By: Tammy Hamilton
Are you the person who has a drink with dinner every night? Or maybe you are the person who just drinks occasionally during a party or wedding? Or the person who resists alcohol during the week and has a dozen drinks on Friday and Saturday night? Or maybe you are the person who doesn’t drink at all! A majority of us consume alcohol on a regular basis and as an athlete it’s very important to know how alcohol affects our bodies. I’ve had many clients that eat very clean and are baffled when they hear that they aren’t getting the results they want because of their alcohol consumption.
Does alcohol turn to fat?
Alcohol not only makes you hungrier and studies have shown that you tend to eat more calories when you consume alcohol, but it also can turn to fat during digestion. As alcohol enters into digestion, it gets split into either fat or acetate. Fat gets stored as fat and acetate is used as energy. Your liver recognizes the byproducts of alcohol as toxins, so your body stops processing nutrients from food you’ve eaten while it takes care of the byproducts first. So rather than your body burning protein, carbs and fat that you are eating for energy, your body is burning the acetate for energy. So those protein, carbs and fat that aren’t being used end up having no where to go so they are stored as fat. So yes, alcohol does essentially turn to fat. But it does more!
Cortisol and Hormones
Drinking also can raise your cortisol levels. Cortisol is your bodies main stress hormone. It is responsible for managing how your body responds to protein/carbs/fats, regulating your blood pressure, your sleep, and energy. An increase in cortisol can breakdown muscle which can slow your metabolism. It can also affect your recovery at the gym.
Alcohol and Macro Counting
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram which is almost double that of protein and carbs. So when counting macros, you can easily work alcohol into your numbers but with no beneficial vitamins, minerals and nutrients they do nothing for your body and you wind up being hungrier than if you hadn’t had it.
I’m not saying you need to completely cut off alcohol if it’s something you enjoy. But moderation is key (I know, I always say that but it’s true with all things in life!). Stick to alcohol such as vodka or tequila. The clearer the alcohol the lower amount of sugar it has (most of the time). Pay attention to what you are mixing with your alcohol. Sodas and juices have a high sugar content. What’s worse, the calories from mixers are the worst kinds of calories, simple and refined sugars. When they’re combined with how alcohol affects metabolism, it gets even worse. So stick beverages like zero calorie flavored sodas. Wine is another good choice although it can be high in sugar. Lastly, drink a glass of water between each drink.
If this topic strikes a note, reach out to me.