Alcohol has a bad reputation when it comes to weight loss. In fact most people think that drinking makes you fat. Much of this stems from the old calorie counting mantra that shows that alcohol contains 7.1 calories per gram, compared to the 4.1 in protein, the 3.75 in carbohydrate and the 9 in fat. The assumption that alcohol causes weight gain is based therefore primarily on assuming that energy from alcohol is treated in the same way a carbohydrate, protein or fat.
Alcohol and Weight: The Science
The science is quite clear on alcohol. Those who drink more have lower body weights. Most studies looking at alcohol have generally concluded that alcohol consumption is associated with a lower body weight. But an association is only a link between two factors. It doesn't mean the alcohol is the cause of the lower body weights. However, alcohol is metabolised is a quite different way to other nutrients which may explain why drinkers have lower body weights.
Can Alcohol Burn Fat?
Alcohol is strange because it can only be processed by the liver. To cope with the alcohol we throw at it, the liver has few tricks that it can use to increase the rate it deals with the alcohol. One of these tricks is to use a system of enzymes to burn the alcohol. This is the MEOS system located in the endoplasmic reticulum. When this alternative enzyme system is used the energy in alcohol is turned to heat. This means the alcohol is less likely to be stored as fat.
How Does This Help With Weight Loss?
It is unsure how alcohol may cause weight loss. However, the heat producing effect of alcohol is well documented. Ever felt hot after a night's drinking? That’s your body burning the alcohol and producing heat. One possible explanation for the effect of alcohol on body weight is that the regular consumption of alcohol causes a reduction in consumption of other foods, particularly carbohydrates. If this reduces sugar intake, then fat loss will follow.
Can I drink and Lose Weight?
Yes you can. Consumption of wine and spirits should do no harm to any weight loss programme and might even help. Hold back on the beer though as many contain high amounts of carbohydrates. In addition, studies looking at alcohol intakes show clear benefits for moderate drinking. In particular drinking alcohol reduces the risk of a heart attack for the following 24 hours. Red wine is particularly beneficial because it also contains lots of antioxidants.
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