Consuming too much alcohol can lead to a myriad of mild to severe effects on a person’s overall health and emotional stability. It can also wreak havoc on an individual’s personal and professional relationships.
Most adverse consequences of alcohol are relatively well-known. Perhaps less prominent, however, is the relationship between alcohol and gaining weight.
Alcohol and Weight Gain
The following list describes eight different ways in which alcohol can impede weight loss and even result in weight gain:
1. Alcoholic beverages consist of mostly “empty” calories.
To gain body weight, the human body must consume more calories than it burns. Surplus calories get stored as fat, which is a vital energy reserve. Alcohol is considered “empty” calories because, although it does provide the body with calories, it contains few other nutrients.
A single 12-ounce can of an average beer contains about 155 calories. A 5 oz. glass of red wine has about 125 calories. To put this into perspective, a typical afternoon snack will have between 150-200 calories but also likely more vitamins and minerals.
Even in a single night out at the bar with friends, a person may ingest several hundred empty calories. And, mixed drinks such as cocktails that contain fruit juice or soda will pack an extra big punch.
2. The human body treats alcohol as a primary fuel source.
Several other factors can lead to weight gain. When alcohol is ingested, the body breaks it down into energy before all other macronutrients, including proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
This fact suggests that if the alcohol is fulfilling our body’s energy needs, other sources such as glucose and lipids get deposited as fat for later use.
3. Alcohol can impair organ function.
The liver’s primary objective is to remove toxins and alien substances from the body, including drugs and alcohol. The liver plays an essential role in breaking down carbs, proteins, and fats.
Long-term and chronic alcohol consumption in excessive amounts can cause a condition known as alcoholic fatty liver. Once this disease manifests, the liver’s metabolic functions are jeopardized. This disorder makes it much more challenging for the body to burn excess fat and lose weight.
4. Alcohol is often stored as belly fat.
When a person eats too much, the extra calories get stored as fat. The locations of these fat deposits are usually more or less evenly spread over the entire body. Regarding alcohol consumption, however, excess calories tend to be stored in the stomach region, causing the infamous “beer gut.”
5. Alcohol impairs an individual’s judgment and increases impulsive behaviors, including eating more food and consuming more drinks.
Alcohol is known to lower a person’s inhibitions and can cause them to make poor choices at the spur of the moment. Unfortunately, this also includes dietary decisions.
One study revealed that mice who consumed ethanol over three days exhibited a significant increase in food intake. This finding suggests that alcohol can trigger hunger signals in the brain, leading to cravings to consume more food.
6. Alcohol impacts essential sex hormones.
Alcohol use can impact levels of hormones in the body, especially testosterone, a sex hormone that plays a vital role in various metabolic processes, including muscle development and fat-burning.
Another study found that low testosterone levels in men might be linked to metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by high cholesterol, hypertension, high blood sugar levels, and high body mass index (BMI).
7. Alcohol use can cause significant sleep disturbances.
Research has found that alcohol use can result in increased periods of wakefulness during sleep cycles. Sleep deprivation can lead to an imbalance in the hormones associated with feelings of hunger, satiety, and energy storage.
8. Alcohol impairs digestion and nutrient uptake.
The use of alcoholic beverages can impair optimal digestive function by inducing stress in the stomach and intestines. This effect can lead to impaired digestive secretions and the passage of food through the gastrointestinal system.
Digestive secretions are vital elements of healthy digestion, as they break down food into the fundamental micro- and macronutrients that are absorbed and effectively used by the body. At any level, alcohol use can affect digestion and absorption of these nutrients, which can significantly affect the metabolism of organs that help manage weight.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is a potentially devastating disease that can destroy the lives of those afflicted and their loved ones. Fortunately, however, alcoholism is a disorder that can be treated using a comprehensive approach.
Those who seek professional help from Just Believe Recovery can take advantage of therapeutic services, including psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, psychoeducation, music therapy, and peer groups. We employ caring medical personnel who deliver these services with compassion and expertise. We are committed to providing individuals we treat with the knowledge and support they need to get sober and enjoy long-lasting wellness.