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How Alcohol Can Stop You From Losing Those 5 Pounds: The Science

By HERWriter
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Have you noticed that, as hard as you may try, you can’t seem to shed those last five pounds? Could the alcohol you are drinking at night with your dinner meal or that weekend away, where you drank both morning and night, be the cause?

Yes, the alcohol may be interfering with your fat loss, and here is why.

The first thing you need to know is how your body burns calories. Your body can only use calories for energy, regardless of where those calories come from.

Carbohydrates are the preferred choice and the most efficient source of energy. Your body uses the carbohydrates in the food you eat first, then from stored carbohydrates in the form of glycogen.

Burning fat for fuel is the next choice, but it takes more calories to burn a gram of fat. Only after you have depleted fat storage does your body uses protein or muscle for energy. The body does not store protein so it breaks down muscle to release amino acids to use for fuel.

It may seem like drinking alcohol causes your body to lay down more fat, but that is not what is happening. Alcohol interferes with the burning of fat as a source of energy. It does not turn into fat itself directly.

When we drink, our livers metabolize the calories from the alcohol before using fat since we cannot store alcohol in our bodies. Very little of the alcohol is actually converted into fat for storage.

As our liver metabolizes the alcohol, a chemical called acetate is released . It is believed that the circulation of acetate blocks the burning of fat by our body. (3)

Acetate is also used as an energy source ahead of fat, so fat is not used until all the acetate is used up.

Drinking alcohol contributes a sizable amount of calories to our diet. A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 125 calories. A 12-ounce beer has 150 calories, and hard alcohol can have 60 to 80 calories an ounce.

When we drink, our will power and restraint are lessened, and the alcohol stimulates our appetites. You are likely to eat more food — less healthy food — and indulge in that dessert after the meal. And if you drink more than one drink, those calories add up fast.

The Wall Street Journal said that researchers believe that drinking alcohol may enhance "the short-term rewarding effects" of eating food, according to an article in a 2010 edition of the journal Physiology & Behavior.

You are not only getting empty calories from the alcohol but with additional calories from the extra food you are eating, you are probably taking in more calories than you think.

You may be asking yourself: Can I still lose weight but continue drinking alcohol?

Actually, you can.

One large study of over 19,000 middle-aged and older women who were light to moderate alcohol drinkers found they had “less weight gain and a lower risk of becoming overweight and/or obese during 12.9 years of follow-up,” compared to women who did not drink.(7)

However, you still need to follow certain guidelines.

Mindbodygreen.com recommends sticking to only one or two glasses of dry wine, a low-sugar diet. The website also advocates exercise with weight training, getting adequate sleep at night, and limiting your stress.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.

Edited by Jody Smith

1) Is Alcohol Your Weight Loss Kryptonite? Muscle Evo.com. Retrieved February 28, 2016. 

2) Which Burns First, Fat or Muscle? Livestrong.com.  Retrieved February 28, 2016.

3) Scott Q Siler. De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption1,2,3.  Am J Clin Nutr November 1999 vol. 70 no. 5 928-936.

4) Do drinking and weight loss mix? Go Ask Alice.com. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

5) Latest Research on the Effects of Alcohol on Your Waistline. Wall Street Journal.com. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

6) Can Drinking Wine Help You Lose Weight? Mind Body Green.com. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

7) Wang, Lu MD, PhD et al. Alcohol Consumption, Weight Gain, and Risk of Becoming Overweight in Middle-aged and Older Women. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(5):453-461. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.527.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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