Impact of Alcohol on your Weight Loss Efforts & OPTAVIA Plan
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Impact of Alcohol on your Weight Loss Efforts & OPTAVIA Plan

Weight loss for many individuals can be a long journey and if you're on the OPTAVIA 5&1 plan it's actually a big no-no. On top of that, weight loss will be even more challenging for those who have incorporated an unhealthy amount of alcohol consumption into their daily lives. If you are one of those struggling to lose the weight you put on because you love to drink at parties, this article is the right place for you. Here, you will learn how alcohol affects your body and OPTAVIA weight loss goals, motivating you to reduce alcohol consumption to a healthy amount. You will also learn about the weight loss efforts you need to make to get rid of that beer belly.

How alcohol is metabolized in the body: 

When you consume alcohol, it becomes the first substance that your liver processes since it is a toxin that the liver must eliminate from the body. Before reaching the liver, it is absorbed by the mouth and gut wall, and from there, it is directly absorbed into the bloodstream. 

Two enzyme systems break down alcohol in the liver:

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase System: Approximately 80-90% of the alcohol in the liver is processed by the enzyme called Alcohol Dehydrogenase. This enzyme breaks it down into acetaldehyde and hydrogen ions. Because acetaldehyde is a toxic substance, it is converted into acetate which is not toxic.
  • Microsomal Ethanol Oxidizing System (MEOS): This enzyme system processes about 10 to 20% of liver alcohol in case of moderate consumption. It becomes active at higher consumption levels and is responsible for up to 63% of total alcohol metabolism.
  • A small percentage of alcohol is also taken out of the body by breath, sweat, and urine. Since alcohol is volatile and tends to turn into gas, a person’s breath turns stronger as more of it is consumed.

Fatty liver:

The liver is a vital organ in your body, eliminating foreign substances from your body. It also breaks down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. 

Consuming large amounts of alcohol can alter the way it metabolizes other nutrients in the body. Failure to break down fats can lead to fat storage in the liver and may cause damage in severe cases, which is known as alcoholic fatty liver. When you are on the plan it's vital to keep your body operating at the proper levels for continued results.

How alcohol affects weight loss efforts:

Calorie Content:

Alcohol is high in calories, and it contains seven calories per gram, almost as much as fat. These are referred to as empty calories, meaning that they are not of much nutritional value to your body. Furthermore, drinks with mixers like juice or soda (obviously not allowed on plan) contain even more calories, adding significantly to the overall calories consumed in a day.

Alcohol as a primary energy source

Alcohol is used as a primary energy source by your body when consumed, due to which metabolism of glucose and lipids slows down and becomes secondary. As a result, the excess glucose and lipids end up being stored as adipose tissue or fat in your body and, in turn, cause weight gain.

Inhibitions and unhealthy diet:

Having alcohol changes the way you think, feel, and function. It slows down the central nervous system by activating an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain known as GABA. This hormone causes relaxation in your body, and increased levels reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and cause a drop in your body temperature. 

But how does it lower inhibitions and lead to unhealthy food decisions? 

Alcohol makes the brain release dopamine- a happy hormone that induces a pleasurable and elevated sense of self and norepinephrine, which acts as a stimulant and lowers inhibitions. The more you drink, the more hormones jack up your brain. With many of these hormones inside your body, it becomes hard for you to think clearly, and you become unable to differentiate between a good and a wrong decision.

These effects disrupt your decision-making abilities, lead to bad decisions regarding what to eat, and increase appetite. Massive drinkers are more likely to make poor food choices, consuming foods high in unhealthy fats and sugars. As a result, you're likely to eat foods that can sabotage your efforts.

In addition, alcohol disturbs healthy food digestion by decreasing enzymes needed for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body, which can significantly affect weight management. 

Alcohol and Exercise How it Affects your Body:

Exercise following the night of heavy drinking may not be a wise decision, even just simple 30 minutes walks. Because alcohol consumption slows down the nerves and causes impaired coordination, control, and poor judgment, the chances of attaining an exercise injury likely increase. Let's dig deeper and explore alcohol and exercise how it affects your body after a night of drinking.

  • The metabolic processes in the body during exercise are impaired due to alcohol. This impairment affects the use of glucose and amino acids by skeletal muscles, disrupting the energy supply when working out. 
  • Furthermore, the diuretic effects of alcohol lead to increased urination and dehydration. Since workouts make you sweaty, being under the influence of alcohol can make it hard to maintain optimal performance. And we all know the importance of water when on the 5&1 plan.
  • Your muscles burn glucose and produce lactic acid during exercise. With more alcohol in the body, the liver focuses more on clearing the toxins from alcohol and less on clearing the lactic acid build-up. This process causes muscle fatigue and cramps and therefore reduces your ability to work out efficiently.
  • Alcohol also affects sleep patterns and interferes with the production of growth hormones responsible for optimal muscle growth.

Due to the effects mentioned above of alcohol, it is essential to cut down on alcoholic calories and if you're truly on the plan they should be eliminated.  Doing so will help to reinforce your habits of health to make your weight loss efforts more effective. 

If you are going to go off plan, which I certainly don't recommend, the following are a few tips for managing your alcohol intake and exercising wisely:

  • Replace high caloric drinks and mixers with glasses that do not have more than 100 calories, such as whiskey, vodka, tequila, and brandy, and of those, vodka is your best choice.
  • Drink slowly, order your drinks like a single tall, and avoid rounds because they lead to consumption at a faster pace.
  • Eating foods rich in protein before drinking helps with replenishing nutrients and slows alcohol absorption.
  • It is essential to wait between drinking and exercise and to drink more fluids to hydrate yourself. Try to avoid high-intensity workouts following the night of drinking.

In the end, just like OPTAVIA recommends, we're going to recommend against any alcohol during weight loss, but if you must try to follow the tips outlined above.

 

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