Should You Cut Down on Alcohol to Lose Weight?

The detrimental effects of excessive alcohol consumption on various body systems are well documented. But does it play a role in weight management? If you are trying to shed a few extra pounds, let's explore how alcohol could be affecting your weight loss goals.

The relationship between humans and alcohol

Our history with alcohol is a long and complicated one. We’ve been brewing and drinking various alcoholic beverages for thousands of years. Traces of an ancient beer have even been found in caves in modern day Israel, dating back to over 13,000 years ago.

Drinking continues to be a social and culturally relevant activity for many people across the globe. Bars pop up in every city where humans settle.

While there is no doubt that excessive consumption has widespread detrimental effects — from physical and emotional disease, to socioeconomic disruptions — there is research which shows that small amounts of red wine can be beneficial for heart health.

Does red wine support heart health?
Red wine contains polyphenols, an organic compound that supports cardio metabolic health. However, you should not rely on red wine to get polyphenols. They are also available in rich-colored fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.

But, if you are on a serious weight loss journey, you will want to put any health benefits of your favorite malbec on the back burner.

Can alcohol affect weight loss?

Although more research is needed to establish a firm causal relationship between alcohol and weight gain — it’s generally accepted that moderate to high consumption doesn’t do you any favors, especially if you are trying to shed a few pounds.

Alcohol is high in calories

The calorie content of alcohol is fairly high.

BeerThe average 12 oz beer contains 153 calories. Some bottles of craft beer are over 250 calories, which is not great if you are trying to lose weight.
SpiritsThey are slightly lower on the calorie counter at around 100 calories for 1.5 oz of vodka, tequila, rum, or whiskey— however factor in the sugary mixers, and you push that number much higher.
WineRed and white wine contain over 120 calories per 5 oz glass.

The calories in alcohol are often ‘empty’

When you drink alcohol, the calories are often simple carbohydrates and there’s little other nutritional value. Some wines and beers contain B-vitamins and other micronutrients, whereas cocktails and mixers are filled with sugars, offering nothing but ‘empty’ calories.

Drinking is often an ‘add on’

Most people generally don’t factor alcohol consumption into their daily caloric intake. This can make it a stealthy barrier to any weight loss goals. Instead of ordering an alcoholic beverage at your next meal, opt for water with fresh lemon instead. It will have a neutral impact on the number of calories you've consumed, and it won't inhibit your body's fat metabolism pathways.

Alcohol consumption relaxes inhibitions

We’ve all been there. It’s late, you’ve had a few drinks, and instead of walking home and making that healthy chicken salad, you grab a pizza and order a cab. Even the best of intentions can go out the window after drinking.

Drinking alcohol and belly fat

Studies have shown a connection between alcohol consumption and visceral fat — a hormonally active fat that can lead to higher risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.

People who are prone to carrying weight around their midsection should be mindful of any extra calories from alcohol. You can not control where fat will develop on your body, but you can control how many calories you consume and make the best choices possible to manage your weight.

Will alcohol stop weight loss?

While alcohol won’t stop weight loss, it doesn’t exactly speed up the process. If you’ve got an important event that you want to get trim for, then cutting out the booze for a few months would be your best plan of action.

Safety tip
Avoid crash diets to lose weight. They can hurt your metabolism long term, and actually lead to more weight gain in the future.

What alcohol can I drink and still lose weight?

If you want to continue to drink socially, then it’s important to remember that alcoholic drinks will vary in calories. Some of the most famous cocktails, such as the White Russian, contain as many as 600 calories.

Your best bet is to stick to a clear spirits like vodka or gin, and opt for a club soda and lime mixer rather than a high fructose juice. You’ll be looking at around 100–120 calories per drink, depending on your measure.

Think about that drink

If you don’t want to stop drinking completely, then consider lighter options, such as:

  • Mixing. Try mixing your glass of wine with carbonated water to make a low-calorie spritzer.
  • Go low. If you love beer, opt for the low calorie or “lite” varieties.
  • Ditch the juice. Although juicy, creamy cocktails are delicious, shake off the sweet tooth and go for a green tea mixer, or seltzer water — which goes well with vodka.

Moderation is key

Drinking responsibly is of paramount importance. The CDC recommends are no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women. If you feel like your relationship with alcohol could be becoming unhealthy, reach out to your healthcare provider.

Moderate to light alcohol consumption is not likely to lead to weight gain, as long as you are balancing your intake with healthy, nutritious whole foods. Working with a calorie-deficient diet plan to safely lose weight, alongside a robust and sustainable workout plan is the best way to get trim, and stay on top of your weight loss goals.

Key takeaways:

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