By ICG® Master Trainer Joan Kent

So the holidays are behind us, and hopefully the overabundant goodies. Some of our students may be back on a familiar January weight-loss track. I thought I”™d address the topic of alcohol because it”™s often consumed throughout the year and can definitely interfere with weight loss. There are several sabotaging factors in alcohol consumption.

- High calorie density. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, while protein and carbs are 4 calories per gram. Only fats have greater density at 9 calories per gram.

- High insulin impact. Alcohol is a short-chain molecule that triggers high levels of insulin secretion. Insulin inhibits fat oxidation, lowering the 24-hour fat oxidation rate — an important factor in weight management — and promoting storage of dietary fat.

- Effect on appetite. Alcohol induces the release of beta-endorphin, which inhibits the satiety center of the brain. This may lead to a stronger and more frequent desire for food and a tendency to eat more at a given meal.

- Effect on food preferences. Alcohol”™s beta-endorphin release may shift food preferences and cravings in the direction of sugars and fats. Eating more of those foods can lead to higher calorie intake, weight gain, even insulin resistance. Insulin resistance isn”™t just the result of overweight, as is commonly believed; it can also be a cause.

- Effect on mood. Neurochemical alterations due to alcohol may result in such negative moods as depression or anxiety, as well as insomnia or disturbed sleep. These can cause a variety of issues that may affect weight:
a) Any negative mood may cause cravings, particularly for sugars or other refined carbs, and increase food consumption.
b) Serotonin is typically reduced with chronic alcohol use, and that can worsen mood and increase impulsivity. The combination may make it more likely that the student will get cravings and have difficulty resisting them.
c) Increased intake of sugars and refined carbs may lead to greater calorie intake and weight gain, further negative moods, or insomnia.
d) Alcohol disturbs sleep by interfering with the deep stages (theta- and delta-wave) that are most restorative.
e) Because of its high impact on insulin secretion, alcohol may trigger reactive hypoglycemia in susceptible individuals, which can disturb sleep by waking someone in the middle of the night and making it difficult to get back to sleep. Hypoglycemia may also result in undesirable moods, cravings and increased appetite.
f) Lack of sleep is known to raise ghrelin levels. Ghrelin has been shown to increase appetite and food intake while slowing metabolism.
g) Lack of sleep may make it difficult to train well or show up for early morning classes, and can lead to depression or other negative moods.
h) Negative moods may decrease motivation with respect to exercise altogether.

As you can tell, alcohol can get in the way of a student”™s attempts to lose weight, and the sabotage goes far beyond the so-called “simple arithmetic” of calories in/calories out. What”™s even worse is that, with the exception of calorie density, most of the factors above hold true for sugar, as well.

Joan Kent

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