Beer, wine, and liquor are the 3 MVPs of a fun time and stress relief for many. They are staples for college parties, date nights, sporting events, and bubble baths. They give us the confidence to put ourselves out there, and also give rise to some of our favorite (and maybe not so favorite) memories and stories. Unfortunately, most of life's most prized features also come with negatives; hangovers and DUIs not being the only downfalls to alcohol use. This article will explain, and examine, alcohol impact on nutrition and fitness as two factors that are often overlooked and regarded as insignificant.


water, beer, alcohol, liquor, wine, vodka
Christin Urso

The biggest and most common concern with alcohol impact on nutrition is that of weight gain because no one wants a permanent beer belly. Alcohol can cause weight gain in four ways. These include that alcohol inhibits fat burning within the body, it is high in kilocalories, it leads to greater hunger and less feelings of fullness, as well as causes poor food choices. Alcohol has 7kcal/gram, which is the second highest energy dense nutrient behind fat. Your individual risk for gaining weight due to alcohol consumption varies depending on many factors. These include drinking habits such as what you are drinking, how often you drink, how much you drink, and what you eat while you are drinking. However, personal characteristics and overall lifestyles also play roles in weight gain risk such as age, gender, physical activity, genetics, general health, and usual dietary patterns. If weight gain is a major concern when wanting to drink alcohol, manipulation of factors that are able to be controlled may help to prevent the rise in the number on the scale. Some ideas can be to switch from drinking sugary, mixed drinks to vodka waters, setting a drink limit, drinking light beers, or eating before you begin drinking.

Nutrient Availability and Absorption

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Alex Frank

The effects of alcohol impact on nutrition stretch far beyond the bloat. Like many of us sometimes do, the liver also indulges itself in alcohol and places its' metabolization as a first priority. This means that the metabolic processing of fat, carbohydrates, and protein is placed secondary to it. When alcohol is metabolized, the liver uses micronutrients such as niacin, thiamine, and other B vitamins to assist. These necessary vitamins can become depleted in the body, leading to malnutrition. Alcohol also is known to interfere with the absorption and storage of micronutrients, such as vitamin B12, folacin, and vitamin A. Alcohol is known as a diuretic, which is why pee trips to the disgusting bar restrooms, with no toilet paper or soap, become a necessity. With increased urine output, there comes a loss of vital water soluble substances, such as zinc, potassium, and magnesium. The chemical composition of alcohol also tends to irritate the GI system, increasing acid secretion from the stomach. This, in turn, may damage the linings of the small intestine to interfere with it's nutrient absorption capabilities. 


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Kaylee McIntosh

Alcohol impact on nutrition through metabolism alterations is a concept that remains to be inconclusive, with further investigation necessary. However, a study published in 2017 investigated the thermogenic, or heat producing, effects moderate alcohol intake had upon mice. The experiment concluded that long term weight gain from alcohol use has to do primarily with increased kilocalorie intake and decreased physical activity, rather than suppressed metabolism. Moderate intake actually demonstrated an increase in energy expenditure and thermogenesis by increasing retinoic acid levels in serum and adipose tissues, and the mice displayed higher body temperatures, indicating an increased basal metabolic rate. Vitamin A and retinoic acid levels are found to decrease obesity risk, however vitamin A deficiency is common to occur with chronic alcohol use. This implies that metabolic rates and weight are often independent of one another with chronic alcohol consumption, but moderate consumption could potentially provide weight loss benefits. 

Muscle Development and Recovery

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Beatriz Gras

Not only does alcohol impact nutrition status, but it also plays a role in fitness. MPS, otherwise known as Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis, is the driving mechanism related to skeletal muscle growth and recovery. Following a work out, MPS is elevated, however alcohol consumption impairs this process if consumed in large amounts within eight hours post exercise. Researchers have found that added protein supplementation can not even overcome this effect. Alcohol has also shown to deteriorate the immune system, which is critical for peak performance, injury prevention, and infection avoidance. Furthermore, energy loss and dehydration are associated with alcohol use and directly impair motivation, training effectiveness, and increase the risk of muscle cramping, strains, and injuries. Finally, alcohol also influences the endocrine system by reducing growth hormone production. Growth hormone is known to assist with muscle tissue growth and maintenance through protein turnover and MPS stimulation. Alcohol reduces this hormone by increasing levels of cortisol, which directly influences growth hormone depletion. Growth hormone is also heavily secreted during sleep, and alcohol's known disruption effects to normal sleeping patterns is another mechanism to inhibit this hormone's production.   

There are many obstacles and factors that can contribute to body goal interference. The difficulty is pinpointing exactly what is standing in the way of the results you want, and this can become very frustrating. However, alcohol use may be an influencer that you have not thought of before, or did not regard as of that much importance. Moderate alcohol intake is important for many health and safety reasons, with proper nutrition status and fitness levels being among them. Monitoring what, how much, when, and what else you consume when planning for a night out may help assist with maintaining your nutrition and fitness objectives, while also still having a little fun.