Its Friday night and you’ve had a hard week. You have been up early every day to hit the gym before heading to work where your boss has been on your back about finishing your project early- and under budget- neither of which are likely to happen.

You have been chauffeuring the kids to school plays and soccer practice every night not to mention doing your ‘half’ of things once you finally make it home. Sigh. You have been dreaming about 5 pm when you can meet your friends for a cocktail and finally relax.

Just a drink or two

Alcohol is a known relaxant – that is, one or two drinks can impair some pathways of neurological function to promote a feeling of relaxation. However, alcohol can also make some people appear really beautiful – that’s when you’ve drank quite a few more!

Just a drink or two? Just remember it will affect your appetite, ability to burn fat, build muscle and performance the next day.

Nevertheless alcohol is technically a poison that we humans knowingly and willingly ingest. Poison? Yes, or toxin call it that whatever you are more comfortable with.

…never thought of it that way?

We are all familiar with the impaired speech, balance, and coordination that result from being “off your face” as well as events related to its aftermath but what about the less noticeable effects that occur long before we reach the inebriated state?

Alcohol requires no digestion and is absorbed directly into the blood stream from the stomach lining or the lining of the small intestine into the portal vein leading to the liver. We have no storage mechanism for alcohol so once it arrives in the liver the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase [ADH] and aldehyde dehydrogenase [ALDH2] immediately go to work to metabolize it.

The enzymatic reactions of this metabolism result in the formation of acetaldehyde, another poison responsible for additional tissue damage. Acetaldehyde binds to cell membranes, enzymes, neurotransmitters and DNA causing among other things, dopamine ‘malfunction’ in the brain (resulting in addiction) and carcinogenic confirmations in DNA structures (cancer).

Effects on the metabolism

While I will spare you the details, the metabolic fate of acetaldehyde and its metabolite acetate further alcohol’s insult to our body by way of synthesis of fatty acids. Not only do they cause increased fatty acid production but they also cause decreased oxidation of fat and fatty acids resulting in a build up of these substances in the liver. Fatty liver and elevated triglycerides ensue.

As if the metabolism of alcohol itself isn’t bad enough, it just gets worse when we look at what alcohol does to our metabolism. First and foremost alcohol affects your judgment and therefore your food decision-making ability. In addition, it affects the metabolism of energy substrates.

Studies have confirmed that the consumption of a single drink decreases the body’s ability to metabolize lipid (fat) and carbohydrate. It also results in a concurrent decrease in leptin levels (remember, leptin is the hormone regulating energy intake/expenditure )(5).

These effects may be due, in part, to the formation of acetate during the metabolism of the alcohol itself. The body’s oxidation of acetate takes precedence over lipid and/or carbohydrate oxidation. In other words, your body is now in a disadvantaged state regarding the actual breakdown of the food you ingested. You are less able to process and utilize fats, carbohydrates and proteins. In addition, the body’s ability to utilize many vitamins is also impaired.

The effects of alcohol ingestion are not limited to metabolism alone.

Skeletal muscle protein repair and synthesis is also greatly affected. Whether it is your calf, your bicep or your heart, drinking alcohol affects all muscle tissue. Interestingly enough this effect is seen even when alcohol is not directly present in the blood stream.

A study by Pruznak et al demonstrated that “elevation of alcohol within the CNS is capable of decreasing protein synthesis and increasing protein degradation in muscle in the absence of alcohol in the general circulation…which may account for part of the inhibitory effect of ingested alcohol on muscle protein homeostasis.”(7) Some, but not all, studies show that women may suffer even greater muscle loss than men.

Drinking after a training session is a sure way to extend the metabolic window of damage. What, don’t recall that window? We talk about it indirectly when we mention the metabolic window of opportunity- opportunity for recovery, restoration, regeneration and growth.
Alcohol impairs the ability of amino acids to signal skeletal muscle protein synthesis.

If we happen to have alcohol in or around our training, we actually allow our body to remain in a catabolic (breakdown) state even longer- no recovery, restoration, regeneration or growth. Since acute alcohol consumption blunts the anabolic response of amino acids you just busted your butt and then threw away any chance of having it do any good for you.

Regular alcohol intake really affects a woman's ability to shed body fat & achieve that sculpted look

Effects from one drinking event on strength, performance and muscle recovery may last up to 4 days with Type II muscle fibers showing greatest decrements. Chronic alcohol consumption magnifies this effect.

Ok what about wine….

There has been an interesting twist to the story of wine- researchers warn that overweight individuals may not see any benefit from drinking a glass of wine. In fact, it may cause harm.

Dr. Tim Lobstein, lead author reinvestigating recommendations that small amounts of alcohol are heart healthy, said it best: “We know that apart from heart disease, other causes of disease are made worse by even small amounts of alcohol, including cancer, diabetes and stroke - the major chronic disease killers. For now, the advice has to be that there is no such thing as a beneficial level of consumption, especially if you are overweight”(10).

Was it worth it?

On the road to transforming your life, your health, your performance and your body alcohol may cause you to hit far more speed bumps than you initially realized. Some may see drinking as a social thing or a way to unwind after a long week but let’s look at it like this. While two drinks may have transformed your week into a faint memory those same two drinks may have railroaded your attempts at a successful transformation.

They have upended your physiologic, metabolic and hormonal functioning impaired your cognitive skills, they left you craving junk food, questioning your healthy meal plan and cancelling your morning training session. They also increased the loss of skeletal muscle, decreased carbohydrate and fat metabolism, increased fat storage, increased your risk of cancer, impaired your ability to perform and recover and ate a hole in your wallet. So tell me, was it worth it?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
*In the United States one standard drink contains 14g of alcohol
*In Australia one standard drink contains 10g of alcohol

Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Metabolism
• Decreased Fat Metabolism
• Decreased Carbohydrate metabolism
• Decreased Leptin Levels
• Increased Hepatic Lipogenesis
• Increased Triglycerides
• Increased (initial) Weight Gain
• Increased Muscle Loss
• Decreased gluconeogenesis

Related articles
How long do the effects of alcohol last?
Alcohol impairs muscle recovery
Alcohol increases appetite
How could it be worse than Heroin?
Red Wine & Ripped Abs?

Members of can download the audio series on Alcohol in the MP audio library.

Alongside 17 years experience in personal training and a stack of certifications, Michelle Adams has a Bachelor’s and Masters degree from the University of South Carolina. Michelle is an amazing athlete, having won the 2006 IFBB Toronto Figure Championships and now competes in marathon and ultra marathon events. A talented researcher and gifted writer, Michelle is a MP Certified Metabolic Nutritionist and enjoys nothing more than helping people learn the truth about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. Contact Michelle here.

Special Discounted Offer!!

  • Over 120 NEW Body Sculpting Recipes.
  • Over 300 recipes on-line!
  • My Food Prep video series!
  • Access my Exclusive Members Zone!