If you want to lose belly fat or body fat period, then rethink your drinking habits. Don’t leave it till your New Year’s Resolution. Start changing your habits NOW.
Alcohol consumption is becoming too much of the norm. Having fun seems to be synonymous with drinking alcohol. We self medicate in order to unwind after a long day with an alcoholic beverage or two without thinking about the cause and effect it can have on your waist line, appetite and overall health.
If you are one of those who are finding it hard to get rid of that gut and are also clinging to the claim that alcohol is good for you in moderation (as you sip at a Christmas margarita), maybe it’s time to consider whether your alcohol consumption might be negatively affecting your midriff measurement.
What is a beer belly?
Visceral fat is the official name for the fat inside a beer belly. It’s not the same as subcutaneous fat found under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is stored in the hips, thighs, butt, back, and back of the arms. Most of the body’s fat is subcutaneous, especially in women. You can grab/pinch this type of fat, it folds and can be squeezed.
You can’t grab visceral fat – it’s behind the abdominal muscles in your abdominal cavity. If you poke a beer belly it’s often firm. This is because you’re poking the abdominal muscles which are being pushed outwards by the accumulation of fat within the abdominal cavity, surrounding your organs.
Visceral fat is a BIG trouble maker. It causes metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammation that leads to heart disease and diabetes. Visceral fat literally encrusts the vital organs: the kidneys, liver, stomach, and others. The abdominal cavity that houses the organs is called the “viscera” and those are the “visceral organs” – buried in “visceral fat”.
Where does visceral fat come from?
Visceral fat is brought about by a number of factors including:
⇒ Excess Alcohol Consumption and Binge Drinking
⇒ Excess Carbohydrate Consumption
⇒ Sedentary Lifestyle
⇒ Age Related Decline in Estrogen In Women and Testosterone In Men
Alcohol is a huge factor in the development of visceral fat, but also increases your subcutaneous fat levels as well.
First and foremost, alcohol (chemical name is ethanol) and the byproducts of its metabolism are poisons and the very first thing that your liver does when it encounters alcohol in the blood stream is set about the chemical process of neutralising it to rid it from your system – over and above any other function it performs. In other words, all other normal and essential liver functions are PUT ON HOLD till the ethanol is metabolised and its toxic effects neutralised.
Around 98% of alcohol that is consumed is processed in the liver, with the other two to ten percent being expelled through urine, breathing, or sweat. The amount of alcohol in a standard drink will take around 10 hours for the average person to process, which means the more that is consumed at any one point, the greater the rise in blood alcohol content and the longer it will take to eliminate the alcohol – up to 24 hours if you’ve binged.
1. Your body will always burn alcohol calories before food or body fat calories
Your liver recognizes alcohol and its by-products as toxins, so your body stops processing nutrients from food you’ve eaten while it takes care of the “bad guys” first. As a result, your body burns the empty (nutrient devoid) alcohol calories for energy while the digestion of nutrient-rich food is put on the back burner. Alcohol inadvertently becomes your body’s primary fuel source, which means you must burn off all your alcohol calories before you start burning calories from both the food that you eat or your fat stores, thus inhibiting your fat burn. Bad news if you’re trying to lose weight.
Alcohol is the most energy dense molecule after fat.
Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram, while protein and carbohydrate both provide only 4 calories per gram. Fat provides 9 calories per gram.
When you consume more calories than you burn (a likely scenario when alcohol is part of your meal) your body stores the excess as fat. By the time your body gets around to burning food calories, it might not need the energy and end up storing the extra calories you’ve eaten as fat cells.
Alcohol calories add up so quickly. Consuming 2-3 drinks a day can add up to over 400 calories extra each and every day. Multiply that by one week and you are over 2700 calories extra. That is over a half a pound.
2. Your liver cannot properly manage it’s blood fats
Your liver cannot properly manage it’s blood fats cholesterol and triglycerides in the presence of alcohol and it’s metabolites. This affects your body’s ability to produce and manage the building blocks of hormones and cell membranes, impacting on every one of your body systems including your endocrine system, immune system, cardiovascular and your nervous system.
Inability to properly manage blood fats eventually leads to elevated triglycerides and cholesterol causing blocked up arteries and setting you up for high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Cholesterol is the building block of testosterone. We get cholesterol from our food (e.g. eggs) and you produce it in your liver. Testosterone, which has a powerful fat loss effect, is reduced whenever alcohol is consumed, thus halting its full potential as a fat burner. Also, testosterone as an anabolic hormone, contributes to gains in lean muscle mass. Lowered testosterone means fewer muscle gains, and less muscle means a lowered metabolic rate.
Alcohol suppresses testosterone production (the primary metabolic hormone), not just while intoxicated but for up to 24 hours following consumption. Bad news for men.
Your liver cannot properly break down insulin caused by carbohydrate consumption. Chronically elevated insulin levels can cause insulin insensitivity which can progress to Type II Diabetes.
So not only does alcohol delay your liver’s ability to break down fat, it also obstructs your body’s access to the hormones it needs for all sorts of functions.
3. Alcohol increases your appetite
While drinking, people usually will not stop to consider the impact alcohol is having on their bodies; such is alcohol’s effect on loosening the inhibitions. The result of this relaxed thinking could mean more calories consumed and extra body fat gains. Those drinking might also eat more of the wrong kinds of food, without thinking of the consequences.
Alcohol tends to have an appetite stimulating effect as it provides little in the way of nutrition, leaving a craving for other foods at the time of consumption. Add this to the fact that fatty and salty foods tend to accompany most occasions featuring alcohol (as well as alcohol actually stimulating one’s appetite for these kinds of foods), and the general loosening of resolve that goes with an inebriated mindset, and you have a recipe for excess fat gain. Alcohol has also been shown to affect motivation, making a healthy diet harder to stay on while it is being used.
What can you do?
I have mentored many weight loss challengers over the years who like their nightly drinkie or two (or more) and even more on weekends, and they rarely lose body fat. I strongly recommend limiting alcohol consumption to once a week if fat loss is your goal – and on that special night of the week, I’ll give you 1-2 standard drinks, that’s it! Whatever you do, do not binge drink – that’s even worse than small amounts of alcohol spread over the week.