Alcohol and Eccess Weight: It’s Not About the Calories

Alcohol, like many refined and industrialized foods, has become such an integral part of our culture that it can be difficult to contemplate a month without it. Dependancy can take many forms, and alcohol is certainly addictive. Being a sugar, it activates the same physiological responses as carbohydrates and the sweet taste. It raises blood sugar levels, promotes insulin production, stimulates the release of dopamine and activates endorphins. But frequent alcohol consumption has it’s own set of problems. One well known issue is that it contributes to fat storage, but the reason for why it does so may come as a surprise. It’s not because of the calories.

Alcohol Makes Us Silly

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and has no nutritional value. We all know that it’s absorbed directly into the bloodstream and has a “buzzy” effect on the brain and tissues. This makes us feel relaxed and less inhibited. It seems to make social life easier. 

Hands holding cocktails.

Unfortunately, it also reduces our reflexes and makes us do irrational things, like ordering pizza and cola, even though, before the aperitivo, we were quite happy with the idea of steak and salad. And it does this without us being drunk. We may not be slurring our speech and stumbling, but we’re certainly not as alert and as centred as we were before the alcohol entered our circulation.

But the reason it impacts negatively upon weight loss and management is neither because of its high calorie content, nor because it manipulates us into ordering pizza. Rather, it’s because alcohol is a toxin and therefore, it’s “the first to burn”.

How Alcohol Impacts Upon Weight Management

When the body/brain registers that this particular poison has entered the bloodstream, it has to metabolize, detoxify and remove it before it causes damage. It does this in the liver where most of the alcohol is converted into actealdehyde and then acetate. The residue is expelled through the breath and the urine.

While this is happening, the metabolism of all other energy sources is suspended. The alcohol inhibits lipolysis (fat burning) and glycolysis (glucose burning). Any calories that are consumed at the same time as the alcohol (such as those from crisps, snacks and your meal) will be converted into fat and stored. Moreover, frequent alcohol consumption decreases insulin sensitivity and raises the level of ghrelin, one of the hunger hormones. The result? We eat more.

Sad woman sitting on the floor with wine.

When Alcohol Becomes a Problem

Alcohol dependancy follows the same pattern as technology and sugar addiction in that it alters chemical responses in the brain. It also has detrimental effects on organs such as the liver. What’s more, it negatively affects the balance of sex hormones for both sexes. For men, alcohol is toxic to the testicles, it lowers testosterone levels, damages sperm and compromises fertility. For premenopausal women it can cause abnormal menstrual cycles, delay ovulation and impair fertility.

Alcohol Means Moderation

Because alcohol is available all year and is a part of our lifestyle, all of this needs to be taken into account. We don’t suggest total abstinence (apart from when you’re doing a Reset) but if health is important to you, it’s best to save alcoholic drinks for special occasions. It’s perfectly okay to say, “No, thanks”. 

A great strategy in social situations is to fill your glass with sparkling water, ice and slices of lemon. No one will know it’s alcohol free, you’ll have something in your hand and something to sip on. Your energy will be high because you’ll be hydrated… and you’ll wake up feeling great the next day.

When it’s appropriate to appreciate alcohol, red wine is the best option. Just don’t go overboard. Remember that alcohol lowers our resistance and makes us do silly things as soon as it hits the bloodstream.

“In moderation” means a glass of wine, not half a bottle, and not every day.

Read More

These posts explain why we become addicted to certain foods and behaviors that are common in our daily life, but which are not good for our health.

Technology, Dopamine and Addiction

The Problem with Sugar and Sweeteners, Natural and Non

Carbohydrates and the Sugar Burner Cycle

Stop living with Excess Weight, Pain and Stress. Download now your Free Guide to the Paleo Reset 31 and get started.


Woman drinking beer Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash | Hands holding cocktails Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash | Woman sitting on the floor Photo by Zachary Kadolph on Unsplash


Angelina Brazzale

Angelina Brazzale is the founding creative director of Empress and Sister. Like her chart ruler, Mercury, she travels between worlds. She has degrees in English Literature and in Fine Arts, Ceramics. She's a Primary Health Coach, having reversed autoimmune disease through the protocols of ancestral health. She spent over 10 years teaching yoga and meditation. She reads Tarot, writes and makes art, and is sensitive to the energy in crystals and trees. Visit her Page in the Empress and Sister Collective for information, products and services.

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