Why Alcohol is the Hand Break on Your Weight Loss Goals

No-one likes a hand brake. 

Yet consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol has detrimental effects on weight loss. The biggest problem with alcohol is not simply its energy density, it’s also how alcohol effects our body’s metabolic processes. Most importantly, its capacity to metabolise fat.

The reason why alcohol impacts our metabolism is linked to the way in which ethanol is processed. Ethanol is a toxic molecule and our body doesn’t have a storage place for it. Unlike fat, which is deposited into fat cells or carbohydrates which are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. Essentially the body has no choice but to prioritise the breakdown and removal of alcohol over all other macronutrients.

The major processing site for alcohol in the body is the liver. Up to 98% of alcohol consumed is transported to the liver where the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase converts alcohol to acetaldehyde. This molecule is then transformed into acetate, producing a sudden increase in blood acetate levels.

The body prefers to burn acetate over fat because it is more efficient. Acetate is a very readily available fuel source so the body doesn't have to do much metabolic work to use it. Our body suppresses fat oxidation (fat burning), sometimes by up to 73% (!), until the acetate is burned off. This means that for the subsequent hours after drinking, your body is in unable to utilise fat stores and any plans you had for fat loss come to a grinding halt.

But wait, there is more bad news…

When we drink heavily for an extended period of time, our body recognises alcohol as a consistent energy source and adapts to use it more efficiently. The body activates a system known as the ‘microsomal ethanol-oxidising system’ in order to redistribute and remove excess alcohol and promote body fat storage. The most common site of fat storage is around your mid-section (hence why lovers of alcohol usually sport a "beer gut").

If you’re a part of our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, these are just a couple of good reasons why alcohol intake scores so poorly. While for some it may be hard to avoid, it wouldn’t be called a ‘challenge’ if it wasn’t challenging, right? We only have your health at heart. Plus it’s only 30 days out of your whole life – you’ll thank us for it later.