I recently read this in a fitness newsletter - I think it's worth the read!
How Alcohol Makes You Fat
If you glanced at the title of this article, you might have cringed. When it comes to fitness, nutrition, weight loss, and overall health, many of us have trouble areas. There are some individuals who have a glass of red wine with dinner every night. Others skip the drinking completely on the weekdays, then start throwing a few back on Thursday or Friday night, and keep it up until Sunday. Still others won’t drink for two to three weeks, then have a weekend binge of a few dozen drinks or so (you know who you are!). Finally, while there are scores of individuals out there who don’t drink any alcohol at all and really won’t find this article personally useful, I encourage you (if you are one of those people) to read it anyways, and share the information with someone you think it might help.
So…how does alcohol make you fat, especially when it doesn’t have any fat in it? To understand how this process occurs, let’s examine the consumption of a 5 ounce glass of red wine by a fictional character named Vinny.
Vinny takes a drink. As the alcohol enters into digestion, it is split into two compounds: fat and acetate. The fat is taken through the bloodstream and stored wherever Vinny tends to deposit fat. The acetate is taken into the bloodstream and used as Vinny’s primary energy fuel.
If you take anything away from this article, read that last sentence again. The acetate is used as Vinny’s primary energy fuel. This means that rather than burning carbohydrates, protein, or fat as a fuel, Vinny’s body relies on the acetate for energy. It completely stops burning anything else. Suddenly, Vinny has a surplus of carbs, protein, and fat circulating in the body with nowhere to go. So where does it all end up? You guessed it…it’s converted to fat and deposited on Vinny’s waistline.
But that’s not the only effect on Vinny. Alcohol also acts as a potent appetizer. Ever heard of anapertif? It’s an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to increase the appetite, and many restaurants realize that this is a great way to get you to order more food! Several studies exist that show a sharp increase in caloric intake when an alcoholic drink is consumed before a meal (compared to a glass of water, or even a soda!). So now Vinny wants either: A) another glass of wine or food (probably something salty or greasy).
That’s not all! Let’s say that Vinny succumbs to his appetite and finishes the bottle. Just a single bout of heavy drinking will vastly increase the levels of the hormone cortisol, while significantly decreasing the levels of the hormone testosterone. In addition to his headache, here’s why Vinny should be concerned: cortisol causes the body to breakdown muscle and suppresses recovery from exercise, while low testosterone makes the body less likely build lean muscle or to burn fat as a fuel. So Vinny’s getting a big belly, and skinny arms and legs.
Now let’s consider the actual caloric content of the glass of red wine. Before we begin, bear in mind that at most parties, social gatherings, and restaurants, a typical glass of red wine is really more like 6-8 ounces. But we’ll be conservative. So Vinny’s glass of wine contains about 110 calories. Contrary to popular belief, there are very few carbohydrates in the wine – only about 5 grams. This is because when grapes are made into wine, most of the fruit sugars are converted into alcohol. For purposes of comparison, this glass of wine has about the same amount of alcohol and calories as a 12 ounce light beer or a shot of 80 proof spirit (yes, that means a shot of tequila = about a whole glass of wine). A regular, non-light beer, is even higher in calories, since it contains over twice as many carbohydrates as light beer.
But realize that alcohol itself contains about seven calories for gram, making it almost twice as calorie-laden as carbohydrates or protein, which contain only four calories per gram. However, these calories contain no beneficial nutrients, vitamins, or minerals. Sure – Vinny gets some benefit from the compounds present from the grapeskins and grapejuice, butif he drinks a big glass of red wine every night with dinner, he consumes over 1000 additional calories per week, and gains a dozen extra pounds of fat a year!
I haven’t really discussed mixed drinks and won’t say too much. If you read my article on how sugar makes you fat, you know about sugar’s potent effect on fat levels in the body, and if you’ve read the label lately on any soda or mixer, you know how much sugar it contains. A ton! Basically, you can take everything I just illustrated in the case of Vinny, and multiply by 4-5. Margaritas, Long Island Iced Tea, Mudslides, and other sweet mixed drinks can do more damage to your diet than a Big Mac with cheese.
M.S. PE, NSCA-CPT, CSCS
Journey update: I am almost 5 months into Maintenance and just want to report in that maintenance has good overall - I've had a few too many BBQ outings and a couple of vacations this summer that has me needing more accountability lately - so decided I need to keep posting my Journey! Weight Maintenance at my age is more work than I wish it was - but worth every ounce of effort!! I feel great and have WAY more energy than I did a year ago! Yeah! This photo was taken over the 4th of July.
Just had to record this where I can remember when I need a comfort meal!! Roasted Brussels Sprouts drizzled with Walden Farms Walnut Maple Syrup ...... Sauted' Mushrooms, green beans, Boiled Sugar Snap Peas (Then pop out of the shell) ......... OH MY GOODNESS! Toasting my new love of VEGGIES!!!
I posted about the scale on the forums when I first started Jenny Craig. I dug around to find it - and want to keep it where I can find it easily - because the scale is the one thing that can ruin an otherwise good day, (even though I know the "truth" about the fickle scale). She can be a real mood wrecker! I have conversations with my scale. I call her Lady Di (my short for obedience!). (Well - in truth some days I call her the B word, or worse....). I actually have conversations with Lady Di. They go something like this: "Come on Di, ... we're friends!!!!" She usually says ... "It's not my job to blow sunshine up your arse." Or I say, "I'm putting you in the corner, and that's where you'll stay until you change your mind." She'll say, "why don't you put me in the kitchen, and then you can apologize". Sometimes I'll jump on it and say, "Skinny Up!" Sometimes I shout "Flab-U-Less!!", and of course there are times I mumble ... "What the ***#exploitive^***"
And on and on go the scale conversations.
But the truth is - I need to remember the TRUTH about this crazy relationship with the scale!
Scale Weight = True Weight + Weight Variance (AKA weight of the annoying little gremlins that mess with your weight)
One of the things I did to help me overcome my frustration with the "daily scale fluctuations" was to create a weigh in chart on graph paper - so that I could see the patterns over the period of a month. That completely changed my mind set on how our bodies deal with weight loss. My chart bounces all over the place in a weeks time - but when I draw a line from the first of the month to the end of the month the line goes straight down!! (well ... not straight down --- but one of those nice angles we use in geometry!)
"Daily" Fluctuations are normal and has nothing to do with body fat.
The things that make the scale bounce around are:
Excess Salt Intake
Consumption of a late or bigger meal
Lack of a morning bowel movement
Building muscle (lean muscle mass)
Even if you have eaten more than you should, your TRUE body weight does not increase significantly over night. True weight gain or loss is a process that occurs over a longer period of time! This is key to remember!
I wrote this down from some research I did on the subject:
Mandatory Mind Training
1. Recording daily weight is just DATA. Your "indicator" is looking at the data from one week increments.
2. The best judge of your true body weight will be how your clothes fit, measuring your body fat % and measurements with a tape measure.
3. Short term Fluctuations in body weight are caused by factors irrelevant to your long term progress!!
I read something from a book that has helped my on this Journey of Change. I'm going to post what I wrote in my Journal which is a paraphrased version, some of which I added with my own thoughts. I'll have to look for the book to give credit to the original author.
The Stages of Change in Permanent Weight Loss
Stage One: The Launching Effect
This stage involves the decision and willingness to begin a program. Any previous dieter has navigated this stage and actually lost some weight. In fact it is the initial success at this stage that causes "compulsive dieters" to try each new fad diet that comes out. The memory of this early success is more salient than ensuing failure to maintain the weight loss. Dieters risk becoming a "diet junkie" ... jumping from one diet to the next, to the next and never achieving success at any of them. It's the memory of the first couple of weeks that wires our brains to keep searching for this diet high. It's a great stage, but also a risky one because you have to move onto the next stage to find long term changes.
Stage Two: The Transforming Effort
This stage requires you to be diligent enough not to be dissuaded or stop the program when things become more difficult. What most often happens at this stage is that the body's natural adjustment to different eating habits causes the weight loss to slow down and plateau. There may actually be brief periods during which no weight is lost at all. When the weight does not come off as quickly as it did at the onset of your lifestyle changes, it is often misinterpreted as exhaustion of effort. Now is the time to trust yourself and your level of effort. DO NOT get discouraged and think that your program has stopped working because you are not losing as quickly. Now is the time to push through, staying the course and trust your body and your efforts. Even if you have a minor relapse, understand that it is part of the journey to eventual permanent weight loss. The body is a smart machine, and is working hard to "re-boot" the setting you had programmed into it with the lifestyle you were living! Remember, your brain is "re-booting" along with your body, and these changes are the foundation of permanent change! You can't skip past this step and expect true change! Now is the time to hunker down and stay the course, because once you persevere through this stage ... you will have made it to the best stage .....
Stage Three: The Progressive / Developed Effort
You will arrive to a quality of energy that does not decrease or stagnate. When you sustain your effort at this stage, you will feel and energy level that seems to grow in power, eventually leading to a sense of freedom. Your new lifestyle is well into a new habit, and it has become your norm. Because of the changes in your brain, as well as your body, you are more likely to make it to this stage and stay here forever! Your identity has changed. You will not even identify with your old habits. You are liberated! True change has arrived!
Timeframe for the Stages:
Stage One comes and goes rather quickly. How long does stage Two last? Just as long as it takes. If you get into the river and let it take you where you need to be, you'll get there faster the less you fight it. If you struggle holding onto the rocks, clinging to the bank the season will last and last. If you will just release your grip, let your hands slide off the rocks and let the current take you .... the river will take you to where you need to be. Never give up just because of the time it will take to get through stage two. The days are going to pass one way or the other. So why not stay the course because you will arrive at Stage Three. And it's worth the time it takes.