How Alcohol Makes You Fat!

As I write this on a Friday evening, the kids are at friends’ houses, we are enjoying some quiet time, and I am already on my 4th glass of wine. I’m just now starting to feel a little buzz, so I think my wife and I will wander down the block to the wine bar, like we do on most Fridays and Saturdays. We’ll meet some friends and split a few more bottles of wine. The next day when I wake up I feel it a bit but it doesn’t stop me from getting into work and doing what I have to do...

Yeah right!

I can’t remember the last time I had more than a single drink over the span of seven days… maybe in my late 20’s or early 30’s, but today I know the true effects of alcohol on my body.  The hormonal effect is much greater than you realize. It’s actually not only about the calories or the fat or sugar content in alcohol that's so bad (although empty calories and sugar aren't good either). The worst part about alcohol is how it effects our hormone levels, and for some of us - maybe you - this can be the difference in not being able to lose body fat.
 
One of the most difficult aspects of the elimination diet we typically prescribe at Fit is for people to eliminate alcohol for 14 or 21 days. Folks who participate in challenges, and the Fit Nutrition Plan that goes along with them,  have no problem showing up for 21 days in a row and doing crushing workouts that bring them to their knees. They’ll eliminate sugar, grains and dairy, but it’s the glass or three of wine each night that they can’t live without. At first it’s funny, but you would really be surprised at how many people really can’t get through three weeks without having a single drink.
 
Well, what if I told you it's the alcohol you're drinking that makes you fat? Forget about the havoc it can cause on your liver, kidney, blood lipid levels, heart, adrenals, and its addictive nature. But, alcohol will make you fat, not so much because it’s high in fat and sugar like donuts and pasta. It makes you fat because it shuts your metabolism down! That’s right - alcohol makes it so that you don’t burn as many calories while you train or when you are at rest. It slows everything down and, as a result, can cause you to gain weight. 
 
Let me explain. Everyone has something called a thyroid. Your thyroid controls your metabolism, which is how your body breaks things down on a chemical basis to survive. It all starts with a part of the brain that releases TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). The TSH acts on the thyroid gland and causes the release of T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). T4 and T3 are what allow your metabolism to increase or at least function normally. If your T4 and T3 are low, then your metabolism starts to slow down, and the most likely result is weight gain. 
 
FYI:  Both T4 and T3 are good. T3 is five times more potent than T4 and has five times more effect on metabolism. Incidentally, for all of you on a synthetic version of T4, you should have your T3 levels checked.  
 
Here is the rub, T4 is converted into the more active T3 in the liver, the same place all your alcohol is being detoxified. If your liver is busy detoxing all the alcohol, then guess what you're not able to do? You got it! You can’t convert T4 into T3, resulting in low levels of the most potent hormone when it comes to a functioning metabolism. This is science; it's what the research shows. Don't shoot the messenger!
 
So, you want to know the minimum amount of alcohol you can have and still get T4 to convert to T3 in the liver? Well, that depends on a lot. Ladies 45-and-over may have a natural slow-down in their thyroid function, so to convert T4 into T3 at a normal rate means you really have to limit alcohol intake. Gentlemen also experience a significant slow-down in metabolism as they age. Limiting yourself to two to three glasses of wine per week is a good idea. For some of us, getting rid of alcohol all together might have a significant positive impact on our health and ability to lose weight. 
 
I’m not saying that alcohol doesn’t have any good properties, such as antioxidants and reservatrol, which have proven to fight some cancers. A glass of wine might help with mental stress and help you unwind. You just need to digest this information and decide what works best for you. I've decided I don't need to drink alcohol every day, or even every week.  It's not good for me, and I feel a lot better without it. 
 
What do you think? How would you feel if you eliminated alcohol for awhile?
 
See you in the gym!

Aaron

Aaron Leventhal