Does Alcohol Slow Metabolism? Separating Myth from Reality
Have you ever wondered if alcohol affects your metabolism?
With so many mixed messages about drinking and weight gain, it can be tough to know what to believe. But does alcohol actually slow down your metabolism or is it just another myth? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind the effect that alcohol has on the metabolism to help you separate fact from fiction.
What is Metabolism?
First, let’s define metabolism. Metabolism is the process by which your body converts food into energy. It’s what keeps your body functioning properly.
The speed at which your metabolism operates is known as your metabolic rate. Some people have a faster metabolic rate than others, which means they burn more calories at rest.
How Alcohol Affects the Body and Metabolism
When you drink alcohol, your body sees it as a toxin and focuses on breaking it down. This has an impact on how the rest of your bodily systems operate.
Alcohol Can Slow Down the Metabolism of Other Nutrients
Unlike food, alcohol can’t be stored in the body, so your liver works overtime to remove it. This process is known as alcohol metabolism.
Alcohol metabolism has priority over other metabolic processes in the body. This can delay digestion and the absorption of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. As a result, while your body is busy breaking down alcohol, it’s not burning as many calories from food.
Reduces Quality of Sleep
Another way that alcohol can hinder metabolism is by reducing the quality and quantity of sleep you get.
Studies have shown that it can disrupt sleep patterns and reduce the amount of time spent in REM sleep. REM sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism because it’s when the body repairs and regenerates cells.
Poor quality and quantity of sleep can also alter the hormones that are responsible for regulating hunger and appetite. So, people with inadequate sleep tend to crave sugar and junk food.
Large amounts of processed junk food will adversely affect your metabolism by creating oxidative stress and reducing insulin sensitivity.
Read more about how inadequate sleep is related to weight management.
Promotes Unhealthy Food Choices
Alcohol often affects your appetite and food choices, leading to overeating and weight gain.
When you drink this type of beverage, it can stimulate your appetite and lower your inhibitions, making it easier to consume more food and drink than you intended.
It also decreases your willpower and makes you more susceptible to making unhealthy food choices.
The type of fat and the quantity of it in many unhealthy choices can also slow the metabolism. This is because of what is called the thermic effect of food.
Does Drinking Alcohol Slow Your Metabolism?
As you have seen, the answer to the question, does alcohol slow metabolism? is yes, it does. When the body is busy processing alcohol, the digestion and absorption of all other nutrients are put on hold.
What’s more, it can cause poor sleep, which can also slow the metabolism as well as make it harder to keep a healthy weight.
Does Alcohol Permanently Slow Metabolism?
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can damage important organs. For example, it affects the liver, the organ responsible for breaking down nutrients. This, in turn, can lead to a slower metabolism than normal and cause long-term health problems.
It can also damage the pancreas, another important organ for digestion and metabolism. It can reduce the ability of the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, leaving your body unable to absorb vital nutrients properly.
Last, alcohol can have a negative impact on the gut, thereby hindering the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Alternatives to Alcohol
For those looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, replacing these drinks with soft choices is an option. Examples include sparkling water, kombucha, herbal tea, sparkling water, and low-sugar mocktails.
These beverages still provide a pleasing flavor and fulfill the need to sip something at the end of a long day or at a bar.
Making Better Alcohol Choices
It is possible to reach your health goals while still drinking alcohol. Here are some tips to help you make better choices.
Drink in Moderation
This is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Drinking less than this will provide you with the most benefits.
Choose Low-Calorie Drinks
Not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. Certain types of alcoholic beverages contain more calories than others, which can contribute to weight gain. For example, a 12-ounce beer typically contains around 150 calories, while five ounces of red wine has around 125 calories.
Mixed drinks can be particularly high in calories due to added ingredients like sugary mixers, juice, and syrup.
The Bottom Line
So, does alcohol slow metabolism? The answer is yes, it can.
It can impair the body’s ability to burn fat for energy while also disrupting essential metabolic processes like sleeping.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to swear off drinking altogether if you want to maintain a healthy metabolism. As with so many choices that affect your health, moderation is key.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL, is dedicated to empowering women in perimenopause and menopause to live healthier, more satisfying lives.
With a doctorate in clinical nutrition from the University of North Florida, she has expertise in menopause and weight loss, including the unique challenges faced by those on weight loss medications.
Su-Nui’s passion for her field is evident in her previous role as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.