How Does Alcohol Effect My Metabolism?

Whether you are a fitness newbie, or you’ve been tracking your macros for years, you might have questions about how that cocktail is going to affect your fitness goals. Just to be clear, abstaining from alcohol is the BEST practice to improve your health and fitness, but if you do choose to drink, here are some tips and tools to help you better understand what alcohol does to your body and how to be smart with your alcohol consumption. 

 

Alcohol and the Metabolism  

When you consume alcohol (or any calories, for that matter), your body prioritizes what to break down or store first. However, in the case of alcohol, there is no place for your body to store it. Because of this, fats and carbs get stored while your body processes the alcohol first.  

When people link the term “metabolism” with alcohol, the focus is on your digestive system and how your body processes it.  Our metabolism turns the things we eat and drink into substances that our body can use. Everyone’s metabolic rate is unique based on lifestyle, habits, and genetic makeup. Alcohol is primarily broken down by two specific enzymes alcohol hydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde hydrogenase (ALDH).  

Another thing to note is that our liver isn’t the only organ involved in dealing with alcohol. Our stomach, brain, and pancreas are also involved.  And because of this, it’s important to remember that our bodies can metabolize 1 OUNCE of liquor per HOUR, but that is dependent on how quickly the two enzymes ADH and ALDH work. 

OUR BODIES CANNOT STORE ALCOHOL. 

I know that has already been mentioned, but it’s worth repeating. When you drink alcohol at a faster rate than your liver can process it, it end ups in your bloodstream. Since the body cannot store or use alcohol, the liver prioritizes processing the alcohol before carbs and fats. Liver disease is caused, in part, by the resulting build-up of fat in the liver. At Stark we have a great supplement called “ultra liver aid” that aides your liver in processing alcohol. Just to be clear. It is NOT a fix or cure for excessive drinking and liver disease, but it is a preventive measure to help support your liver when drinking alcohol.  

If we drink alcohol and gain weight, does that mean your metabolism is failing you? Very unlikely. Weight gain related to alcohol consumption comes as a result of general overconsumption linked to satiety (the feeling of being full). 

Unlike other macronutrients, alcohol does not affect satiety.  So the calories you consume through alcohol will not affect your appetite like other macronutrients, such as protein.  On top of that, intoxication can encourage overeating and a lack of dietary restraint. The popular terms “drunk munchies” or “drunchies” may come to mind, and rightfully so.  Then the icing on the cake is that most people sit and socialize when drinking, which means not only are extra calories and carbs being consumed, but you are also expending fewer calories.  

Although you don’t know need to know all the science in order to make a big difference in improving your health, understanding how your body reacts with alcohol is a great start.  

DITDiet Induced Thermogenesis (I know what you are thinking… what the heck is DIT?) 

Diet. Induced. Thermogenesis. Might come in handy the next time you grab some al-al-al-al-al-alcohol!  

DIT is the increase in resting metabolic rate in response to food and drink consumption. To simplify, it is the amount of energy that our body uses to process what we eat and drink. 

So here is the GOLDEN TICKET to drinking!  

Studies show that there is a way to help manipulate your metabolism in your favor.  The key is eating a larger amount of PROTEIN! Studies have shown that the value of DIT increases when you consume alcohol with a high-protein meal, but it decreases when alcohol is consumed with a high-fat meal.  

Keeping your alcoholic beverages low-carb, and keeping your protein HIGH (even higher than you think), can help regulate your body weight when you drink!  

Be Smarter About Your Drinks

Now this is may seem fairly obvious… but drinking alcohol with fewer calories is an easy way to keep booze from derailing your health and fitness: 

Here are the nutritional fact for some common drinks: 

•12 oz beer – 150 cals - 14g alcohol – 13g carbs  

•5 oz wine – 120 cals - 15g alcohol – 3g carbs  

•5 oz champagne – 80 cals - 10g alcohol – 1g carbs   

•1.5 oz spirits – 100 cals 14g alcohol – 0g carbs  

•1 Mai Tai – 260 cals - 27g alcohol – 17g carbs  

Obviously, it’s not worth drinking champagne instead of beer if you don’t like champagne.  There’s no reason to have an alcoholic beverage unless you enjoy it.  But even with that, some choices are better than others. 

For example, your margarita can become a skinny margarita by ditching the sugary margarita mix and using soda water and fresh squeezed lime juice instead! 

If you combine smarter drink choices with a well-balanced day of eating (lots of protein and veggies), there is no reason that a couple adult beverages should slow down your progress.  

Alcohol Affects Your Sleep

Getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep is extremely beneficial for weight loss AND maintaining muscle mass.  

A recent weight loss study showed that sleep deprived participants (defined as those getting only 6-7 hrs per night) had 83% of their total weight loss come from lean mass, while only 17% of their weight loss came from fat! 

BUT HERE IS THE KICKER! 

In the same study, the participants getting sufficient sleep (defined as those getting 7-8 hrs per night) had 81% of their weight loss coming from fat mass, and only 19% came from lean mass. 

Do you see the difference? The proportion of lean mass/fat mass lost switched completely based on getting an extra hour of sleep!  While there is a lot more to weight loss/fat loss (such as nutrition), it’s incredible that sleep can have such a profound impact on body composition. 

But what does alcohol have to do with all of this…? 

Well, I will give you the good news first. Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, as well as sleep more soundly for the first half of the night. Which sounds great, right? Not so fast… there’s bad news. 

The ugly side of the story is that alcohol increases overall sleep disruptions and decreases REM sleep. This means alcohol will most likely cause you to get less than 7-8 hours of sleep because it wakes you up randomly throughout the night, and your energy will decrease due to the decrease in REM sleep.  Studies have shown that less REM sleep can lead to next day drowsiness, poor concentration, and further increased sleep disruptions! 

Given this info, I think we might need to ditch the term “night cap.” 

For those who don’t want to give up alcohol completely, just be smart about when and how often you drink, and definitely don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a couple drinks to help you wind down is going to make you more rested the next day.

Remember: it takes 1 hour for the metabolism to process 1 oz of liquor. So it would not be the smartest choice to have a drink right before going to bed. While you may “think” you are sleeping better because you slip right into sleep, the reality is that is is going to more detriment to your overall health. 

(as a quick side note – if sleep is something you want to focus on, Stark has some amazing sleep supplements to help you get more REM sleep. If you are curious, check out the sleep tab at shop.starklife.us!

Alcohol and Hormones 

Did you know that alcohol has a negative influence on your hormones? I didn’t either until began working at Stark. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption decreases testosterone production in men, and moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a decrease in progesterone levels for women.  And chronic consumption of large amounts of alcohol will lead to significant disruption of the endocrine system (aka all your hormones), which can results in thyroid problems, immune dysfunction and more.  

That means that drinking alcohol hinders the production of some of our body’s most important hormones!  If you want to live a healthy lifestyle with a working bod, we need those hormones! 

To Wrap Up… 

Sometimes it’s tough hearing the truth, and the discussion about alcohol can cut down on your fun. When it comes to alcohol, less is better, but I am not saying that being fit requires that you never drink alcohol again! You can enjoy having a good time and drinking with loved ones at social events, but just remember the effects alcohol can have on your metabolism, sleep, and hormones.  And be smart so that those effects don’t show up on your waistline!

Use D.I.T. to your advantage, make calorie-friendly alcohol choices, don’t drink close to bed time, and take supplements that aid your sleep and sliver like “ultra liver aid” and “melatonin gummies.” 

Lastly, if you don’t want (or enjoy) alcohol, just don’t drink! The negative impact alcohol has on your body isn’t worth giving in to social pressure. If you are at an event and are worried you will stand out by not drinking, try a sparkling water with lime to hydrate while mingling, and no one will be able to tell the difference. I hope this information serves you well. 

Stay healthy my friends!