How Alcohol Impacts Weight Loss
The formula for weight loss is pretty simple. You just need to burn more calories than you take in. While exercise definitely helps with weight loss, the main key to weight loss is simply watching how many calories you consume each day.
Unfortunately, alcohol does contain calories. The average 12-ounce beer contains up to 150 calories. Most spirits contain about 90 calories per shot. Red and white wines average about 120 calories per glass. (Source)
Specialty drinks can dramatically increase the calorie count. Avoid drinks which contain sugary mixes or sodas. The sweeter a drink is, the more calories it typically contains. Instead, you’ll want to use low-calorie mixers like club soda. Note that tonic has more calories than many people think with roughly 124 calories per 12 ounces.
How Alcohol is Processed by the Body
Alcohol isn’t metabolized in the same way as most other foods or drinks. Your body can’t store alcohol. So alcohol in your system is given priority in the metabolic process.
Unfortunately, this can slow down other digestive processes. The body’s natural ability to breakdown fats, carbs and proteins is impaired. Even though your body can still digest nutrients, the ability to do so isn’t as efficient as when you have no alcohol in your system.
Roughly one-quarter of the alcohol in a drink is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the stomach. The remaining alcohol is absorbed through the small bowel. How fast the alcohol is absorbed depends on:
- The contents of your stomach (empty stomachs absorb alcohol faster)
- The alcohol concentration of the drink (stronger drinks are absorbed faster)
- The carbonation of the drink (sparkling drinks are absorbed faster)
Your liver does most of the heavy lifting when you drink. Roughly 98% of the alcohol is processed by the liver, with the rest being expelled through urine and sweat. The good news is that a healthy diet can help counteract any alcohol-induced liver damage. So if you drink moderately, and otherwise stick to healthy foods, you can avoid a lot of potential liver problems. (Source)
Can I Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight?
Absolutely! Just focus on moderation. For instance, if you drink two glasses of wine each night, cut back to just one. Safe drinking practices are better for your health – and you’ll feel better the next morning, too. (Source)
Never drink on an empty stomach. People sometimes attempt to limit their daily calorie intake by skipping a meal in favor of alcohol. But drinking on an empty stomach can lead to fast, dangerous levels of intoxication. Always eat before or during when you’re drinking alcoholic beverages.
Plus, space out your drinking by having a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes dehydration. Drinking a glass of water between each cocktail or beer helps your body stay hydrated. Plus, the extra time between drinks allows you more accurately assess your sobriety level.
Also, make sure you watch what you eat after you’ve been drinking. A few drinks can lower your inhibitions. Don’t splurge on a late night trip to Taco Bell or make other unwise meal choices. Instead, try to nibble on something healthy while you’re drinking so you don’t have a “bottomless stomach” at the end of the night.
How to Make a Plan for Safe Drinking
You don’t have to give up alcohol completely. But each drink can interfere with weight loss. So make each drink count as something special. Figure out the times when you most enjoy having a drink, and only drink during those times.
For instance, suppose you enjoy having a glass of wine when you’re out to dinner with friends. Limit your alcohol consumption to those occasions. Or perhaps you prefer to have a beer at home when watching football. The point is to identify the one time you’d miss alcohol the most, and only drink during those occasions.
Effects of Long-Term Drinking on Weight Loss
Moderate alcohol consumption won’t interfere with your weight loss in any significant way. But you can’t really drink on a regular basis and expect to lose weight. Aside from the calories consumed, long-term alcohol use has several negative benefits.
First, alcohol can drastically interfere with your ability to sleep. Passed out sleep isn’t the same as natural, healthy sleep. If you don’t get the proper amount of sleep, your body will crave additional calories the next day.
Plus, alcohol use can drastically reduce testosterone. Testosterone helps with weight loss, even in women. A significant drop in testosterone can reduce your body’s ability to lose weight. (Source)
Losing weight isn’t always easy. Sometimes diets fail simply because the dieter puts too much pressure on themselves. Avoid trying to completely alter your lifestyle overnight. Instead, focus on small changes which are easy to stick with.
Drinking in moderation is key. Identify a few activities where you enjoy having a drink, and only consume alcohol during those special situations. When drinking alcohol, be sure and drink plenty of water. Also never drink on an empty stomach.
Just because you’re trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you have to give up alcohol completely. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can safely drink moderately while still shedding pounds. Cheers to your weight loss goals!
Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.