeat this process throughout the evening. Combining coffee and alcohol typically results in greater consumption overall.
Never Combine Sugar and Alcohol
Sugar and alcohol is a lethal combination. Try to avoid sweet cocktails, as the sugar will enhance the chemical effects of alcohol on your brain. You will quickly experience a huge rush of energy and, very soon afterwards (similar to caffeine), experience an energy crash. Sugar and alcohol also tend to create the worst hangovers. The inflammatory effects of both sugar and alcohol on your digestive tract can be very unpleasant! The caloric density of a sugary drink/cocktail is also far worse.
Eat Well First
To mitigate the effect of alcohol on fat loss, before you begin drinking ensure you eat a healthy, balanced meal. If you are unsure that food will be provided at the event, eat something before you arrive. Having even a modest amount of low-GI carbohydrates and high-quality protein in your stomach will reduce the effects of alcohol on your brain chemistry and allow for greater clarity in decision-making. The satiating effects of both protein and carbohydrates together helps ensure you feel satisfied and more likely to subconsciously reduce your alcohol intake.
Pace Yourself (and Others)
Don’t drink too quickly. Whenever possible, try to consume no more than one drink per hour. If you notice yourself picking up your glass more regularly than this pace, swap your drink for a non-alcoholic one every once in a while. Further, always been seen to have a drink in-hand may prevent those around you encouraging you to drink more or buying you another when noticed without a drink. Here also, alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages can help slow the pace of (and reduce) your alcohol consumption.
Alcohol dehydrates and draws significant vitamins and minerals from your body. Ironically, this slows your liver’s ability to detoxify and educes a worse physiological state the following morning. To help counteract this side effect of alcohol, drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have. Further, it may also be wise to consider vitamin and mineral supplementation if you do not already use them daily. Matching your alcoholic beverages with water will reduce your susceptibility to the effects of alcohol and less likely to over-indulge.
The Impact of Alcohol on Fat Loss
It’s easy to forget that alcohol is absolutely ‘bad for you’ and the effects of alcohol on fat loss are significant! There are elements that can cause weight gain outside of calorie content. When alcohol is consumed, it is ‘burned’ (oxidised) first as a fuel source before your body uses any other stored fuel. This includes glucose from carbohydrates or lipids from fats. When your body is using alcohol as a primary source of energy, the excess glucose and lipids in your blood as always stored as adipose tissue (body fat).
Finally, it’s long been known that alcohol intake can affect levels of hormones in the body, especially (and most relevant to this article) testosterone. Testosterone is a sex hormone that plays a role in many metabolic processes, including muscle formation and fat burning capabilities. Research has shown across multiple studies that low testosterone levels may predict the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in men. Plus, lower testosterone levels may affect quality of sleep, especially in older men. If your testosterone is regularly suppressed and sleep quality reduced through alcohol consumption, fat loss efforts will drop far below optimal.
Thank you for reading.
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