How Does Alcohol Affect Weight Loss?
There’s no denying that alcohol is a very popular part of most cultures. In the U.S., it’s downright difficult to abstain if you often find yourself in social situations. And, let’s face it, sometimes there is nothing better at the end of a long day than a glass of wine. That’s why one of the most popular questions I get from my customers is, “How does alcohol affect weight loss?”
First I want to remind you of two things:
- Nutrition is KEY to weight loss, so it’s important to understand how alcohol affects your goal.
- Beverages can sneak in a surprising amount of calories to our diet if we’re not careful. Juices, smoothies, energy drinks—they all add extra calories to our daily count that we barely notice.
While there are some proven health benefits to drinking an occasional and moderate amount of alcohol, you should consider limiting your alcohol intake or eliminating it from your diet altogether if weight loss is your goal.
Is Alcohol Fattening?
Alcohol in its purest form is known as ethyl and it has about 196 calories per ounce. Most forms of alcohol we drink have quite a bit more because they have either added or natural sugars.
Here’s a typical amount of calories you can expect from some popular forms of alcohol:
- 1 glass (5 oz) red or white wine—120+ calories
- 1 can (12 oz) beer—135 to 145 calories
- 1 glass (6 oz) Cosmopolitan—143 calories
- 1 margarita—up to 550 calories!
Here is a fabulous calorie counter for alcoholic drinks—Alcohol Calorie Counter
Calorie-wise, alcohol is one of our biggest enemies because its calories are empty—meaning it has no nutritional value (as opposed to nutrient dense foods, which we should be eating!). What’s worse is that alcohol is the first fuel to be used when consumed with carbs, fats and proteins because it cannot be stored for later. The result is that drinking stops your metabolic system to get rid of the booze first. Because your natural fat-burning process is postponed, you hold onto more fat, especially in the belly.
How Alcohol Affects Weight Loss
Here are the three main ways alcohol affects weight loss:
1. CALORIES—Obviously, the main way alcohol affects weight loss is by adding calories to your diet. In fact, alcohol contains the SAME calorie count as FAT per gram. That’s more than protein and more than the dreaded carb.
If you’re not paying attention as you sip that wine or cocktail, you could easily consume the equivalent of a 60-minute workout!
2. APPETITE—Alcohol stimulates the appetite, making it way too easy to eat way more than our bodies truly need. When we’re at parties, bars and restaurants, this can lead to an overload of fattening foods.
3. ENERGY—On the day after consuming alcohol, it’s very common to feel anywhere from tired to hungover, mostly because of dehydration and disrupted sleep. This decreases the probability of a quality workout so we end up not burning off the extra calories we’ve consumed.
Can I Drink Alcohol While Trying to Lose Weight?
After all of the dire news I just gave you, you probably expect me to say you can’t drink alcohol while trying to lose weight, right?
Right…IF you’re on a STRICT mission to lose pounds. If that’s the case, your beverage of choice should be water (either still or unsweetened sparkling).
Wrong…IF you’re less strict. You CAN drink alcohol while trying to lose weight, you just have to be SMART about it!
How to Avoid Alcohol Weight Gain
The total number of calories in an alcoholic drinks varies quite a bit. Here is some info to help you make the smartest choice:
- Beer generally has the least amount of alcohol, but the highest calorie count.
- Wine tends to have more alcohol and fewer calories.
- Stay away from mixed drinks containing sugary sodas (EVEN diet soda!) or milk-based ingredients.
- Choose lower calorie bases like club soda or tomato juice.
- Avoid high calorie liqueurs (like Irish Cream)
Here are several tips to help you avoid alcohol weight gain:
- Try to have healthy whole foods around when you’re drinking. If you get the munchies, it’s better to have a bunch of raw veggies instead of potato chips!
- STAY HYDRATED! Drinking water in between each alcoholic drink will not only help you feel better the next day, but it will reduce the amount of room in your stomach that could be filled with more alcohol or food.
- Be AWARE. Know what and how much you are drinking.
- Do some research. If you like wine, find several that are lower calorie and have them on hand. If you like cocktails, find a recipe that minimizes the calories.
- Know your weaknesses. If you tend to go overboard in social situations, go prepared. Eat a healthy meal or drink some Shakeology beforehand so you’re not drinking or snacking on an empty stomach.
- Remember your WHY. When you are focused on your core commitments (AKA the reason you’re on a mission to lose weight and/or get healthy), it’s easier to turn down that second drink because you are motivated to lose weight.
- Remember the progress you’ve made. When you stay aware of how much you’ll have to do to burn off what you’re going to consume, suddenly that drink doesn’t seem so worth it!
Like everything else in life, moderation is the key to drinking alcohol while trying to lose weight.
Alcohol and the 21 Day Fix
Hopefully, I’ve answered your question, “How does alcohol affect weight loss?”. If you’re doing the 21 Day Fix and want to know how alcohol fits into the program, watch this video: