Consuming too much alcohol results in a myriad of effects, both large and small, on a person’s general health and emotional stability. It can wreak havoc on personal and professional relationships.
Most negative consequences of alcohol are relatively well-known. Perhaps less well-known, however, is the relationship between alcohol and weight gain.
Alcohol and Weight Gain
The following list describes eight different ways that alcohol can hinder weight loss and even cause weight gain:
1. Alcoholic beverages are mostly composed of “empty” calories.
To gain body weight, our body must consume more calories than it burns. These extra calories get stored as fat, which is essentially an energy reserve. Alcohol is considered “empty” calories because, while it does provide the body with calories, it contains very few other nutrients.
A single 12-ounce can of your average beer contains about 155 calories. For a 5-ounce glass of red wine, there are 125 calories. To put that into perspective, an average afternoon snack will have between 150 to 200 calories, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Even one night out at the bar with your friends will likely gain you several hundred empty calories. And, mixed drinks that contain soda or fruit juice have even more calories.
2. Our bodies recognize alcohol as a primary fuel source.
There are other factors that lead to weight gain. When alcohol is consumed, the body breaks it down into energy before all other macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
What this means is that if the alcohol is itself fulfilling our body’s energy needs, other sources such as glucose and lipids get deposited for later use as fat.
3. Alcohol can negatively impact organ function.
The liver’s primary mission is to filter the blood of toxins and alien substances, including drugs and alcohol. Likewise, the liver plays a major role in metabolizing carbs, proteins, and fats.
Long-term, regular consumption of alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can cause a condition known as alcoholic fatty liver. Once this condition exists, the liver’s metabolic functions are compromised. This condition makes it much more difficult for the body to burn off excess fat and ultimately lose weight.
4. Alcohol tends to be stored as belly fat.
Typically, when someone overeats, the extra calories get stored as fat. The locations of these fat deposits are more or less evenly spread over the entire body. For alcohol consumption, though, the excess calories tend to be stored in the belly region, causing the infamous “beer gut.”
5. Alcohol affects a person’s judgment and increases impulsivity, including that related to food and more drinking.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can cause people to make poor decisions at the spur of the moment. Unfortunately, this also includes dietary choices.
In fact, a study revealed that mice who drank ethanol over a three day period exhibited a significant increase in food intake. This research suggests that alcohol can actually trigger hunger signals in the brain, leading to cravings to consume more food.
6. Alcohol impacts important sex hormones.
Alcohol consumption can affect levels of hormones in the body, especially testosterone, a sex hormone that plays a critical role in several metabolic processes, such as muscle development and fat-burning.
One study suggested that low testosterone levels might be linked to metabolic syndrome in men. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar levels
- High BMI (body mass index)
7. Alcohol use can negatively impact sleep.
Research suggests that alcohol use can result in increased periods of wakefulness during sleep cycles. Sleep deprivation can lead to an imbalance in the hormones linked to hunger, satiety, and energy storage.
8. Alcohol impairs digestion and nutrient uptake.
The consumption of alcoholic beverages can impair proper digestive function by causing stress in the stomach and intestines. This effect can result in impaired digestive secretions and passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract.
Digestive secretions are critical elements of healthy digestion, as they break down food into the fundamental micro- and macronutrients that are absorbed and used by the body. Alcohol use of all levels can impair digestion and absorption of these nutrients, which can significantly affect the metabolism of bodily organs that play a vital role in weight management.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is a devastating disease that can destroy the lives of those afflicted as well as the lives of their loved ones. Fortunately, however, alcoholism is a condition that can be treated using a comprehensive approach.
Those who seek professional help can take advantage of therapeutic services, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, psychoeducation, and group support. Harmony Treatment and Wellness employs caring medical personnel who deliver these services with compassion and expertise. We are dedicated to providing clients with the knowledge and support they need to get sober and enjoy long-lasting wellness.
If you or someone you love has been trying to quit drinking and has found it challenging to do so, call us today to discover how we can help!