“Beer Sampler” by Quinn Dombrowski, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / added graphic and text
A fun fact about me: I’m not that into alcohol. I never acquired a taste for beer, much to my partner’s chagrin – he’s super into craft beer and even home brews! Nor wine, alas, so no wine tasting trips in our future. The hard stuff is like battery acid to me, but if you dress it up with a bunch of colored sugary water and a slice of fruit (certain cocktails for instance), I’ll occasionally be provoked to imbibe. A particular favorite was the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise‘s rendition of a Singapore Sling. Or the “Hot Mess” Martini made up at some hotel bar in Bellingham, WA (it proved worthy of its name). YUMMY! And I’m a cheap date ‘cuz, contrary to my size, I get TORE UP pretty easily (and amusingly).
So when I signed up for the 20/20 Lifestyles weight loss program and heard that one of the rules was NO ALCOHOL for the entire length of the program, it didn’t really phase me. No drinking that stuff I hardly like? NO PROBLEM! But when I was explaining the assortment of rules to my partner, he scoffed upon hearing the no alcohol bit. He postulated that even if he was morbidly obese he wouldn’t be able to partake in the program due to his undying love of the result of the process of saccharification of starch and fermentation of the resulting sugar (thanks, Wikipedia).
Many would see this admonishment of alcohol as a simple issue of calories in/calories out. Most of us are aware that alcoholic beverages have a lot of empty calories (and if you’re not, go have a look at this handy alcohol calorie calculator), and empty calories !=good calories, so we should simply cut them out like we would soda pop. But what I learned at the first 20/20 Lifestyles seminar (a roughly 2.5-hr lecture given by the director of the program) about why alcohol consumption during weight loss is detrimental to the process was fascinating and I had never heard about it before. And I’ve been thinking: well if I hadn’t heard about it, maybe some of my new online friends (you lushes!) could benefit from this information as well. Hence, this post!
I’m going to link to some sources below, but the main thrust is this:
When you drink alcohol, your body goes on high alert because it senses a toxic substance and focuses on getting rid of it, pronto. It shuts down its normal fat burning metabolic processes and switches to trying to metabolize the alcohol instead.
So if you spend a few hours at the gym and then unwind with a cold brew afterwards with some friends, maybe skipping the chili fries and having a salad instead, you’re actually halting the process that would lead to the weight loss you were going for in the first place with all that exercise effort and healthy eating choices!!! To add further insult, it takes the results of that metabolic process and turns the byproduct into fatty acids. Fun! And it takes more time than you would think for that desired fat burning process to fire back up again. I can’t find a solid online reference as of posting time, but if I remember correctly (it’s also mentioned here) it’s something on the order of DAYS for the deleterious effects on your metabolism processes to subside.
As a side note, for those who take a balanced approach to their food (vs. those who use restriction dieting), many enjoy knowing they’re feeding their bodies the proper nutrient-rich foods in order to have their body systems functioning as well as they can. But when you throw alcohol into the equation (aka against your intestinal walls), it can prevent the body from absorbing the very nutrients you’re putting so much thought into getting. This is more an issue for people who drink alcohol excessively, but still something to point out if you’re carefully monitoring the amount of, say, Vitamin A you’re getting.
Here are some links that illustrate and explain (in a vast array from easy-to-read to ultra-scientific-speak) the science behind the metabolism of alcohol and the deleterious effects on weight loss.
So, have fun partying this weekend. Lol! Just kidding!
In all seriousness: to me, the negative effects on the metabolism make it super-easy to abstain, and I likely won’t treat myself to a sugary alcoholic drink while I’m actively working to lose weight. But how about you?
Now that you know the effect, do you think your alcohol consumption will change in light of your weight loss goals? And I’m also curious: Was this something that you had heard of before, or is it as fascinatingly-new to you as it was to me?