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Alcohol's effects on fat Metabolism



Staff Member
Aug 11, 2010
The main problem with alcohol is not the number of calories it contains but rather the effect is has on fat metabolism. A recent study, for example, has shown that even small amounts of alcohol has a large impact on fat metabolism.

In this study eight men were given two drinks of vodka and lemonade separated by 30 minutes. Each drink contained just under 90 calories. Fat metabolism was measured before and after consumption of the drink. For several hours after drinking the vodka, whole body lipid oxidation (a measure of how much fat your body is burning) dropped by 73%.

The reason why alcohol has this dramatic effect on fat metabolism has to do with the way alcohol is handled in the body. When alcohol is consumed, it readily passes from the stomach and intestines into the blood and goes to the liver. In the liver, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase mediates the conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is rapidly converted to acetate by other enzymes. So rather than getting stored as fat, the main fate of alcohol is conversion into acetate, the amount of acetate formed is dose dependant on the amount of alcohol consumed. For example, blood levels of acetate after drinking the vodka were 2.5 times higher than normal. And it appears this sharp rise in acetate puts the brakes on fat loss.

The type of fuel your body uses is dictated to some extent by availability. This is one of the reasons for the induction phase of the Metabolic Diet. By severely limiting your carb intake your body is forced to rev up its fat burning machinery, so that you become fat adapted, and increase the use of protein for some of the functions, such as anaplerosis, that carbs are usually heavily involved in.

In other words, your body tends to use whatever you feed it, and after a time becomes adapted to the macronutrient intake. Unfortunately when acetate levels rise, your body burns the acetate preferentially, since acetate is basically the same product of beta oxidation of fatty acids and glycolysis (glucose to pyruvate to acetate),but it doesnt? require the metabolic work to produce. So the body simply burns the acetate first, and with the rapid rise seen with alcohol intake, basically pushes fat oxidation out of the metabolic equation.

Because acetate is readily formed from alcohol it can be worse than taking in carbs as far as affecting fat metabolism. That?s because glucose has to be sequentially metabolized through various steps to form acetate while acetate is formed from alcohol in just a few steps. Also alcohol, because of it can be considered part way between carbs and fats, has more calories than carbs. Thats why even the low carb beers contain under 100 calories even though they only have about 2.5 grams of carbs and .5 grams of protein. While the carbs and protein only make up 12 calories, the 12 grams of alcohol make up the remaining 80 or so calories.


Sep 11, 2010
Great post. I quit drinking almost a year ago because of a gf that I had who had parents that were alcoholics. It was not a big deal for me because I never really liked the taste of alcohol, nor the headache that I get ever time I drink. The only way for to avoid getting a sick, poisoned feeling after drinking is to drink till I pass out (which ends with an even bigger headache the next day).

One thing that I noticed after a zero tolerance policy on alcohol is that my efforst to cut down on my BF % seemed to yeild greater results. I always thought that this was strange because I never did drink the high calorie drinks. The acetate explains why the drinking (even zero calorie drinks) seemd to hault my efforts to display my abs.

My question regarding acetate is...Would it be possible to use some substance to counter act the acetate so that you could drink a very low calorie drink and avoid the fat metabolism problem?


Get Some

Get Some

Sep 9, 2010
Very interesting post. I think the most interesting thing is that when I wake up the next day from a night of heavy drinking I usually feel much slimmer, like I've lost some weight. I figured out later that it was because I was so dehydrated that I felt that way. Now I make sure to slam at least 1 20oz water right before passing out if I've been drinking. Pedialayte and Monavie also work wonders for avoiding hangovers.