The effects of alcohol on our health [why your progress may have stalled]


No, I am not saying you need to stop drinking all forms of alcohol and never take a sip again. I just want to shed light on the effects of alcohol in the body (and I don’t mean binge drinking effects, I mean just a casual drink on the weekends) and how it could be stopping your weight loss progress!

As we know, alcohol is a poison. It is a substance we ingest to feel more relaxed and it is actually a sedative. This “drug” effect is based on how much we consume. If we consume a little, we feel fine. If we consume a lot, we feel invincible! Well, although those could be great benefits for some people, it can actually start to take a toll on your progress.

How is alcohol metabolized in the body?

We all know (or maybe we don’t) what alcohol makes us feel like when we consume it, but what exactly is going on in the body when we consume alcohol?

When we ingest alcohol, it is first absorbed by the stomach and small intestine, into the veins (that collect blood from the stomach and bowels, and from the portal vein) and leads to the liver. Once it reaches the liver, it is exposed to enzymes and is then metabolized (or broken down) and excreted. As I said, before it gets to the liver, the alcohol is absorbed by the stomach and small intestine and dumps into the bloodstream (which is how we measure the amount of alcohol in our system, blood alcohol concentration). Once at the liver, it can only be metabolized at a specific rate (about 1oz per hour), and if more than that is consumed at once, it accumulates in the bloodstream and gives us a high blood alcohol content and gives us the drunk feeling. There are a few ways BAC can be influenced like speed of drinking, amount of food in the system, type of alcohol consumed and genetic factors (what/how much enzymes do you naturally have to help/hinder the elimination process).

We all metabolize, or eliminate alcohol at different rates. This is because it is influenced by different factors such as how much is consumed (and how frequently), diet, age, gender, smoker/non-smoker, and time of day. Not to mention your SIZE. We all know that smaller people don’t need as much alcohol to get the same effects as someone who is larger. This is also the case for how much, or how often, someone drinks. The more you drink, the less it effects you because your body makes more enzymes to break down alcohol and it has damaged metabolic pathways, or “built a tolerance”. Those who don’t frequently drink feel the effects with less alcohol because they do not have as many liver enzymes to break down the alcohol.

coaching call

Effects of alcohol on the body

Over consuming alcohol can lead to addiction, or tolerance. This, is not the effects I am talking about. I am also not talking about how it makes you feel drunk and make bad decisions. I am talking about the internal damage it can cause, both over time and acutely.

Short term effects of alcohol:

− Inflammation

− Destroys gut lining

− High blood pressure

− Compromise immune system

− Respiratory infections

− Vitamin deficiencies

− Hormone imbalances

– And of course all of your dizziness, blurred vision, slurred speech, poor memory, slowed heart rate, mood swings etc.

Long term effects of alcohol:

− Addiction

− Ulcers

− Liver failure

− Cancer

− Heart Disease

− Depression

− Cardiomyopathy

−  And of course the chance of death increases

How much is TOO much?

The very first sentence of this blog post was letting you know that you do no have to give up ALL alcohol, but you may want to limit it. I know we all get caught up in alcohol either 1. giving us relief from stress or 2. being a social activity, but rarely do we think about how it is effecting us on a deeper level. We all assume that binge drinking (2-7 days a week with 6 or more drinks) is the only way we will ever be faced with these health concerns, but that is not the case. We can actually see these effects show up in individuals who only drink some wine in the evenings or the a beer after work. But, for those of you who enjoy the aspect of drinking, I wanted to break down how much you can be consuming and how much is TOO much..

Alcohol in a week: (high-risk)

− Men: 14 drinks/week

− Women: 7 drinks/week

Alcohol in a week: (low-risk)

− Men: 7 drinks/week

− Women: 4 drinks/week

Alcohol in a day: (binge drinking)

− Men: 5 drinks in 2 hours

− Women: 4 drinks in 2 hours

Alcohol in a day: (safe drinking)

− Men: 2 drinks/hour for 1st hour and 1 drink per hour thereafter

− Women: 1 drink/hour for 1st hour and 1/2 drink per hour thereafter

How does alcohol stall our weight-loss

I always say “everything in moderation” but when it comes to weight loss, things can get tricky. There are a few ways that alcohol can hinder our progress and even stall our fat-loss journey.

Hidden Calories:

We know that alcohol has calories, about 7 per gram (liquor). But, the real calories come from whatever you mix with. Most beverages on a drink menu are filled with sugar and sweeteners, to cover up that strong alcohol taste. So you need to be aware of this, the more ingredients, the more calories. Now, these calories only account fo liquor, beer and wine have their own macronutrients because they are made differently.

Loss of Inhibitions:

As stated earlier, alcohol causes us to feel all sorts of things. And with that we lose our inhibitions to make smart food choices. We have ALL done the 2am pizza and fast food binge. We lose our good food judgement the night of, and usually the next day. We have the “I feel like crap, I want to eat crap” or “I already screwed up last night so what’s one more day”, and there are not ways to go about things!

Metabolism Damage:

Whenever we are un a caloric deficit, our main focus is burning fat. Well, when we consume alcohol, fat metabolism takes a back seat while alcohol is metabolized instead. This means while our liver metabolizes the alcohol instead of fat, we are created a build-up of fatty acids which can lead to excess fat storage.

Internal Damage:

Pulling from the long-term effects of alcohol, we know that it can cause hormone imbalances. These imbalances can cause a lot of health issues (depending on what hormones are off) and can lead to fat storage. This storage is obviously going to hinder our results, but it can also cause internal stress on our bodies and just continue to push us backwards away from our goals.

Like anything, there are going to be ways around this. Yes, alcohol can cause a lot of short term and long term negative effects, but that is essentially your decision. You can still consume small amounts of alcohol without seeing any major long term effects. Smart ways to indulge include mixing clear liquor with soda water, creating mock-tails that give you the social aspect without the alcohol and even some red wine can be okay.

So yes, even alcohol in moderation is okay, but I just wanted to shed light on the effects alcohol can have on both your body and your weight loss journey!

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Haley Rowe May 5, 2018