According to an article I found, alcohol causes fat gain by two mechanisms in addition to the calories. There is a third problem and that is muscle wasting caused by excess alcohol
1. Changes metabolism so that fat is burned less
2. stimulates appetite and caloric intake
3. Heavy drinking slashes testosterone levels which results in less muscle. Cortisol levels are raised. Cortisol causes catabolism of muscle.http://www.thefactsaboutfitness.com/research/alcohol.htm
I usually summarize the article but I'm too lazy this AM so just cut and pasted parts of it.
Not mentioned in this article is the fact that red wine may result in fat loss. There is a substance in red wine that is toxic to fat cells. This antioxidant is not found in other alcoholic beverages. This is one explanation why the French can remain thin in spite of the heavy wine intake
Also it has been proven in multiple studies that men who drink around 2 alcoholic drinks a day live longer than non alcohol drinkers or drinkers that consume more than two drinks a day.
Here is the article about alcohol, acetate, catabolic and anabolic hormones and caloric intake
According to conventional wisdom, the infamous "beer belly" is caused by excess alcohol calories being stored as fat. Yet, less than five percent of the alcohol calories you drink are turned into fat. Rather, the main effect of alcohol is to reduce the amount of fat your body burns for energy.
Some evidence for this comes from research carried in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . Eight men were given two drinks of vodka and sugar-free lemonade separated by 30 minutes. Each drink contained just under 90 calories. Fat metabolism was measured before and after consumption of the drink. For several hours after drinking the vodka, whole body lipid oxidation (a measure of how much fat your body is burning) dropped by a massive 73%.
Rather than getting stored as fat, the main fate of alcohol is conversion into a substance called acetate. In fact, blood levels of acetate after drinking the vodka were 2.5 times higher than normal. And it appears this sharp rise in acetate puts the brakes on fat loss.
A car engine typically uses only one source of fuel. Your body, on the other hand, draws from a number of different energy sources, such as carbohydrate, fat, and protein. To a certain extent, the source of fuel your body uses is dictated by its availability.
In other words, your body tends to use whatever you feed it. Consequently, when acetate levels rise, your body simply burns more acetate, and less fat. In essence, acetate pushes fat to the back of the queue.
So, to summarize and review, here's what happens to fat metabolism after the odd drink or two.
. A small portion of the alcohol is converted into fat.
. Your liver then converts most of the alcohol into acetate.
. The acetate is then released into your bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.
The way your body responds to alcohol is very similar to the way it deals with excess carbohydrate. Although carbohydrate can be converted directly into fat, one of the main effects of overfeeding with carbohydrate is that it simply replaces fat as a source of energy. That's why any type of diet, whether it's high-fat, high-protein, or high-carbohydrate, can lead to a gain in weight.
The combination of alcohol and a high-calorie meal is especially fattening, mainly because alcohol acts as a potent appetizer. A Canadian study shows that an aperitif (an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to increase the appetite) increased calorie intake to a greater extent than a carbohydrate-based drink .
Researchers from Denmark's Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University report similar results . When a group of men was given a meal and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, they ate more when the meal was served with beer or wine rather than a soft drink.
Not only does too much alcohol put the brakes on fat loss, it's also one of the most effective ways to slash your testosterone levels. Just a single bout of heavy drinking raises levels of the muscle-wasting hormone cortisol and increases the breakdown of testosterone for up to 24 hours . The damaging effects of alcohol on testosterone are made even worse when you exercise before drinking .
The effect of alcohol on testosterone could be one reason that people who drink a lot carry less muscle. In fact, a 1993 study shows that alcoholic men have bigger waists and smaller muscles than teetotalers .