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Does Alcohol Lower Your Metabolism?

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Alcohol consumption can have adverse effects on the body’s metabolic processes, making it more difficult to maintain a healthy body and prevent weight gain. This is because the liver prioritizes breaking down alcohol over other bodily functions, slowing down your metabolism. Additionally, alcohol can lead to dehydration and cause sleep disturbances, both of which can also slow the metabolic rate.

At Guardian Recovery, we can answer your questions related to the effects of alcohol on your metabolism and how it can impact your overall health. If you are struggling to curb your alcohol consumption, we provide comprehensive addiction treatment services that can help you overcome substance misuse. Contact us today to learn more about our medical detox services, individualized therapies, medication-assisted treatment, and holistic approaches to addressing addiction.

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How Does Alcohol Affect Your Stomach & Intestines?

Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines, leading to inflammation and discomfort such as acid reflux. Over time, alcohol misuse can increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal ulcers, bleeding, and several forms of cancer, including those of the esophagus, stomach, liver, and colon.

Effects of Alcohol on the Stomach & Intestines Include:

  • Increased Gastric Acid Secretion—Alcohol can stimulate gastric acid production in the stomach, which can cause or contribute to conditions like gastritis and peptic ulcers. (1) As it damages the protective lining of the stomach, it is also more susceptible to acid-induced damage.
  • Delayed Gastric Emptying—Alcohol can reduce the rate at which the stomach empties its contents into the small intestine. This can cause or contribute to bloating and discomfort.
  • Disruption of Gut Microbiota—Alcohol consumption can cause an imbalance in gut microbiota, leading to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and digestive issues, including constipation and diarrhea. (2)
  • Intestinal Leakage—Chronic alcohol use can increase intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut“. (3) This condition can trigger immune responses, cause inflammation, and contribute to various health problems.

Nutritional Absorption

Alcohol can interfere with nutrient absorption, leading to deficiencies and other health issues. This is because alcohol can cause damage to the lining of the small intestine, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients from food. Alcohol can also render some digestive enzymes less effective, which can have a negative impact on how efficiently nutrients are absorbed.

Alcohol is known to impede the absorption of nutrients like vitamins B12 and D, as well as calcium, folate, iron, thiamine, and zinc. These nutrients play crucial roles in maintaining overall health and the correct functioning of various bodily systems. Alcohol itself is high in empty calories and provides little to no nutritional value, thereby displacing nutrient-dense foods and further contributing to nutrient deficiencies.

Is There a Relationship Between Alcohol, Weight Gain, & Belly Fat Development?

There is an established link between heavy alcohol use and weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. (4) Alcohol is high in calories, increases appetite, and can lead to overeating, weight gain, and obesity. Excessive consumption can also result in insulin resistance, which can further contribute to increased belly fat.

Moreover, alcohol can stimulate appetite and lead to increased food intake. People likewise tend to make less-than-ideal food choices when under the influence and instead opt for high-calorie, unhealthy foods, which can contribute to weight gain. Leptin is a hormone that regulates feelings of fullness and appetite, possibly causing food cravings and overeating. Alcohol use can decrease the production and release of leptin from fat cells (adipose tissue), further contributing to alcohol’s effects on belly fat. (5)

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How Body Weight Can Influence the Effects Alcohol Has on Metabolism

Body weight can also play a role in how alcohol affects metabolism. Individuals who are overweight or obese may experience a less efficient alcohol metabolic rate, leading to higher blood alcohol levels and a higher risk of adverse health effects. Of note, body weight is often associated with lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and overall health, all of which can influence the efficiency of metabolism.

How Alcohol’s Effect on Metabolic Rate Reduces Energy & Physical Performance

As alcohol decreases metabolism, this can lead to decreased energy levels and physical fitness. This is because alcohol takes priority over other metabolic processes, such as breaking down carbohydrates and fats for energy. Therefore, excessive alcohol intake can interfere with the body’s capacity to effectively use energy from food, sufficiently absorb nutrients, and prevent hormonal imbalances. All of these effects can play a significant role in adversely affecting energy and physical performance.

Other Effects of Alcohol on Energy & Physical Performance Include:

  • Decreased Glycogen Storage—When alcohol is consumed, the body prioritizes its metabolism, which can disrupt the normal storage of glycogen and lead to reduced endurance and performance. (6)
  • Dehydration—Alcohol is a diuretic, and its use can lead to dehydration, which negatively affects energy levels, cognitive function, physical performance, thermoregulation, muscle function, and cardiovascular efficiency.
  • Impaired Muscle Protein Synthesis—Alcohol inhibits protein synthesis and can disrupt the signaling pathways responsible for muscle adaptation and recovery. (7) This can lead to delayed recovery, decreased muscle growth, and reduced physical performance.

Negative Impact on Sleep—Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to poor sleep quality and reduced overall rest and recovery, resulting in a lack of energy.

Can Quitting Alcohol Consumption Speed Up Metabolism?

Abstaining from alcohol can potentially lead to an increase in metabolic rate as the liver can prioritize other metabolic processes. That said, results may vary, and other lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise also play a role.

Ways Abstaining From Alcohol Can Increase Metabolism Include:

  • Reduced Calorie Intake—Alcoholic beverages are typically high in calories, and abstaining can eliminate these extra calories from the diet. This reduction in caloric intake can prevent weight gain or contribute to weight loss, depending on an individual’s goals.
  • Improved Nutrient Absorption—By quitting alcohol, the digestive system can function more efficiently. This allows for more efficient absorption of essential nutrients, which is essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism.
  • Liver Function and Detox—Alcohol cessation can allow the liver to recover and perform its metabolic functions more effectively. This can positively influence overall metabolism.
  • Hormonal Balance—Abstinence can help hormonal imbalances restabilize, reverse some of alcohol’s adverse effects, and improve metabolism.

Increased Physical Activity—Regular exercise can positively impact metabolism by boosting energy expenditure, increasing muscle mass, and improving overall metabolic rate.

Can You Drink Alcohol & Lose Weight?

Drinking alcohol in moderation may not necessarily hinder weight loss, but chronic or heavy use can lead to an individual consuming more calories than needed, in addition to interfering with the body’s ability to efficiently make use of energy from food. It is essential to keep track of alcohol intake and consider reducing or eliminating it if weight loss is a priority.

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Contact Guardian Recovery today if you are struggling with alcohol or drug dependence and need intensive treatment and support to help you overcome your condition. You can learn more about our streamlined admissions process and speak to a skilled Treatment Advisor for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check. We can also explain more about our streamlined admissions process, evidence-based services, and full continuum of care. We are committed to providing individuals with the skills and resources they need to conquer addiction and restore their health, wellness, and quality of life.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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