Drinking alcohol while you are attempting to lose weight will block fat loss and sabotage any diet plan!
Introduction: For many years I have advised my patients to abstain from alcohol while they are working on losing fat and to achieve their ideal weight. There are three reasons behind this advice, first because I have observed the effect alcohol has on the progress of my patient’s weight loss over 30 years of medical practice, second, I have read thousands of research papers that test the different ways people lose fat as well as the studies that reveal the roadblocks to fat loss, and finally I have been taught the basic physiology of the way our metabolism works and what slows it down. Because of my daily experience, medical research and scientific knowledge I can tell you that drinking alcohol while you are attempting to lose weight will block fat loss and sabotage any diet plan!
How the Body Metabolizes Food: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins
Let me start by explaining some facts about how humans metabolize foods, the names of hormones involved and what each of them does. Some of our hormones increase fat loss and some slow fat loss.
Hormones of Weight Loss and Weight Gain:
Insulin: This hormone is produced by the pancreas in response to eating. If you produce too much insulin your body becomes resistant to it and it literally can’t get into your cells to burn calories. Insulin is supposed to carry blood sugar through the cell wall of each of your cells and produce energy. If it can’t get in the cell it is carried to the fat tissues and it makes more fat. High insulin is generally because of a high carb diet, lack of exercise and this condition is called Insulin Resistance.
Cortisol: This hormone is produced in the cortex of your adrenal gland and its production follows a diurnal or daily cycle. Cortisol is highest at 8 am and lowest at 3 am. Cortisol is called the stress hormone because when you are anxious, scared or depressed, the stress you are feeling causes cortisol to increase. Cortisol increases blood sugar levels; insulin levels and breaks down muscle tissue to increase the blood sugar available for fight or flight reactions. Cortisol is called a catabolic hormone because it breaks down tissue to produce blood sugar. The only tissue that grows under the influence of cortisol is fat!
Thyroid hormones/iodine speeds up the metabolic process and burns calories, burns fat, causes weight loss and increases energy production, while it speeds the body temperature, blood pressure and pulse. Without Thyroid hormones you don’t burn calories, so you gain weight and swell with extra water weight.
Testosterone: is a hormone made in the ovaries and testes. Testosterone stimulates the growth and strength of muscle tissue, the thickness of bone and connective tissue, and stimulates the maintenance of neurologic tissue, brain and peripheral nerves, and keeps the sexual tissues young and health just as they are when we are young. Testosterone increases muscle tissue while breaking down fat.
These hormones must be sufficient, not too low or too high to facilitate the burning of fat during weight loss. It is not desirable to lose muscle mass while losing weight which is what happens when you fast (not intermittent fasting).
Before embarking on a weight loss program, I always make sure that my patients have normal levels of all of the hormones listed to assist in their metabolism so they can lose fat, not muscle and they can be healthier when they get to their ideal weight.
Roadblocks to Fat loss: Alcohol consumption!
So far, we have talked about how hormones play a key role in the physiology of weight gain and loss. The next step is devising a plan for food or “fuel” intake and exercise. Under the heading of food intake, we always discuss coffee, soda and alcohol intake during the time my patient is attempting to achieve ideal weight.
I have listened to whining, crying and begging when I tell my patients they cannot drink alcohol if they want to successfully lose fat and maintain muscle mass. Remember I didn’t make the rules I am just the coach trying to help my patients reach their own healthy goals!
Why does Alcohol Prevent Weight Loss?
It is true that alcohol of any amount has no place in weight loss. But why? Alcohol is not a carb, a fat or a protein, it is categorized as a “TOXIN” (a poison). By looking at the content of carbohydrates in an alcoholic beverage you cannot calculate the damage it will do to your weight loss progress. Because alcohol is a toxin your body prioritizes it to be broken down in the liver before food or any other type of drink you swallow. The liver is how our food is broken down and metabolized so the liver basically halts the metabolism of all the food you have eaten in the recent past and spends its time getting alcohol out of your system.
Having just one drink can stop all the fat burning your body would normally be doing for days! Your exercise or lack of calories doesn’t cause weight loss after alcohol intake because your body is busy removing a deadly component of alcohol called acetate, not burning fat.
The bottom line when it comes to alcohol while on a diet is “Don’t Do it!”.
How should I socially drink and what type of alcohol can I have after I have achieved my fat-loss goal?
- First pick an alcoholic beverage that is low on calories and that is not mixed with a carbohydrate mixer (like sugared soda, or margarita mix, or bar syrup).
- Space out your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water, one for one.
- Don’t eat carbohydrate snacks with alcohol of any kind, eat protein snack like nuts, not chips!
- Limit your number of drinks per social event to 2. That means 2 half full wine glasses of wine or 2 mixed drinks with one jigger of alcohol each.
I am always asked,” What are the best types of alcohol to consume when it comes to not gaining weight from drinking?” Well, I can tell you that Ale, sweet wine, and drinks mixed with bar syrup are the worst choices. Here is the list of Types of Alcoholic beverages, calories and number of grams of carbohydrate that each drink contains. You can read this and make your own choice.
Before you gain all your fat back after a successful diet by drinking vodka every night remember that any alcohol shuts down your fat burning metabolism and can cause fast and ugly weight gain! Alcohol of any type also increases your appetite and lowers your ability to say no to more and more food and alcohol.
I think the “best” drink for calories and low carb is a greyhound, which is fresh squeezed grapefruit juice plus vodka (no sweetener or bar syrup) or sparking water and vodka or club soda and vodka. Margaritas are usually around 600 or more calories a drink and the larger ones are even more!
In summary if you need to lose fat, replace your testosterone, and if you’re a woman, replace your estradiol as well with pellets. If your thyroid is low replace your thyroid hormone to normal and if you are pre-diabetic/insulin resistant, then take Metformin Extended Release along with abstaining from alcohol while you are losing weight. When you are on maintenance after you have reached your goal, be careful to only drink low calorie, low carb alcohol so you don’t regain it all too quickly. Remember success with fat loss is only success if the fat stays off!
This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author. www.BioBalanceHealth.com (314) 993-0963