You received many good answers describing how alcohol is metabolized and used by the body. But let’s consider the BIG picture for a moment. We are trying to affect a lifestyle change with our clients. Ingesting more than 1-2 drinks per day or more than 10 per week is going to effect the lifestyle choices your client makes. As teir inhibitions drop, they will make more and more unwise lifestyle choices, i.e. eating high calorie, fattening foods with friends they are partying with. Other unhealthy choices may also be involved which I won’t go into here.
I tell my clients you don’t have to stop partying and enjoying yourself, just do it on ONE drink. Then switch to club soda & lemon or plain water. The real danger of alcohol is much more than its 7 calories per gram. Its real danger is how it causes people to do STUPID things.
Roman Malkov, author “Carb cycling diet” wrote about alcohol: “Let me say a word about alcohol and the diet. Alcohol is a refined carb, and you don’t need a personal trainer to tell you what a beer belly is.
Alcohol tricks your body into conserving fat. Alcohol redirects calories towards fat deposition instead of burning for energy. Even with exercise, if you drink alcoholic beverages, your fat loss can be blocked.”
Our bodies are constantly burning calories (energy) throughout the day, even when we are resting. The calories burned come from two primary sources- sugar (broken down from any carbohydrates we’ve eaten) and fats (mostly from the oxidation of stored body fat). The percentages burned of each vary, depending on the level of activity being performed at the moment and the amount of “fuel” (food) available to burn.
Enter alcohol- when we ingest alcohol these numbers go out the window. The byproduct of alcohol digestion (acetate) becomes the body’s new favorite energy source. It can’t be stored by the body and our bodies are not wasteful! We’ll burn all the acetate available BEFORE burning any more sugar or fat. This means that during the time that blood alcohol levels are elevated, very little fat or sugar is being used at all. This becomes a two-edged sword- the bodyfat we’re trying to burn by exercising remains unscathed while the sugars available to the body ARE stored, very easily, as bodyfat.
In addition to this, alcohol contributes to diminished inhibitions, so we don’t pay as much attention to what we’re eating in addition to the booze. (mmmm, nachos!) In the hours after alcohol is metabolized, blood sugar levels tend to drop because of a deficiency in one of the acids necessary to complete the Krebs Cycle. This means we get HUNGRY (aka hungover) and crave foods with higher carb content than we really need. Guess where the excess is stored?? That’s right, as bodyfat.
As for where the fat is stored, most of it depends on genetics and gender. However, there’s an interesting study from 2007 published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism correlating alcohol consumption and the release of cortisol, a hormone specifically linked to visceral (belly) fat storage patterns. It shows cortisol levels increasing 3% for every one alcoholic beverage consumed per week. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266962/
Basically, as you know, moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption. Sorry for the lengthy description, but I hope it helps. If you want further resources for your clients, www.livestrong.com has some great articles, as does www.webmd.com .
There is alot of new research out about the impact of alcohol on our bodies.
From what I understand, the alcohol molecule is not recognized by our digestive track, it’s recognized as a foreign substance thus our liver stores it as fat.
Also, alcohol increases our inability to “say no” to an extra helping or dessert. It also inhibits proper brain function which means the power of exercise diminsihes.
I ask my clients to consider filling up their wine glasses with mineral water.
Actually diet soda’s concern me more than a glass of wine!
Ethanol, the primary calorie contributor to alcohol intake, provides 7 calories per gram, substantial considering that there are 28 grams in an ounce. So it doesn’t take very many drinks to add up to hundreds of calories. Empty, I don’t know what that means, but a calorie is a calorie. And if you don’t use it, you store it.
With relation to abdominal and intraabdominal fat stores it appears that the anatomical distribution is not related to the source of the calories, but more to genetic and gender distinctions. Men more to abdominal, women more to hips.
Try to convince your client to eliminate alcohol consumption for just one week, keeping all other lifestyle variables in place, and it may be enough to convince him/her that restricting alcohol consumption can have a powerful effect.