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Blog Nutrition Does Alcohol Slow Your Metabolism? The Effect Of Alcohol On Your Body

Does Alcohol Slow Your Metabolism? The Effect Of Alcohol On Your Body

alcohol with least calories

It is a well-known fact that a combination of healthy nutrition and regular workouts is a tried-and-true way to lose weight. Unfortunately, not all people understand that both the food they eat and the beverages they drink are equally important. The drinks you include in your daily menu have their own effect on your weight loss results. In this article we will shed light on a link between alcohol and weight loss. What do you think, does alcohol slow your metabolism? Let’s figure this out!

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Alcohol: Brief Info

Opinions concerning alcohol and its effect on your body can be quite controversial. Some people claim that alcohol is beneficial. For instance, there is an opinion that red wine can help to keep excess pounds from being stored. Moderate amounts of alcohol in your menu may naturally help to prevent gallstones and even dementia and diabetes (1). As for the negative effects of alcoholic drinks, excessive drinking can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, violent behavior and more. Alcohol also has a negative effect on your mental health, which can lead to depression and anxiety.  

One of the worst things about adult beverages is that the calories found in alcohol can be considered “empty”. Yes, when you drink alcoholic beverages, you get a certain amount of calories. However, such drinks have no fats, no proteins and can offer only a negligible amount of carbs, which is far from being nutritious. Alcoholic drinks with added sugars and other ingredients have even more calories and are even more unhealthy. The main question is how alcohol affects your metabolic rate.

Read More: Does Whiskey Make You Fat: Digging Deeper Into The Relationship Between Alcohol And Weight Gain

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Does Alcohol Slow Down Your Metabolism?

This issue is quite controversial, not completely understood and has no distinct answer (6). The thing is that your body just cannot store alcohol and has to get rid of it as soon as possible. When you drink alcohol, your body absorbs it and the substance gets to your bloodstream. You already know that alcohol is classified as empty calories. Even if such drinks have no nutritional value, you still get the energy. Your body tries to get rid of these substances and uses this energy first. Simply put, alcohol metabolism is your body’s first priority and it burns this energy instead of calories you get from food. As a result, your body may store excess glucose from carbohydrates and lipids from fats as excess body fat. This may lead to excessive weight gain. So, when you consume alcohol, your body uses it as source of energy before anything else.

That said, it is still hard to fully understand this issue. There are studies that claim that alcohol helps to lose weight. For instance, according to a 2017 animal study, small doses of alcohol may help to boost metabolism. The alcohol intake in moderate amounts lowered body weight in mice by increasing thermogenesis and energy expenditure, although the calorie intake was increased as well (11).

So, it may be possible for you to consume small amounts of alcohol and lose weight. But you should keep in mind that “moderate amounts of alcohol” means one drink a day for women and two drinks for men. If you drink more, you are unlikely to lose weight.

According to another study, women who drink more than 3 drinks once a week had higher risks of higher glucose levels in their bodies and high blood pressure. Men who consume 7 drinks once a week were more likely to experience high blood pressure and sugar and more likely to be abdominally obese (8).

Another small 2015 study has shown that alcoholic drinks may cause increased appetite, which could lead to weight gain (14).

So, as you can see, the studies have quite controversial results. It is also important to remember that all people are different and genetics plays its role as well. Some people may experience significant changes in their metabolic rates, and others may notice only slight differences.

Anyway, alcohol is far from being a healthy choice. Remember to practice moderation and be careful.

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What Does Alcohol Do To Your Body?

Many people drink alcohol to have fun and relax, and very few people think about its effect on their bodies (3).

  •  It’s Dangerous For Your Internal Organs

First, alcoholic drinks are dangerous for your liver. The main role of this organ is to function as a filter for your body. It protects your body from the damage of any unhealthy substances, including alcohol and drugs. Your liver contributes to the metabolism of such essential nutrients as proteins, carbs and fats.

Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages is a real challenge for this organ and overall health. It can lead to a medical issue known as alcoholic fatty liver disease. Simply put, this condition means that there is too much fat in your liver. Excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks significantly increases your risks of getting this issue. Because of too much alcohol, fat builds up in your liver cells and stops it from proper functioning. This disease can lead to a number of other serious conditions, such as alcoholic cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis and enlarged liver (2, 7).

Alcohol consumption affects the workings of your brain as well. As a result, you can experience changes in mood and behavior.

As for cardiovascular health, alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeat and more.

Such drinks can also lead to different types of cancer and weaken your immune system. For instance, people who drink too much alcohol have higher risks of getting tuberculosis and pneumonia, than non-drinkers.

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  • Affects Your Sleep

Some people think that some alcohol before bedtime can help to improve the quality of their sleep. In fact, it’s a bad idea. Alcoholic drinks in high doses disturb your sleep at night and can cause sleepiness in the daytime. As a result, sleep deprivation may affect your ability to process and remember information and your ability to think. It can also impact the quality of your life in general. A great number of car accidents are caused by lack of sleep as well.

Adults aged 26-64 should sleep 7-9 hours a day. To improve the quality of your sleep, you should always go to bed and wake up at the same time, sleep in a dark room and put your electronic devices away at least one hour before bedtime (9, 13).

  • Affects Sex Hormones

Alcoholic drinks can affect the levels of hormones in your body. They especially affect the amount of testosterone, which is one of the most important hormones in your body. According to a study, low testosterone levels are linked to metabolic syndrome in men. This has such symptoms as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, high blood sugar levels and BMI (12).

  • Affects Your Digestion

High intake of alcoholic beverages can also stop your digestive system from proper functioning. Alcohol can cause decreased digestive secretions that play a prominent role in healthy digestion. Their main work is to turn food you consume into essential micro- and macronutrients. Poor digestion and nutrient absorption are extremely harmful for your body, as it affects metabolism and weight loss.

Read More: Does Alcohol Make You Retain Water: Here’s What Causes A Puffy Face The Morning After

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Important To Consider

Many people believe that alcoholic drinks, especially beer, cause excessive weight gain and belly fat. The thing is that the drinks themselves are not always high in calories. People tend to gain weight not only from the alcohol, but also from the food they eat with alcohol. As a rule, such foods are packed with fats and salt. It is also usually hard to control the amount of such foods on your plate. Many people also tend to drink alcohol and eat junk foods in the evening, that only increases chances to gain weight. That is why it is important to choose the foods for your snacks carefully and control their amounts. For instance, you can opt for grilled lean cuts of meat, popcorn, wheat crackers, delicious salads and more. Just make sure your snacks contain minimum fats and salt.   

FAQs

What Alcohol Is The Best To Opt For If You Want To Lose Weight?

What is the healthiest alcohol? Some may say that red wine is the healthiest alcohol to drink. Actually, alcohol can hardly be classified as a healthy beverage. But there are some drinks that won’t stop you from achieving your fitness goals. So, what is the alcohol with least calories? Read the list below. 

  • Brandy

1.5 ounces of brandy have 100 calories.

  • Tequila

You will get 100 calories from 1.5 ounces of this drink. 

  • Vodka

1.5 ounces of this beverage has 100 calories. You can make some cocktails by mixing vodka with some low-sugar and low-calorie ingredients.

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  • Gin

1.5 ounces of this drink contain 115 calories.  

  • Whiskey

1.5 ounces of whiskey contain 100 calories. By adding some low-sugar cola you’ll significantly improve the taste.

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What Drinks Are The Best Option For Your Body?

Of course, alcohol cannot be a perfect drink for weight loss nor for your health in general, even though it is low in calories. Below you can see a short list of drinks that will support your body and help you achieve your fitness goals (4).

  • Water

This is one of the best options. Simple zero-calorie water will support your body and prevent a number of health issues. By drinking necessary amounts of water on a day-to-day basis you may prevent constipation, kidney stones and dehydration. Water also helps to lead wastes out of your body and regulate your body’s temperature. Besides, it can suppress your appetite and in this way help you to lose weight.

You shouldn’t underestimate the danger from lack of water in your daily menu. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness, listlessness and more. Recommended daily intake of fluid is approximately 11.5 cups (or 2.7 liters) for women and 15.5 cups (or 3.7 liters) for men. Of course, this amount may vary depending on some factors, so you should listen to your body. Note that these amounts also cover the fluids you get from foods and other beverages. If you want to improve the taste of your water, you can add some lemon juice, honey, mint and more (5, 15).

alcohol weight gain
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  • Filtered Coffee

This beverage offers a bunch of benefits for your body. It may lower your risks of heart and liver disease, and protects you against diabetes. 3-5 cups of coffee with minimum cream and sugar are safe and healthy. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure to talk to your health professional about the amount of coffee you can drink per day.   

  • Tea

Tea is packed with antioxidants that are beneficial for your body. They may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, protect your body against cardiovascular disease, stroke and even some types of cancer. The best thing will be to brew tea at home and avoid bottled store-bought types of drinks. If your tea is unsweetened, it will be low in calories and won’t stop you from losing weight.

  • Milk

This is a rich source of essential nutrients that will keep your bones, teeth, and muscles strong and healthy. It is packed with protein, calcium, potassium and vitamin D. If milk is too fatty for you, you can buy low-fat options. However, this drink isn’t suitable for people with lactose intolerance and vegans.

As for smoothies and juices, they can be healthy as well, but you should practice moderation. It is worthwhile to note that they can contain sugars which can lower your chances to lose weight. A glass of a low-sugar smoothie or fruit juice in the morning is Ok, but it is still better to eat whole fruits. In this way you’ll get necessary amounts of fiber as well.

does alcohol slow your metabolism
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Does Alcohol Permanently Slow Your Metabolism?

There are no reliable studies concerning this question. However, alcohol stays in your body up to 24 hours (if you consume it in moderate amounts), depending on the type of beverages you opt for (10). The more alcohol you consume the more time your body needs to get rid of it. This period of time can also vary depending on your age, weight, overall health and more. Anyway, sooner or later your body will get rid of these substances, and you will be able to get back to your previous metabolic rate.

Speaking of long-term drinkers, their metabolism slows down for a long period of time. As a result, they indeed face a lack of nutrients and lose weight.

Weight Loss According To The Age

Conclusion

So, does alcohol slow your metabolism? Those people who consume alcohol in moderate amounts can face temporarily slowed metabolic rate. Heavy drinkers face malnutrition, unhealthy weight loss and significantly slowed metabolism for a long period of time. Although it is safe to drink such beverages in moderation, it is still better to avoid them. Even if there are studies that claim that alcohol can help you to lose weight, this issue needs more scientific backing. It is always better to exclude alcohol from your menu and in this way protect your body from dangerous diseases. If you want to lose weight, there are much healthier ways to achieve your fitness goals. Regular workouts and a healthy nutrition plan are a perfect duet to fight excess pounds. Remember that your health is your major priority and take care of yourself.

Do you know that your body needs some exercise in addition to a proper diet? Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 5 Hidden Health Benefits of Alcohol (2019, livestrong.com)
  2. Alcoholic fatty liver: its pathogenesis and mechanism of progression to inflammation and fibrosis (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Alcohol’s Effects on the Body (n.d., niaaa.nih.gov)
  4. Best and Worst Drinks for Your Health (2019, webmd.com)
  5. Dehydration (2019, mayoclinic.org)
  6. Does Drinking Alcohol Slow Your Metabolism? (2019, livestrong.com)
  7. Fatty Liver Disease (Hepatic Steatosis) (2019, webmd.com)
  8. Gender-specific relationships between alcohol drinking patterns and metabolic syndrome: the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2008 (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night) (2020, health.clevelandclinic.org)
  10. How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System? (2021, americanaddictioncenters.org)
  11. Moderate alcohol intake induces thermogenic brown/beige adipocyte formation via elevating retinoic acid signaling (2017, faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
  12. Prediction of Metabolic Syndrome by Low Serum Testosterone Levels in Men (2009, diabetes.diabetesjournals.org)
  13. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use (n.d., pubs.niaaa.nih.gov)
  14. The apéritif effect: alcohol’s effects on the brain’s response to food aromas in women (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  15. Water: How much should you drink every day? (2020, mayoclinic.org)
L. Woods
L. Woods

Lana is an excellent writer driven largely by questions of health and mental well-being. She specializes in writing articles on both nutrition and exercise. Nothing brings her as much pleasure as helping others get their health back on track. In her works, she provides informative tips on how you can change your lifestyle for the better, develop healthy eating habits, and improve your well-being with the help of workouts. Besides, in recent years she became more interested in studying weight management, gearing her focus towards healthy weight loss approaches.

K. Fleming
K. Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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