Most of us understand that consuming alcohol and achieving our body composition goals don’t usually go hand in hand.
But do you know why?
Most people believe it’s because the alcohol “turns to fat” in the body. While this makes perfect sense logically, it isn’t actually what happens at all.
When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and acts immediately on your organs and tissues, including your brain. That’s why you feel buzzed and loopy as soon you start drinking!
Since alcohol is a toxin though, your body works very hard – and very quickly – to metabolize it the moment you down your first sip. Through a process called oxidation, your body detoxifies and removes the alcohol from your bloodstream before it has the chance to cause damage.
For this reason, alcohol calories are considered the “first to burn,” meaning that the metabolism of all other ingested calories are put on hold until the alcohol calories are dealt with.
If you consume a vodka and cranberry mixed drink, for example, the carbohydrate calories from the cranberry juice will be converted into triglycerides and stored as body fat until the vodka has been sufficiently metabolized. Same goes for the crackers or chips you may be enjoying with your beverage.
Similarly, fat calories consumed with alcohol, such as a handful of nuts or a helping from the cheese and meat tray, will more likely be stored as fat while your body is busy burning off the alcohol.
Are you ready for the real kicker?
When your body clears out your bloodstream of all its sources of energy in order to burn the alcohol, you get a quick blood glucose drop and this leads to … the munchies! Yep, the munchies are a real thing, validated by science. And anything you consume munchie-wise is almost guaranteed to be stored as fat.
Bottom line: Consuming alcohol interferes with body composition goals by causing overeating, inhibiting the burning of other calories, and making the other calories you consume with your drink fat forming.
And at seven calories per gram, alcohol is the very definition of “empty calories,” not to mention a potential contributor to insulin resistance.
But here’s the thing. I know you’re going to drink despite all of this doomsday news. Hey, I’m going to drink despite all of this doomsday news! So I wanted to leave you with a little holiday hack for how to enjoy a drink here and there and still fit into your pants come January.
Holiday Hack: Consume alcoholic drinks alone (and in moderate amounts, of course!) to mitigate fat storage concerns. In other words, don’t eat when you drink, just drink! And stick to drinks like red wine or vodka and soda as opposed to coolers and mixed drinks that tend to contain more sugar.
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