Revive’s Guide to Alcohol

Most of my clients are aware of the fact that alcohol comes with calories, and even more are added when it is mixed with sugary drinks or juices. For reference, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram on its own (carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram). This means that most standard drinks contain between 60 and 160 calories, not including the mix.

What most people aren’t aware of is how alcohol affects your metabolism. The calories contained in alcohol are metabolized differently than protein, fat, or carbohydrates. About 20% of alcohol is instantly absorbed into your blood. The other 80% makes its way to the small intestine where it is absorbed and eventually taken by the blood to the liver where it is broken down and metabolized at a rate of 1 oz. every 90 minutes.  Body fat, gender, and weight can affect this rate. If we consume more than 1 oz. of alcohol every 90 minutes, then our blood becomes saturated with alcohol until the liver can process it.

Wine

Alcohol is a toxin. Once you ingest it, your body’s soul focus is to get it out. When alcohol is in your system, your body’s ability to digest protein and carbohydrates is altered. Instead of using ingested protein to increase protein syntheses in the body, your body stores it as fat. So, if you drink alcohol with a meal the protein you consume will be stored as fat. Since protein is the only macronutrient for which we lack a storage supply, you will increase your risk of muscle catabolism (muscle breakdown). With daily consumption of alcohol your risk of having a higher body fat percentage increases. This can lead to a reduced amount of lean muscle mass which contributes to a lower metabolic rate.

Moreover, your body cannot use the calories from alcohol as fuel. Whereas carbohydrates get converted to glycogen (the stored form of energy), your body treats alcohol more like fat. Therefore, alcohol consumption can increase your body fat. The effects of alcohol don’t end with macronutrients; micronutrients are affected as well. Minerals (calcium, phosphorous and zinc) and vitamins (vitamin A, C, and most B vitamins) are depleted at a rapid rate. Alcohol is also a powerful diuretic which can have an impact on absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Alcohol does have some benefits. It can relieve stress; it contains antioxidants; and, depending on the dose, alcohol can be beneficial for blood pressure and cardiovascular health. However, all these benefits can be obtained from a well-balanced diet. Keep in mind some alcoholic drinks are better (wine) then others (sugary mixed drinks). Does this mean you need to cut the booze completely? Absolutely not, but you need to be mindful of what you are drinking, how much you are drinking and whether it is in-line with your goals. For instance, if your nutrition goal involves weight loss, work on slowly reducing your alcohol consumption to one drink every other night. Get to know your portion size, set boundaries, and keep yourself accountable.

 

Cheat Sheet:

Recommended Maximum Consumption: 2 Drinks/Day for Men; 1 Drink/Day for Women
1 Standard Drink Contains a ½ oz. of Alcohol
Type of Drink Average Size
Wine 3-4 oz. (90-120 ml)
Wine Cooler 10 oz. (300 ml)
Beer 12 oz. (360 ml)
Hard Liquor 1 ½ oz. (45 ml)