Science Corner: Alcohol and fat

By December 7, 2010 5 Comments

Hi! Sue G here, one of Dustin’s blog contributors. Ho Ho Ho the holidays…..do you have visions or nightmares of sugar canes, cookies, nog, wine etc dancing in your brain? I know I do with an onslaught of fun activites for the next month! Perhaps a little knowledge about what actually happens in your body will help you to not only exercise but exercise your brain also! Here are a few tips about alcohol:

Alcohol – when alcohol enters the body, it acts like the boss of the liver, insisting the liver take care of it while all other work comes to a standstill. What other work does the liver usually do? It is instrumental in synthesizing and processing fat; detoxifying and metabolizing toxins and by products our body produces; and metabolizing carbohydrates. Busy organ for sure! Busy dong things we need to function – so when all the work gets stopped to metabolize alcohol first, well, you can see how metabolism slows! Exactly what we do not want to happen. Also, muscle cells do not use alcohol for enery, so you cannot burn off a rum and coke in the same way you can burn off a bagel. Instead, the drink is converted to fatty acids, ties up niacin, thiamine and B vitamins that are necessary for energy production.  Ok, small amouts of alcohol, up to two drinks, can be considered, but large amounts, can wreak havoc. If you are going to drink, make a wise choice, be responsible of course, but also be mindful of when you will be exercising, to get the most benefit from your very important exercise session, limit your alcohol consumption.

What else shows up around the holidays? Ok – not the fat you will gain!!! of course, but the fat laden holiday food. Just remember – Fat! a little dab will do ya! We do store all our extra calories, regardless of the type of food it comes from. Any extra calories can become stored fat. But, the right amount of body fat is a good thing! It protects internal organs; helps maintain body temperature, and is a vital component of all body cells.  And we need food fat to supply those essential faty acids required to make hormones and other components necessary for life; it helps you feel satisfied after eating because it slows down digestion; and contributes flavor! But, during the holidays, make your fat selections carefully – most holiday foods will be full of the saturated and trans fats, and what we are seeking are the unsaturated variety for health. Oh, and because this is all about science, saturated means the fat has all the hydrogen ions it can handle attached to the carbons, and unsaturated – mono, one hydrogen is missing, poly – unsaturated – many hydrogen ions are missing. The fats you do eat should be about half mono unsaturated, and 1/4 from each poly and saturated. The means use small amounts of olive or canola oil in cooking and salad dressings, (mono) and you will have room for a little saturated (hello holidays!)

Here’s to healthy,smart and wise – holiday eating and drinking.