Friday, July 8, 2011


I've been meaning to do something on alcohol for a while, and as I have many clients on fat loss programs it seems worthwhile to educate you on why I get so bent out of shape when you drink.

Whether you binge or not, there are serious problems with alcohol, not just in terms of your fat loss, firstly I'll consider the more technical health aspects then we'll consider the fat loss ones.

For example, what are the direct toxic affects of alcohol? Melvin H. Williams in his book Nutrition: for health, fitness and sport suggests:
"Alcohol effects all cells in the body, and many of these effects have significant health implications. Room and others noted that alcohol is causally related to more than 60 different medical conditions, and is a major challenge to public health. Drinking alcoholic beverages, particularly in large amounts, is associated with over 100,000 deaths per year." (Williams Pg-481, 2007)
Which as a statistical analysis, is all well and fine, but what about direct toxic effects? Williams continues:
"Alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the intestinal walls; it tends to impair absorption of vitamins such as thiamin (B1). Individuals who drink alcohol also have a higher incidence of pharyngeal cancer and esophageal cancer, which may possibly be associated with the direct effect of alcohol as it contacts the tissues during ingestion."(Williams Pg-481-2, 2007)
Williams also continues to discuss the dangerous effects of alcohol on the liver and the mental processes, for example in relation to the liver Williams states that consuming a high protein diet and plenty of water (6 glasses a day) is still not enough to counter the negative effects of alcohol consumption and it's resulting degradation of the liver. It begins to store fat, which causes the cells to degenerate and functioning liver cells reduce to non functioning scar tissue, a condition known as cirrhosis. Williams notes that this deregulates the metabolism of carbs, proteins and fats in the body which can have pathological consequences for the heart, pancreas and kidneys (Williams pg- 482 2007).

As far as the mental processes (which many of my clients suffer from), Williams states alcohol is a depressant  and that drinking from a young age can cause permanent brain damage (including diminished memory function), others have noted that women become dependant on alcohol quicker than men and suffer adverse effects such as brain atrophy faster as compared to men. Alcohol is also related to homicide, suicide and sexual abuse. Williams notes that the only way to avoid the aforementioned symptoms is to abstain from alcohol completely, as a trainer I know this to be a ridiculous request (particularly in Australia), so I would opt for moderation (Williams pg- 482 2007).

That's all well and good, but I admit, this won't be terribly moving for most, as many drink, either binging on the weekend or drinking socially, and they have had no negative consequences (or they rationalise those they do suffer). But what about your fat loss goals? If you're training for fat loss, it's all about calorie manipulation, if you're strict all week, then go out on the weekend and booze it up, you're effectively undoing your hard work during the week. In effect you're making it so you train to drink, you'll probably stay at the weight you are, fluctuating a kg or two up and down, but never making any real results, why? Williams explains:
"Alcohol is a significant source of calories, about 7 per gram, somewhat comparable to the caloric content of fat... However Yeomans noted that alcohol stimulates appetite, increasing food intake, and alcohol contains energy. Angelo Tremblay, an esteemed scientist in weight control, and his colleagues recently found that alcohol has no inhibitory effect on food intake and it's energy content, and when consumed in conjunction with a high fat diet promotes over feeding, a primary determinate of obesity (emphasis added). Additionally, Jequier notes that alcohol ingestion reduces fat oxidation and favours a positive fat balance...higher alcohol consumption is positively associated with both overall and abdominal adiposity, irrespective of the type of drink or whether the drink is drunk with meals or not (emphasis added). (Williams pg- 483 2007) 
I want to repeat the take home message in that paragraph in layman's terms: alcohol consumption, any alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of ab fat and total body fat, it causes you to have an increased appetite and causes you to increase your food intake. Now, do these things sound like they would be conducive to a fat loss program?

It should be noted, however obvious this assumption should be, that this is not a moral blog, you are of course free to drink, in as much volume and frequency as you think is necessary. I am of course only trying to make a point to my fat loss clients, not trying to tell anyone who to live their life (outside of my clients, in which case I am trying to tell them how to live their life).

Most of you are on some form of a dieting program, that means no alcohol, how many of you stick to this? Well it's hard to say, but the point is, alcohol makes it all the more harder to achieve your goals. As I've likened it to some clients, due to the fact that calories from alcohol are essentially useless, every time you drink, think of it as drinking pure lard. I would and do recommend my clients give up the booze, in favour of presumably their more treasured fat loss goals.

I have said this to some, but allow me to elucidate one more time: I remove responsibility from myself, for your fat loss goals if you are consuming alcohol, semi regularly (most weekends/evenings). A little, a glass here and there, I can turn the other cheek, but more than that, and I find it hard to feel responsible. Keep that in mind guys, that's how serious this issue is.

Williams M. H., (2007). Nutrition for health, fitness and sport (8th edition). New York, New York. McGraw Hill.

Study Finds Alcohol and Tobacco More Harmful than Marijuana, LSD, or Ecstasy--Drug Reclassification Should Follow




  2. Haha, and this says it all: "Disclaimer: We’re in no way saying to try this or that this is a fact or even healthy, we’re simply stating our observations from use."...