Alcohol has a unique association with an increased waistline. They don’t call it a “beer belly” for nothing. Alcohol is a very concentrated source of calories. That means that it doesn’t take much to throw off your caloric intake for the day. An average can of beer has 160 calories, so by the time you’ve knocked down two you’ve had as many calories—with no added protein—as a complete meal. Lite beer is not much better: an average 12-ounce “lite” beer has 100 to 130 calories. Cocktails are even worse offenders because they frequently contain lots of sugar in the mixer. Every glass of wine, or shot of spirits, adds up as well.
Alcohol changes the way your liver works. When booze enters your bloodstream, your liver must reduce or stop its metabolism of fats and carbohydrates and many of its other vital functions in order to process it. This causes a buildup of fat in your liver, a decrease in glycogen in your liver and muscles, and an interference with niacin, thiamine, and B vitamin use—all essential for energy production and good health. Simply put: When you drink alcohol, your liver is too busy burning off the alcohol to burn up dietary fat as well, leaving you with a beer belly.
Studies show that alcohol can cause you to feel hungry. There are many reasons why this is true. First, alcohol intake affects hormones that regulate a sense of satiety. Carbohydrate sensitive people very often crave sweets when they drink. Alcohol is also loaded with carbs, which makes you secrete large amounts of insulin, which makes you hungry.
Alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing you to lose water, which you need in order to get lean, muscular, and healthy. According to researchers at Newcastle University, alcohol acts on the kidneys to make you lose more water than you take in, which is why you need to go to the bathroom so often when you drink. Alcohol also reduces the production of the hormone vasopressin, which tells your kidneys to reabsorb water rather than flush it out through the bladder. With the body’s natural signal switched off, the bladder is free to fill up with fluid.
This can lead to dehydration, which causes the nausea and headache associated with bad hangovers. It also affects the amount of sugar in your bloodstream, making it that much more difficult for your body to process, which leads to more weight gain and more belly fat.
You’re not thinking clearly when you drink. Finally, alcohol affects your brain power so that you have less ability to maintain attention, and that affects your decision-making skills. Ultimately, that can make you less disciplined when it comes to making good food choices, or avoiding food at all.
Now, I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy alcohol. In fact, I’m more than willing to tell you that I enjoy it way too much. But I’ve reached a point in my life where my health is far too important to me to continue making choices that I know negatively affect my body and my brain. So I’ve learned to lay off booze. It’s not been easy, but it’s been effective.
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