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Beyond Trim

Beer (and Wine and Liquor) Bellies

We’ve all heard the term beer belly and most of us probably know somebody who has one. But does drinking beer (or any other form of alcohol) truly expand our waistline?

Simply put, our bodies store fat when we consume too many calories. Calories in food and non-alcoholic beverages come from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Alcohol also contains calories (sometimes we forget this) but might be processed differently than other calorie sources.

Protein, carbohydrates, and fat provide essential nutrients that your body requires. Some protein is stored as muscle. Carbohydrate and fat are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle, and as fat in adipose tissue. Calories from alcohol do not provide any nutrients that the body requires but they do provide energy and the body can’t store alcohol. Your body also sees alcohol as a toxin and wants to get rid of it. it gives priority to processing alcohol first, giving it precedence over processing any food we might eat along with it, or even what we consume over the course of a day. That means that the other calories we consume become surplus to our daily requirements and this surplus gets turned into fat.

Alcohol can also affect blood sugar, keeping it low and keeping it lowered as the alcohol processes. Low blood sugar is a signal to your body to eat more or drink more. And because alcohol lowers our inhibitions it makes it harder for us to avoid eating or drinking too much.

Alcohol consumption and eating or drinking too many calories from any source can contribute to belly fat and it’s important to recognize that belly fat is a key predictor for some metabolic diseases. It may be just as important as cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure numbers.

To correctly measure your waist, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones. Measure your waist just after you breathe out. Your risk for diabetes and heart disease goes up with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men.

We all know that alcohol can cause more problems than just obesity. Since April is Alcohol Awareness Month it’s a good time to become more aware of our drinking habits and how they may affect our health.