You’d be surprised to learn, despite the urban legend of the beer belly, that less than five percent of the calories consumed through alcohol are turned into fat. The presence of alcohol in your system is far more likely to reduce the amount of fat your body burns for energy.

This is no idle claim. Recent research illustrates this. Participants were given two drinks to consume. Both contained 90 calories. One drink was vodka; the other was sugar-free lemonade. The researchers measured fat metabolism before and following the consumption of each drink.

For several hours after drinking the vodka, the participants’ body lipid oxidation – a measurement of the fat your body is burning – dropped by a whopping 73 percent.

Your body, it appears, doesn’t store these calories as fat. Rather, it converts them into a substance called acetate. And this was illustrated in this same study when the researchers discovered that the participants’ blood levels of acetate following the alcoholic beverage were approximately 2.5 times higher than normal.

What does this mean to your body? It pretty much brings any fat loss to a screeching halt. In simple terms, your body uses the most available source of fuel it can find to create energy (it is an opportunistic creation, now isn’t it?). When acetate – like that from the drinking of alcohol – is released into your bloodstream, your body chooses to replace it instead of fat as a fuel source.

Your body appears to handle alcohol much the same way it deals with an excessive amount of carbohydrates. While carbohydrates can be converted directly into fat, if you eat too many, your body replaces fat as a source of energy…

It showed that just one alcohol drink prior to eating increased a person’s calorie consumption to a greater extent than a carbohydrate-based drink. And researchers in Denmark made a similar discovery. In this project, they provided a group of men with a meal, allowing them to eat as much as they wanted. When the meal was served with beer or wine, they ate more than when it was served with a soft drink (Can you understand now why you always have to go out to eat after a rousing night of drinking?)

Well, what about alcohol and exercise?

Drinking an average of three to four drinks really does affect your workout at the gym. Research shows that it reduces the amino acid uptake in your system and impairs the creation of muscle protein.

All that hard work that you’ve been doing at the gym is getting literally washed away with the alcohol consumption. The exercise, which should be boosting your metabolism and creating muscle, isn’t. And it’s due to the presence of the alcohol.

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