The Real Impact of Alcohol on Metabolism

So, you’ve had a few drinks over the weekend and now you’re wondering if it has any effect on your metabolism. You know that alcohol is filled with empty calories, but what about its impact on your body’s ability to metabolize food? Understanding the real impact of alcohol on your metabolism is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Let’s explore how alcohol impacts your metabolism, how long its effects last, and how to best mitigate alcohol’s impact on your goals!

a man in a suit takes a sip of whisky

How Alcohol Affects Your Metabolism

Alcohol has an immediate effect on your metabolism. The process of breaking down alcohol can take up to 40 minutes for one standard drink (about 13g), which does require some energy, but when consumed, the body absorbs alcohol quickly and decreases your metabolic rate. When you drink alcohol, your body will burn fewer calories than it normally would when you’re not drinking, as the liver prioritizes breaking down the alcohol before any other nutrients or calories in our bodies. This means that your body will take longer to process the food you eat while drinking, which can result in more calories being stored as fat. In fact, drinking alcohol can cause your body to burn up to 73% fewer calories than it would otherwise, which is why consuming alcohol can significantly impede weight loss efforts and even lead to weight gain over time.

How Long Does Alcohol Affect Your Metabolism?

The effects of alcohol on slowing down your metabolism can last from 24-72 hours after consumption. If you have more than one alcoholic beverage in a night, it can take up to 72 hours before your body returns to normal metabolic rate. During this time, it is especially important to make sure you are eating healthy foods and getting enough rest so that you don’t exacerbate any negative effects of slowed metabolism due to drinking too much. The amount of alcohol consumed also plays a role in how long it takes for the body to return to normal metabolic functioning- people who consumed more than 4 drinks per day are more likely to experience prolonged metabolic delays than those who drink less than 2 drinks per day. This is all the say that both amount AND frequency matter, as you are likely slowing down your metabolism for much longer than you realize.

How to Minimize the Damage

Frankly, cutting out alcohol is the simplest course of action if you want to avoid the negative impacts alcohol has on your metabolism altogether. However, if you don’t want to give it up completely, there are a few ways you can reduce the damage done when drinking. First, limit yourself to one or two drinks per day, twice per week at most— while less is always better when it comes to alcohol, any more than that can result in more serious health consequences over time. Also be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water before, during, and after drinking sessions so you can counteract some of the effects of dehydration caused by alcohol as well as help flush away toxins from your system and allow for easier digestion.

As a waiter tries to top off a wine glass, the patron politely puts their hand over their glass to indicate they do not want to drink any more

Eating nutrient-dense, high-protein, low-calorie meals a few hours before drinking can also help. The timing allows your body to begin digesting these essential nutrients before you drink, the protein will help you feel satiated while burning some extra calories beforehand, and keeping the calories low means the one or two drinks you do enjoy won’t put you so far over your caloric needs for the day to minimize weight gain. Last but certainly not least, don’t skip your workouts! Increasing exercise can help improve your metabolic rate, as well as get rid of any toxins in your body left behind from alcohol consumption. Exercise also releases endorphins which help boost mood and reduce stress levels which indirectly impact our overall health and well-being.

chicken fajitas in a pan

While it’s true that alcohol can slow down your metabolism temporarily, it doesn’t have to be a major issue if you’re mindful of how much and how frequently you drink, as well as practice other healthy habits such as staying hydrated and eating nutritious meals before and after consuming alcoholic beverages. With these tips in mind, you can still enjoy an occasional drink without sacrificing your health or fitness goals!