Beer belly. Why not beer body?
It’s interesting how alcohol tends to go right to the tummy. Okay, it’s true that alcohol goes other places, too, over time; but the nice thing about beer weight is that it can come off about as quickly as it came on, unlike other fat. All you have to do it change your habits.
Allow me to explain why cutting out alcohol will yield an almost immediate shift in body fat; this information supports my observations of my clients’ (and my own) body compositions when alcohol was given up for at least two weeks.
There are three macronutrients with which we are all familiar: protein, carbohydrate, and fat, (some people include a fourth, water). Each gram of protein and carbohydrate yields 4 calories; each gram of fat yields 9 calories. Alcohol, it’s own entity, yields 7 calories. But alcohol isn’t a nutrient, as it generally kills everything with which it comes into contact. A nutritionist who worked at the ARCO Olympic Training center once said to me during my stay, “I can’t think of one good reason why an elite athlete should ever consume alcohol.” It hinders your other metabolic pathways, and it destroys. It dehydrates, and it slows you down.
Okay, great. But who cares? Most people aren’t training for the Olympics. Booze is awesome in other rites, and can provide emotional (arguable) and social benefits. Alcohol, after coffee, is the second most abused mood-altering substance, and some version of an alcoholic beverage has infiltrated just about every human culture. It’s popular, it’s accessible, and it is sanctioned by society. It relaxes and relieves stress for people who are probably more stressed now than ever before. No wonder many of my clients are so unwilling to quit drinking, even for a little while!
“I don’t really drink that much. Maybe 2 to 4 drinks in a week.” Okay, let’s break that down.
A glass of wine has 100 calories. That’s a four-ounce glass. That’s 1/2 cup. Find your teeny weeny measuring cup in your kitchen drawer. That’s 100 calories! I cannot remember the last time I ever poured myself, or had someone else pour, only four little ounces. More like 6.
A beer might pack at least 120 calories (unless it’s some awful light beer, which is closer to 100). Most have 140 up to 200.
An ounce of spirits will pack 80, but few people drink liquor straight; some kind of sugary mixer comes with it.
Let’s crunch some numbers. You’re a light drinker, and keep your habit to the weekend, over dinner. You drink 3 six-ounce glasses of wine over your weekend. That’s 450 calories (people often fail to count the calories they consume through beverages, and they also do a poorer job of compensating for liquid calories later). That 450 calories is an entire workout! That would be 1/5 of your week’s effort down your throat, and if your goal is to lose 1-lb per week, that is 1/7 of a pound.
Okay, big deal. You made sure you had enough space left over for the booze.
So PAY ATTENTION HERE. Alcohol, once ingested, breaks down into two compounds: fat and acetate. The fat will go into storage, and the acetate will be burned as fuel. The body, which had been slowly and steadily burning fat while you were at rest (and if you are working hard at the gym, you were enjoying your sweet “after-burn” of fat metabolization), slams down the E-brake on fat burning and starts burning the acetate instead. You literally put a halt (or at least significantly slowed, up to 75%) to your fat burning metabolism; not only that, the fat derived from alchol went right into your storage!
Alcohol also is an appetite stimulant (ever heard of an aperitif?). Drinking before or during dinner makes you want to eat more. It also makes you care less about how much you are eating (irresponsible eating). Calories sneak in, and because your body is busy metabolizing the acetate, sit back and let the other nutrients entering your blood stream get shunted into storage. One drink can stunt your fat metabolization for several hours. That sucks, especially when you are winding down at night, and your metabolism is already running a little slower. The idea behind exercise is it raise your rate of fat metabolization.
Alcohol dehydrates. Water is an essential nutrient, and it is involved in countless catalytic processes within your body. One of these is the metabolization of fat. Another is muscle building. Few people make sure to drink a glass of water for every glass of booze they consume. Dehydrating your body even a little bit slows down your fitness goals!
Finally, alcohol raises cortisol, your stress hormone that encourages the retention of fat. It also hinders testosterone production, the “skinny” hormone generally produced in higher quantities after interval and strength training.
So let’s summarize:
1) Alcohol has lots of calories.
2) It increases fat storage, and halts fat metabolization.
3) It tends to make you eat and drink more.
4) It dehydrates you.
5) It produces more “fat” hormones, and hinders to production of “skinny” hormones.
…Stop drinking alcohol, and there will be less to retard your body’s fat metabolization.
Ready to give it up for a while?