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How Alcohol Can Affect Your Body Composition

If you begin a conversation about alcohol, you’re likely to get a chorus of varied opinions. Your one friend swears that her daily glass of red wine will ward off cardiovascular disease, even if it’s at the expense of her six pack abs. Meanwhile, your gym buddy has a zero-alcohol policy in an effort to remain as lean as possible and avoid the dreaded “beer belly”.

Is it really possible to consume alcohol and still maintain a healthy body weight and composition? The answer is somewhat complicated and likely depends on your ultimate goals. Let’s delve a little deeper into the relationship between alcohol and body composition.

How the body metabolizes food

In order to understand how the body processes alcohol, we must first take a look at how the body breaks down different macronutrients. For example, what happens inside the body when a person consumes a typical mixed meal made up of carbohydrates and fat-- without any alcohol? During digestion, carbohydrates are generally metabolized first in what we call the “substrate hierarchy.” As the body breaks down carbohydrates, insulin levels rise and causes fat oxidation to be suppressed. When insulin levels drop, fat is released from the fat cells for metabolism. Dietary fat is stored temporarily in these fat cells, and fat storage is an ongoing process in the body with fatty acids constantly entering and exiting fat cells through the day. The temporary delay in fat oxidation is not what causes fat gain; rather, it’s the caloric input and output that determines how many calories will be stored as body fat.

How the body metabolizes alcohol

Alcohol is made through the process of fermentation of starch. Traditionally, alcohol has been classified as having 7.1 calories per gram, but once we take into account its rather high thermogenic effect (the amount of energy it takes to metabolize it), we find that is actually has closer to 5.6 calories per gram. This clocks in at a close second to protein. However, you’ll often hear that calories from alcohol is defined as “empty”. What this essentially means is that while alcohol provides calories, it does not provide any nutritional value. Once we add alcohol to our meal, the metabolism of alcohol will take immediate priority. Essentially, fat, carbohydrate and protein oxidation is suppressed. One study found that when participants were given four meals differing in carbohydrate, fat, protein and alcohol content, the alcohol rich meal suppressed fat oxidation more than the carbohydrate rich meal did. There was no difference in hunger or satiety sensations after the test meals.


The metabolic by-product of alcohol is a compound known as acetate which is toxic to the body. Thus, metabolizing alcohol takes precedence to remove these toxins. Once alcohol is converted into acetate in the liver, it enters circulation and only a very small portion can be converted to fatty acids. Basically, acetate is a poor precursor for fat synthesis. While there are no studies that look at fat synthesis after considerable alcohol intake in humans, one study attempted to estimate fat synthesis after alcohol consumption and found that only ~3% of alcohol is converted into fat. In this study what that found was that out of the 24 grams of alcohol that was consumed, only 0.8 grams of fat was made in the liver. It seems that alcohol and carbohydrates both suppress fat oxidation as the body works to first metabolize alcohol and remove it from the body and break down carbohydrate in the presence of elevated insulin. However, while carbohydrates eaten in excess of what the body can store as glycogen can be easily converted into fat, the same cannot be said for alcohol. While we should not be relying on alcohol as a source of nutrients, it doesn’t seem that alcohol calories are any more likely to be converted to fat than the calories from carbohydrates, fat or protein. Rather, the overconsumption of calories in ANY form is likely to cause fat gain.






Greenway Student Highlight - Victoria Dominguez

What is your name and age?

Victoria Dominguez, 25

When did you join Elite MMA?

May of 2017

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

Elite MMA had a positive affect on a family member of mine, so I wanted to see what it was about!

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

I thought it would be something that would be intimidating and it was something I knew nothing about.

Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

Yes, and in the past I was very much into cycling.

If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

Knowing that I had Jose and Mitch as instructors! They are very knowledgeable and are more than willing to answer any questions I have.

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

From a personal aspect I have accomplished learning how to better defend myself, and learn to push myself harder.

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

It has helped me have a stronger mind and body, and that is something that is beneficial for everyone! 


Westheimer Instructor Highlight: Trevin Giles

Name: Trevin Giles

Birth place: San Antonio Texas 

Profession: Student and instructor 

What classes do you teach: Kids BJJcardio kickboxing, Muay Thai, and MMA 

What martial art(s) have trained in: BJJ, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling

Number of years of training martial arts:  Started training in December 2011

When did you start teaching at Elite MMA? Started teaching 03/25/15 

What is a memorable moment for you at Elite MMA? Winning my first amateur MMA fight. 

In your own words why do you enjoy Elite MMA? I enjoy Elite MMA because of all the positivity that comes with being a member.  I enjoy the fact that when I am here I know that everybody is here to help me through any problem that I am having. That kind of energy really makes Elite a comfortable learning environment.

Do you have any martial arts accomplishments that you are proud of and why? An accomplishment that I am proud of is stepping into the cage to fight because it is something that not many people are willing to do and it was a fear of mine that I conquered with the help of everyone at Elite. 

Are there any professional accomplishments that you are proud of and why? I am proud of being one of the few people in my family to go to college and stick through it as long as I have and I am proud knowing that soon I will be the first in my family to graduate. 

What hobbies do you enjoy and why? I enjoy all sports from MMA to basketball. I am an athletic person so I pretty much enjoy any sport I get the chance to play.

Any memorable family moments that you would like to share? A memorable family moment that I have is when my first niece was born.  It felt great to have her as a new addition to the family and it felt great to be an uncle.

Academic accomplishments: An academic accomplishment that I have is graduating high school and currently finishing up my undergraduate degree.

If you could walk us through a day or week in your life what would it consist of? A week in my life would consist of going to school in the morning, doing homework when I get home, going to work or training after I’m done studying or sometimes before, and going home to prepare for the next day.

Baytown Student Highlight: Justin Kay

What is your name and age?

I am Justin Kay and I am 32 years old.

When did you join Elite MMA?

Black Friday of 2015

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

I had been a fan of mixed martial arts for many years, I remember renting the old UFC videotapes at Blockbuster when I was little. I moved to Clear Lake after a bad breakup and began training at American Combative Systems for a positive hobby. I had my son and moved back to Baytown and as soon as I was in a comfortable position monetarily I joined Elite. A few of the guys there, Clint Russell and Brian Burnham had been pushing me for months to come back, and I did. Best decision ever.

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

Well, after my kids were born I was getting my wife through Nursing school, so time and money were at a minimum. When the end was in sight for her school, the opportunity arose and I got back in.

Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

It isn’t, but it is the longest and most consistent I have been engaged. I credit that to a great team and great coaches and a steady support system at home. My stepson, Jordan, is also a two stripe Gray belt, he joined about a month after I did. I help with the kids class almost every time I bring him, take kickboxing fundamentals and cardio kickboxing, as well as fundamental Jiu Jitsu and the endurance and advanced classes, both Gi and no Gi.

If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

Its always a tough decision going in knowing that a bunch of people in far better shape and more trained than you are going to be pinning you down and attempting to submit you. The team at Elite is excellent at making that transition as comfortable as possible. Robert, Julian and Frost are thorough before promoting people to tier two, and the coaches and students at Westheimer and Kingwood have been nothing but welcoming every time I have visited.

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

I have made many new friends from different walks of life and it has certainly opened my mind. It has been a pleasure watching my teammates and the kids in the kids class grow. I thoroughly enjoy going through this walk with my stepson, and in a couple years hope to get my son and daughter in. Obtaining my blue belt, competing in a tournament, living a healthier lifestyle and watching my stepson overcome some obstacles have all been great bonuses to training.

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

When I started I was 197 pounds and had been lifting for size and strength for the better part of 2 years. I was going up some flights of stairs at work and made it up 3 flights or so and noticed myself becoming winded. I love running 5k, 10k and half marathon obstacle races, and I just did not want to live like that anymore. Within 5 months I had dropped almost 50 pounds and competed at 150 lbs. I did some of the diet work and cardio on my own, but the majority of those results are thanks to my coaches and teammates. Forever indebted.


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