Last month, I discussed some of the beneficial properties of alcohol. However, even with all of these positive aspects, alcohol is quite simply a toxic substance. The body can’t store what you drink, so it has to be burned straight away and, while the body gets rid of the alcohol, all other metabolic processes – including fat burning – have to be put on hold.

Alcohol blocks fat metabolism, hinders protein synthesis (muscle development and repair) and stimulates a poor hormonal environment for recovery. In other words, it’s not the calories from alcohol you need to worry about: it’s how your body reacts to this toxin, causing you to store fat rather than burn it.

Alcohol turns off fat burning at a cellular level and kills recovery from exercise.The University of Helsinki found that, after a more-than-moderate drinking session (about six or seven beers for a 75kg male), testosterone levels dropped by 23 percent, growth hormone (HGH) secretion was heavily suppressed and cortisol levels rose by 36 percent. Testosterone and HGH are anabolic hormones that are essential for building muscle and burning fat. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that breaks down tissue. High cortisol levels have been linked to increased or stubborn abdominal fat.

I know what you’re thinking: this all makes life sound boring. But, as I mentioned last month, there is limited evidence that moderate alcohol consumption alone will cause you to gain weight. However if you are striving for fat loss or a performance goal, you need to act carefully.

The best advice I can give is to not drink more than once per week. Do not go nuts during this one session. If you want to be able to enjoy a drink while striving for positive body change, you can probably have one or two drinks every week.

To protect yourself from excess fat storage and poor fitness gains, however, you should:

Get most of your calories from protein and vegetables.

Avoid high carbohydrate and fatty foods while drinking.

Choose your poison wisely: stay away from carb-laden drinks like beer and fruity stuff. Good choices are Merlot and Pinot Noir wines, as well as spirits (on the rocks or with water and lime).

Consume foods and beverages that protect the liver from alcohol damage.

Avoid alcohol after hard workouts. The recovery period is where the body actually improves and benefits from exercise. Drinking after workouts will diminish any potential returns.

Consume foods and beverages that aid in the detoxification of toxins the day after.

Phil is a health practitioner and expert in body transformation. His services are available at Star Fitness (Starfitnesssaigon.com), online or at your home. Contact him though his website Phil-kelly.com or Facebook.com/BodyExpertSystemVietnam.