Weight Loss

How does alcohol affect how you burn fat?

Your body treats alcohol like a poison.  It shuts down all your other metabolic pathways to focus on metabolizing the alcohol.  Alcohol will shut down fat burning for 12 to 36 hours depending on the dose and the individual.  That is why we like patients to only drink the day before and the day of their cheat day.  Since we encourage most patients to make their cheat day Saturday, this means Friday night and Saturday drinking.  We are not trying to burn fat on our cheat day so alcohol consumption on those nights will not slow down your results.  Drinking alcohol on non cheat days will slow down your fat loss.  If you choose to drink alcohol outside of your cheat day, adjust your weight loss expectations and own it.  

Not every week is going to be a great week and if you needed a drink to get through that day so be it, just get back on the plan on Monday.  Long term there is really no reason to drink during the week / non cheat days although it is very easy to fall into that pattern.  I would drink beer everyday if there were no negative consequences but I did not like being overweight and dibeitic so I stopped.  Now I drink 2 or 5 times a month socially on cheat days.  There is nothing wrong with responsible alcohol consumption, it can be great stress relief but it can slow your fat loss down if you are not strategic about it.

Thank you

Chris Steidinger, DC

Here are a series of published research papers and articles that support the above statement. 

How does your body metabolize alcohol?

According to this study, alcohol metabolism is a priority that mostly happens in the liver.  It varies greatly between individuals.  Basically your body is going to stop its other metabolic pathways and concentrate on getting rid of the alcohol.

“alcohol will be oxidized preferentially over other nutrients” 

How many hours does it take to metabolize alcohol?

According to this article it varies greatly by the individual but on average 25 hours.

Me personally can take me up 2 days before I feel normal.  

Effects of alcohol on lipid metabolism 

In these studies alcohol not only stopped fat burning (fat oxidation) it led to the body making new fat in the liver (lipogenesis).  Alcohol metabolites (Acetate) interfere with and stop peripheral fat mobilization in your body (you can not access your fat stores).  It also leads to your liver reorganizing itself to better metabolize alcohol and to the increased production of cholesterol (lipoproteins).

What does that mean?  Alcohol when ingested leads to changes in how your liver functions.  You consume alcohol then your liver stops what it is doing and becomes focused on metabolizing all the alcohol and its by-products, to the point where there are visible physical changes in your liver, including fat accumulation.  It not only stops fat metabolism in the liver, it actually causes your liver to make more fat and cholesterol.  Alcohol metabolites make it harder for your body to then access stored fat for energy.

Dietary carbohydrate-and ethanol-induced alteration of the metabolism and toxicity of chemical substances

A low carb diet may make it easier on your liver to metabolize alcohol.  Like 2 to 3 times more efficient.  Unrelated but I thought it was interesting.  Unfortunately for me alcohol consumption leads to carb consumption.

Effects of chronic alcohol consumption

Alcohol makes your liver make fat and cholesterol