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Holiday Reminder: Alcohol Weakens Willpower, Lowers Metabolism

CHICAGO, November 20, 2014

In honor of National Nutrition Month in November, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment points out to dieters and weight-conscious warriors that alcohol consumption not only significantly increases caloric intake and diminishes will power, it also grinds your metabolism to a screeching halt.

Most people don't realize drinking alcohol temporarily prevents the body from burning fat. Since the human body is unable to store calories consumed from alcohol the way it does calories taken in from food, drinking causes the metabolic system to stop whatever it's doing in order to eliminate alcohol-laden libations from the body.

"Imagine there's a pause button that's linked to your metabolism, which is pushed whenever alcohol is consumed. Calories consumed earlier in the day are set aside or stored. Since alcohol requires undivided attention, it slows metabolism and limits the body's ability to burn fat," explains Dr. John Larson, Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers.

Practically twice as calorie-laden as carbohydrates or proteins, alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram. While it may be tempting to conveniently ignore calories consumed from alcohol in daily goal trackers, being honest may help encourage more conscientious choices in the future.

Have you ever realized when you drink alcohol you are hungrier, and perhaps your insatiable appetite even stretches into the following day? Studies have shown in the short term, alcohol stimulates food intake and can increase feelings of hunger. Consider these statistics:

  • When alcohol is consumed before a meal a person generally consumes 20% more calories from food during the meal. Plus, when you add in the calories consumed from alcohol during a meal, average caloric increase jumps to 33%.
  • A study of more than 3,000 people showed consuming elevated amounts of alcohol is associated with abdominal obesity in men–aka the dreaded "beer belly."

Clearly, having your judgment impaired with a stimulated appetite is a recipe for failure if you are trying to maintain weight or follow a weight-loss plan. Here are some tips to limit your calorie intake when consuming alcohol:

  • Drink as much water as possible. Try to have two drinks of water for every one drink of alcohol.
  • Limit alcohol calories by choosing drinks containing less alcohol and a limited amount of sweetened beverages; try flavored seltzers or coconut water to save calories.
  • Select light versions whenever possible. "Light" means fewer calories, not calorie- or alcohol-free, so you will still need to limit your intake.
  • Always have food in your stomach before you have a drink so you don't overindulge on salty snacks and other diet pitfalls.
  • Learn to sip your drink to make it last longer.
  • Use lots of ice because it makes your drink seem bigger without adding actual calories.
  • If you have to choose between fruit juice and soda in a mixer, choose fruit juice.
  • Avoid the salty snacks. They'll make you want to drink more.

Keep in mind, to avoid health risks and weight gain, you should follow USDA moderate drinking guidelines—one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. If someone you care about has a drinking problem, Gateway can help. Call 877-505-4673 to learn about our confidential consultation.

About Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment

Since 1968 our goal has been straightforward: to help clients get their life back on track and achieve a life of sobriety, free from drug use and symptoms of mental illness, that is productive, socially responsible, and healthy. Gateway Foundation is the largest nonprofit treatment provider in the country that specializes in the treatment of substance use disorders, providing treatment for men, women, adolescents, and clients diagnosed with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Gateway's Community Division has treatment centers located throughout Illinois, including Carbondale, Chicago, Lake County, Fox Valley, Springfield, and the St. Louis Metro East area. These centers offer residential and outpatient treatment services for adults, teens, and adolescents accessed through insurance, state funding, and self-pay.

Gateway's professional clinicians help thousands of individuals successfully complete treatment by developing a personalized plan that treats the underlying causes of substance abuse—not just addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Learn more about insurance coverage, treatment options, or Gateway's confidential consultation at RecoverGateway.org or call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Reporters and Editors, for more information, please call Shannon Homolka, Marketing Manager, at 630-717-2256.