Alcohol is our favourite drug. Most people associate it with fun, with being sociable and with celebrations. We may also use it to help us feel better when we are tense or unhappy, or to gain more self confidence.
Social drinking can be extremely pleasurable and, in moderation, may even have health benefits. One snag is that, although alcohol initially acts as a ‘pick-you-up’ and mood – enhancer, it is ultimately a depressant; so a heavy night drinking is likely to leave you feeling worse rather than better. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke. It also contributes to obesity and is a definite no go for a healthy lifestyle.
The more you drink, and the more often you drink, the more of it you need to feel the same effects. Over a period of time habitual over-consumption can have a wide range of consequences – social, psychological and physical.
The way your body responds to alcohol is very similar to the way it deals with excess carbohydrate. Although carbohydrate can be converted directly into fat, one of the main effects of overfeeding with carbohydrate is that it simply replaces fat as a source of energy.
Rather than getting stored as fat, the main fate of alcohol is conversion into a substance called acetate. In fact, blood levels of acetate after drinking vodka were 2.5 times higher than normal. And it appears this sharp rise in acetate puts the brakes on fat loss.
A car engine typically uses only one source of fuel. Your body, on the other hand, draws from a number of different energy sources, such as carbohydrate, fat, and protein. To a certain extent, the source of fuel your body uses is dictated by its availability.
In other words, your body tends to use whatever you feed it. Consequently, when acetate levels rise, your body simply burns more acetate, and less fat. In essence, acetate pushes fat to the back of the queue.
So, to summarize and review, here’s what happens to fat metabolism after the odd drink or two.
A small portion of the alcohol is converted into fat.
Your liver then converts most of the alcohol into acetate.
The acetate is then released into your bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.
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