EP 89: Alcohol Can Make You Fat

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Jeanne is a mental health advocate, certified addiction counselor and recovery specialist. Jeanne shares her story with Annie which includes growing up in a family that seemed to be constantly dealing with one crisis after another, much of which was caused by addiction. Jeanne describes how she took her own experiences with various recovery methods and developed The Recovery Concierge, a program designed to help customize recovery plans for those looking for something different than the conventional programs.

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One Year, No Beer

Earlier this week I was asked to speak at a live event in London, the One Year, No Beer, One Day Live Event which was really exciting. I couldn’t make it there in person but I would have loved to.  This was not good timing for me, so I was actually beamed in via Skype, and it was really cool. I got to share a topic that I’d just done a bunch of research on. I thought, what better place to share this research that I’ve just done than on this podcast, because it’s so interesting. And especially at this time of year, because we are all, early summer, we’re thinking about bathing suit season. Maybe not if you’re in Australia, or South Africa, but definitely in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re thinking about bathing suit season. Most people are thinking about losing a bit of weight.

Alcohol Can Make You Fat

Today, I want to talk about the three main reasons why alcohol can make you fat according to science. First, lets start with what’s not true. I have been even a victim to this persistent myth. But there is this persistent myth that alcohol is sugar, or that alcohol turns to sugar in the body. This has been widely accepted as common knowledge, but it’s actually not true. Yet, alcohol can certainly make you fat. So, how exactly does this work?

Sugar, Sugar

First of all, don’t get me wrong, most alcoholic drinks contain a lot of sugar and carbohydrates. For example, one pint of cider contains almost as much sugar as the World Health Organization recommends as your daily total allowance of sugar. Additives and mixers, they’re all chock full of sugar. A margarita can contain between 30 and 150 grams of sugar, and around 700 calories. Some margaritas, if you go up to the 32 ounces … I know I drank some of those in my day. There’s up to 1,200 to 1,500 calories in a single margarita. There’s certainly a sugar rush when you drink most things and a huge sugar component in drinking alcohol overall, but the alcohol itself, if you look at the label, it does not contain sugar.

The Myth

Now, this myth originated because while alcohol is not technically sugar, if you read the nutritional label, the confusion started because some experts have said that alcohol is metabolized as sugar. And while again that’s not technically true, some aspects of truth brings us to reason number one. Alcohol in fact is more quickly stored as fat than even excess calories from sugar or carbohydrates or protein, or even in the right circumstances, even fat itself.

Calorie Content

This is why. Alcohol has a high calorie content but it’s completely devoid of nutrients. In fact, aside from fat, ethanol, the micronutrient, or ethanol, which is what alcohol is, is the macronutrients which is just another word for like carbohydrates, fat, anything that you can consume that contains calories. It’s the macronutrients with the highest energy density. Alcohol has seven calories per gram. Whereas carbohydrates for example, have four calories per gram. To make it worse, alcohol does not require as much time or effort for digestion. That’s because it’s really quickly absorbed in your bloodstream and converted into energy. The energy is stored as fat.

Quick Fix

In fact, some of the alcohol can even be absorbed directly through the stomach lining, which is why it can effect you so quickly. But there’s a compounding factor here. That’s because your body recognizes alcohol as a poison, so it actually stops digestion and processing of any other foods to process alcohol first. That salad you ate with all the incredible nutrients will stop being digested so that your digestive system can deal with the alcohol, and store the alcohol’s energy as, yeah, you guess it, as fat. The longer you drink, the more slowly you’ll digest any food that you eat. In fact that actually brings us right to reason number two alcohol can make you fat.

Keep Listening

Tune into the complete podcast to hear the other two reasons alcohol can make you fat.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License