Q: I’m trying to lose weight and have been working out at the gym and watching what I eat. I have 3 to 5 cocktails a few nights a week and on the weekends. My boyfriend says alcohol is turned right into fat. Is that true?
A: Less than 5% of the alcohol calories you consume are actually turned into fat. But don’t pop a cold one just yet: the truth is that the process of building a lean, muscular body and alcohol consumption don’t mix. The problem isn’t so much the calories in alcohol but the fact that
alcohol puts the brakes on your body’s fat burning process, can lower your testosterone level and stimulate your appetite.
When you consume alcohol, it quickly reaches the stomach where about 20% is absorbed into the bloodstream while the balance continues to the intestines where it then also enters the blood stream. In the liver, enzymes break down the alcohol and produce a substance called acetate. This acetate then enters the bloodstream and replaces fat as the fuel your body uses for energy. In other words, it signals the body to stop burning fat. Not good if you’re trying to build lean muscle!
More than a bad hangover, a wild night of drinking will also significantly lower your
testosterone level for 12 to 24 hours and increase the muscle-devouring hormone cortisol. (With excessive alcohol use, estrogen levels can rise and lead to the development of breast tissue in men, a condition called gynecomastia.) Scientists believe this is why excessive drinkers have less muscle than people who consume little or no alcohol.
Moderation is the key: limit yourself to just a couple drinks. Your best bet is to stick with a glass or two of red or white wine (70 to 75 calories) or light beer (90 to 105 calories). Mixers such as carbonated soda, orange and cranberry juices contain sugars and explode the calorie count of distilled spirits like rum, bourbon, vodka and gin.