Booze free January to boost your fat loss
So you have decided to give up alcohol for January? You have signed up to raise money for charity doing the DRYATHLON…congratulations, good stuff, you’ve taken the first steps to a healthier you .
I am sure that a lot of you have decided to take up this challenge (as I have on many occasions) after a particularly booze filled festive period. But why not use this January to maximize your fat loss as well as using it for the post-Christmas and New Year recovery session. Not to mention all the money you will save, the reduced number of hangovers, more time to do those things you never got round to and generally an increased feeling of well-being, productivity and sharp mind.
We all know that alcohol isn’t great for the body, and that it will invariably cause weight gain (except for those smug few) but do we know why exactly? What is it that causes the dreaded beer belly? Or those love handles and muffin tops.
Well there’s more to it than just consuming extra calories through a night on the pish….
Firstly, the fact we all know alcohol = energy. There are 7 calories per gram of alcohol, 2nd only to fat in the density of energy, meaning you get a whole load of calories for a relatively little amount. Compare this to protein 4 cals/gram and carbohydrates 4 cals/gram and it is quite high. So you are consuming extra calories and unless you are increasing your calorie burning through exercise (doing a runner from the taxi at the end of the night doesn’t count I’m afraid) then you are creating a calorie excess that will invariably lead to weight gain. These calories that you take on are pretty much useless in that they provide very little, if any nutrients and therefore no benefit. They are in liquid form so very easy to over consume and we get no feeling of fullness from them either.
The fact that alcohol is so calorific would be slightly less of a problem if it wasn’t for the way in which we consumed them in. Most alcoholic drinks contain not only the alcohol but carbohydrates as well as. Beer and wine contain sugar in them, cocktails and spirits are usually served with sugary juices or soda drinks. These fruit juices, coke, lemonade even soda all have carbs in them adding further hidden calories to those after work drinks.
Secondly,( again you are probably aware of is, and subject to it at times) is the loss of inhibitions. Which for anyone trying to lose weight, is the loss of the little voice trying to get you to make the right choices. So the bowls of chips in the bar, the burger or kebab on the way home, the dessert after a meal, all choices you would probably not make if you were sober and trying to keep toned. Again these are excess calories in the form of fats and carbs and due to the nature of them usually bad fats or poor quality foods.
Not only will you probably make bad choices whilst you are out, drunk or after kicking out, most people will have cravings the next day when hung over for stodgy, comforting food. This can be explained by the fact that most drinks you are consuming will have carbs in them as well, causing a spike in insulin levels which in turn can create cravings for certain foods plus the fact most of what you have taken on board will generally be low in nutrients leaving the brain craving vitamins and minerals.
Next is what consuming alcohol does hormonally to you. Trying to break down what in essence is a toxin to the body causes it to stress out; this in turn produces cortisol. Cortisol is something the body uses when it’s in danger to increase energy from other sources, one of those sources is muscle tissue. So we break down muscle tissue to fuel us creating muscle wastage. Alcohol consumption in high amounts of certain types has also been proven to reduce testosterone. Lowering of testosterone levels has a pretty similar affect to cortisol in that lower testosterone levels will reduce lean muscle tissue in the body, both of which lead to the lowering of your metabolism…i.e. the amount of energy you burn on a daily basis just living. It has also been proven that high cortisol levels can lead to an accumulation of fat in the belly area.
Now for the science part, this is probably the dullest but definitely the most important part when teamed with all the previous points.
When we consume alcohol we take in an excess of calories, we know this….but it’s a popular misconception that alcohol turns to fat…it doesn’t. What happens is that when the alcohol is processed by the liver to remove it from the body it produces acetate as a by product into the blood stream. The body will use this acetate as its primary source of energy and it will therefore stop using fat as the primary source (fat oxidization). So we are now using those excess calories from the booze up first…fine if you are expending a similar amount or more of energy through activity.
But as we have already talked about we will have most probably eaten or over eaten already. This lowering of fat oxidization has a 2 fold effect:
1 – We are not burning the fat we have previously accumulated on and around our body and
2 – The fat that we have consumed in our food around the period of alcohol consumption will now be stored rather than used as energy. Given that most of our food choices whilst merry or inebriated are poor and usually high fat this means there is a lot of fat to be stored! As we use the acetate as a preference to carbohydrates too this means that any consumed in the poor food choices we made or with the cocktails or beer or wine will also be stored as fat.
A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that fat oxidisation (fat burning) can be reduced by as much as 73% for several hours after only two drinks of vodka and lemonade in a one hour time period due to an increase in acetate levels of up to 2.5 times. Given that 2 vodkas is probably way under the amount of units most people would be drinking on a night out then there is cause for concern.
The final point has nothing to do with fat storage, hormones or food. It’s pretty simple we lose motivation.
After a night on the pi55 we are hardly likely to exercise, we feel rough, dehydrated or even sick. We skip the gym, watch a film and order a pizza. IF you manage to get to the gym, your effort or performance will be considerably sub standard, you will not really create a calorie deficit or physiological trigger to continue the fat loss! That’s if you only have a one day hangover, the older we get the more prolonged this becomes and the two day hangover becomes common place.
So use January wisely, be booze free but also train hard and eat clean. In this time you could make drastic changes to your body composition. You could drop fat or increase muscle much more successfully than when trying to do so with alcoholic evenings added to the mix.
If you do want to use this time to maximize your fat loss or you don’t want to blow your good dryathlon/ booze free January gains come February get a personal trainer to help you.
A good PT will not only train you in the most effective way to achieve your goals but they will provide you with knowledge on nutrition, exercise and physiology to help instill these healthy habits for life, not just short term results. So get in touch and make the whole of 2013 a healthier, leaner and stronger year for you!
Paul @ myfitnesspro
myfitnesspro – personal training in Epping, Theydon Bois, Loughton, Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill, Highams Park, Chingford, Woodford, South Woodford, Grange Hill, Woodford Bridge, Wanstead, Leytonstone, Walthamstow, Stratford, Bow, Mile End, Canary Wharf, Canning Town, Docklands, E1, E2, E3, E4, E5, E8, E9, E10, E11, E14, E15, E17, E18, IG7, IG8, IG9, IG10 and all areas in between.
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