Are you sabotaging your metabolism and weight loss goals with alcohol?
A big majority of people are doing Dry January and using the first month of the year to detox their body and test their willpower. So I thought it would be an excellent timing to talk about alcohol and menopause.
For most of you it won’t come as a surprise that alcohol has a “disinhibiting” effect and can stimulate people to eat more. As a fitness professional I tend to advise people to drink alcohol moderately because drinking too much can easily lead to also eating a huge amount of pizza, fries, crisps or other high fat containing foods. The bad news is that beyond the disinhibiting effect, scientific studies have shown that weight loss and drinking alcohol don’t go well together because alcohol can change the way your body burns fat. When alcohol is consumed it is converted into a substance called acetate. The acetate is released into the bloodstream and the body becomes focused on breaking down the acetate instead of metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. That is why people who drink alcohol need to eat less or exercise more just to maintain their weight.
However there was a thorough review published in 2015 in Current Obesity Reports, that concluded that “frequent light to moderate alcohol intake does not seem to be associated with obesity risk.” BUT, binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks on an occasion) and heavy drinking (+ four drinks a day for men, or + three for women) were linked to an increased risk of obesity and an expanding waistline. So in summary heavy drinkers risk gaining weight and “light to moderate alcohol intake is not associated with weight gain or changes in waist circumference.”
We know though that drinking patterns, genetics, and gender can impact the effect that alcohol has on health and weight. Binge drinking is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. The good news is that women who drink moderately are less prone to weight gain from alcohol, according to epidemiological data. Adding to the complexity, a recent study published in the Nutrition Journal found that “the association between moderate alcohol consumption and abdominal, but not total fat was dependent on genetic risk; those genetically predisposed appeared protected against abdominal fat accumulation.”
I am personally not a beer drinker as I don’t like the taste….being a German that might shock you. But for those of you that do like the occasional pint I will have you know that there is evidence that light to moderate beer consumption may have beneficial effects for menopausal women. The hop and beer polyphenols may help relieve some common symptoms associated with menopause. There’s also some promising evidence to suggest that choosing red over white wine might be more beneficial for women. This is all to be taken with caution as for every study that highlights potential benefits, there are studies concluding the opposite. There just isn’t enough conclusive evidence for either side. So, my advice to you stays the same as it is to all of my clients: if you enjoy having a drink, do it in moderation and pay attention to the effect that alcohol has on you. Does it help you fall asleep or relax and take the edge off at the end of the day? Then great! Does it cause you to have hot flashes and sleepless nights? You might want to skip it!
If you’re trying to lose weight while still enjoying the occasional drink, you’d better be mindful about which drinks you choose and how your accompanying habit changes. Studies indicate that there might be a difference in how different types of alcohol affect weight gain. “Wine may protect against weight gain, whereas intake of spirits and beer may be directly associated with weight gain”. Also, the differences in the calorie content of alcoholic drinks might surprise you.