There are always lots of questions in check in emails about this topic!!
Alcohol is labeled as containing 7.1 calories per gram. But the real value is slightly lower. That’s because alcohol elicits a thermogenic response, which means it raises your metabolic rate for some time after you drink it.
Once this rise in metabolism is taken into account, which is larger than the rise seen with carbohydrate or fat, the “true” number of calories in a gram of alcohol is somewhere between 5.7 and 6 calories.
Whether or not alcohol is “fattening” is a very controversial subject, mainly because the main fate of alcohol is NOT to be stored as fat. In fact, less than 5% of the alcohol you drink is turned into fat. Rather, the main effect of alcohol is to reduce the amount of fat your body burns for energy.
Rather than getting stored as fat, the main fate of alcohol is conversion into a substance called acetate. In fact, blood levels of acetate after drinking vodka are about 2.5 times higher than normal. And it’s this sharp rise in acetate that puts the brakes on fat loss.
To summarize, here’s what happens to fat metabolism after drinking alcohol:
1. A small portion of the alcohol is converted into fat.
2. Your liver then converts most of the alcohol into acetate.
3. The acetate is released into your bloodstream and takes precedence over the metabolism of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
The way your body responds to alcohol is very similar to the way it deals with excess carbohydrate. Although carbohydrate can be converted directly into fat, this doesn’t happen unless you’re eating large amounts of it.
Instead, one of the main effects of overfeeding with carbohydrate is that it simply replaces fat as a source of energy. By suppressing fat burning, it enables the fat in your diet to be stored a lot more easily.
It’s important to point out that alcohol is only having this effect while it’s being metabolized by your body.
With this all said, it is your personal preference in regards to enjoying an occasional drink of choice. There is extensive research on the benefits of a glass of red wine! There is also the choice to have a “reduced” calorie drink without added sugars while having a typical mixed drink. Try substituting sugary mixers with seltzer and pure lime or lemon juice. This will avoid an empty calorie overload!
*This document is not intended to give medical advice and must not be reproduced or distributed. Individuals results may vary and all dietary considerations should be discussed with your physician.