Why Alcohol Piles On The Kilos

I am one of those people who maintain the same weight all year around… I mean, I used to be one of those people, until my recent trip to Europe. I’ve managed to pile on 3 kilos despite eating clean and running almost every day. How is that possible? What have I done differently? Sorry to tell you this on a Friday but the answer is… ALCOHOL. When I was away I had a glass of wine with every dinner, for a month. Who would think that one glass a day could be so bad for you? In the search for answers, I found 5 reasons why alcohol piles on the kilos.

1. Alcohol Equals Empty Calories

Alcohol doesn’t contain any nutrients, but does have a caloric value of 7 calories per gram. In just one shot of vodka, there’s nearly 100 calories. For those of you trying to lose fat, forget it if you are drinking. Not only will the high calorie content of alcohol have a negative effect on your total calorie intake, but it also slows down your metabolism. Basically, your body is trying so hard to digest and metabolize the alcohol that fat burning stops all together.

2. Alcohol Causes Dehydration and Slows Down Protein Synthesis

Not only does alcohol give you a hangover which can stop you exercising at all, but it actually lowers protein synthesis by 20% even when you do exercise. There are several reasons why it does this. For one, it dehydrates your muscle cells. Because your cells aren’t holding as much water, it becomes much harder to build muscle (we need lean muscle to burn fat). The second reason is that it blocks the absorption of many important nutrients that are essential for muscle contraction, relaxation and growth including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium.

3. Alcohol Lowers Testosterone and Increases Estrogen

A study measuring men’s testosterone levels before and after consumption of alcohol found that at the most intoxicated state, testosterone levels had dropped by 25%. When blood alcohol levels were the highest, testosterone was at its lowest. This means the actual building of muscle is slowed down by 25%+ or more. This included a 35% decrease in muscle insulin-like growth factor-I (GF-I)

Alcohol has also been shown to cause a quicker aromatization of androgens into estrogens, which explains why heavy male drinkers often get gynecomastia (man boobs) over a period of time.

4. Alcohol Effects Quality of Sleep

Alcohol consumption, especially at the times when you would normally sleep, can effect your quality of sleep. It can disrupt the sequence and duration of sleep states and by affect your total sleep time. A good nights sleep is essential for the rebuilding and growth process of muscle as growth hormone is released in the deepest levels of sleep. Without proper rest and recovery, muscle gain is affected due to a low levels of growth hormone and other hormonal imbalances.

5. Alcohol Decreases Vitamin and Mineral Absorption

Alcohol interferes with the metabolism of most vitamins, and with the absorption of many nutrients. It is well known that alcohol competes and influences the processing of nutrients in the body. When you consume large quantities of alcohol, your liver is busy converting the alcohol to acetate and any vitamins and minerals that it might process are taken up by the detoxification process. Foe example, alcohol stimulates both urinary calcium and magnesium excretion which means that if you take calcium, magnesium and other supplements before or after a big night out, you just end up producing expensive wee…


Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink every now and then. Our advice is to make it no more than one to two drinks, one to two times a week. A glass of red or a nice cocktail every now and then isn’t going to hurt.

Veronika Larisova

Vee is our resident Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist and strength and conditioning coach. She's a keen runner and loves a good ultra marathon trail run! She's also Co-Founder of Chief Bar, Australia's first meat based protein bar. Follow Vee on instagram @veronikalarisova.

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2 thoughts on “Why Alcohol Piles On The Kilos

  1. Excellent commentary on why alcohol piles on the kilos. However, you omitted what is perhaps the most powerful reason. Alcohol is a powerful disinhibiter, and as such, is it very easy to say ‘ oh what the heck” and make poor eating choices. I am not only talking of eating non nutritious food high in calories, but the deadly “eating when you are not hungry”. The latter is when almost every calorie consumed is stored as more body fat. Eating when you are not hungry is the deadliest of deadly eating sins.

  2. That’s spot on, Andrea! I was focusing more on the physiological effects of alcohol on human body such as hormonal changes, vitamin and mineral absorption etc. Alcohol definitely increases appetite and leads to poor dietary choices. Moreover, if you eat greasy food while hungover, your liver is overloaded with toxins fro the alcohol and the food keeping you sick for longer:-((

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