We live in a multi-tasking world. Time is the one thing no one can get enough of, so everyone is now doing several things at a time. There are a few things however that just do not go together; like eating and brushing your teeth, or texting and driving. My goal today is to explain to you why drinking on a fat loss program should be at the top of this list as well. No one questions the irony when you see a small box gym next to a fast food restaurant or ice cream parlor. Alcohol on the other hand has gotten off lightly by confusing a lot of people. I’m not talking via ingestion either. We will leave that discussion for someone with more experience on the topic. I’m talking about the vast amount of misinformation surrounding alcohol use and its effects.
Some people believe alcohol has no calories. The truth is, there are 7 calories per gram. That’s more than carbohydrates, which only have 4 per gram. In fact, technically speaking, alcohol is a carb if you look at the chemical structure. Any chemist in the world could identify it as such. So light beer, and liquors which claim to be low or zero carb, are false advertising. Alcohol actually is a worse carb. Alcohol labeling is very vague, and in instances like this, just flat out lies. The regulations which govern how accurate these labels need to be are pretty loose too. So for starters, you can’t count on the label, but you can count that when you’re drinking, you’re taking in a carbohydrate like substances and calories in high amounts.
Beyond being a carbohydrate, alcohol is also a toxin with both chronic and acute effects. This is why alcohol use has been regulated for over 1500 years. Most people are very familiar with the acute symptoms of alcohol toxicity. If not, just visit any college dorm on the weekend. It’s also common knowledge that drinking is hard on your liver. What people are less familiar with are the other chronic effects of alcohol toxicity, or what being bad for you liver really amounts to. It’s not just the risk of liver failure or cancer when you get older. About half of the chronic issues from alcohol use actually are the same as diabetes. Coincidence? I think not.
To understand why, we have to get a little technical. Being a carbohydrate, we will compare alcohol to glucose, which is the main carbohydrate your body uses for fuel. Unlike glucose which can be used by every cell in your body, alcohol must be metabolized by the liver. Normally when you ingest glucose, only a very a small amount is metabolized by the liver, the rest is used by your body for energy and function. The liver utilizes the small amount of glucose it gets to run its energy cycles and increase its storage of glycogen. Glycogen is just stacked glucose to be used for energy later and help balance your blood sugar. This is your body’s natural and non toxic way to store energy. So glucose to the liver is not unhealthy for you.
When the liver metabolizes alcohol, it does not form glycogen. Instead it has to work 4 times as hard use to it. Alcohol is broken down into an energy cycle that creates high amounts of 3 metabolic substrates that signal the fat storing process, part of which increases the vLDL (bad cholesterol). To make it simple, nearly 50% more fat storing than sugar calorie for calorie. These substrates also contribute to a chronic effect of insulin resistance, leading to further fat gain. This works as a one two punch when you combine it with alcohol’s acute affect of falsely lowering blood sugar which makes you crave carbs to add on top of it.
Lets recap, instead of like glucose which your liver uses for the energy of life, alcohol in the liver promotes fat storage, and increases bad cholesterol and insulin resistance (diabetes). On top of this, it distorts blood sugar and makes you hungry for carbohydrates to further your fat storage. This is why if you are trying to lose fat via diet and exercise, alcohol will absolutely stop you in your tracks. If you head out to the bar on the weekend and have 4 beers, that’s nearly identical to drinking an equal volume of soda a quart of margarine, and a kick to the mid section even before you take into account the acute toxic effects. Can you booze and still lose? Not Likely.