A popular myth is that alcoholic drinks are fattening as they contain so many kilojoules. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), in just the same way that your car can’t run on sugary drinks, your body can’t utilise the energy in alcohol, as it is the wrong type of fuel. The fuel your body runs on is glycogen, and any food that your body cannot convert to glycogen (like alcohol) is treated as waste, broken down, and disposed of. A sweet wine may add to your waistline, but it’s because of the sugars it contains, not the alcohol.
Our body is a complex chemical reactor. When we move around every day and go about our daily activities, we expend energy. Like our cars that require fuel to move, so do we.
Whereas our car runs on petrol, our bodies run on glycogen. Our car, of course, is a very simple device. If we put anything other than petrol in the car, it won’t run.
But our body is a far more complex and sophisticated reactor. It has the ability to convert food into glycogen, whether it be carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. In each case the mechanism is different, but glycogen is the final product, which our muscles utilise as fuel.
Alcohol, however, cannot be utilised as fuel, as it cannot be converted to glycogen. Our body immediately identifies it as a toxin (hence the term “intoxication”) and attempts to dispose of it. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase converts it to acetaldehyde (which is itself a toxin, and the source of hangovers) and then to acetates, and finally to CO2 and water to expel it.
So you may know enjoy your favourite beverage free of guilt….