Can you drink alcohol and still lose weight?
That’s a question I often times get asked.
The answer is that it depends on many factors. For example, if you are on a low carb diet, it’s better if you stay away from alcohol. In fact there are some low carb diets that require that you stop drinking alcohol completely.
Reality is that alcoholic beverages can and will slow your weight loss, because not only are you ingesting carbs with most of them, but you are also taking in extra calories.
When I was trying to lose weight I avoided drinking alcohol as much as I could. I’ve never been one of those that drink too much so it was easier for me, but I know of many women that are used to having one or two glasses of wine on a daily basis.
There was a time during my weight loss path, in which I decided I was going to have a glass of red wine every night, because of the studies that claim that red wine is beneficial for our health.
But drinking a glass of wine nightly definitively slowed my weight loss, and I ended up in the dreaded plateau.
So why is it that alcohol slows down weight loss?
Let’s first define what is considered an alcoholic drink. An alcoholic drink is considered to be about 15 grams of ethanol alcohol.
What contains 15 grams of alcohol? Five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, and 1 1/2 ounces of 80 proof/40% drink like whiskey or vodka. We know that the amount of sugar and the amount of alcohol can differ depending on the drink, so these are just some general guidelines.
The important fact you need to remember is that in every gram of alcohol there are approximately 7 calories. There are some good news though, because your body burn up some of those calories (thermic effect), the total calorie per gram is approximately 5.7.
I do want you to keep something in mind, while you get 7 calories of carbs per gram of alcohol, you only get 4 calories per gram when you ingest carbohydrates. You get more calories per gram of alcohol than per gram of carbs.
So let’s think about this for a second. With a beer that’s 5% alcohol per volume you will end up ingesting 150 calories and 11.5 grams of carbohydrates. Those are some hefty amount of calories, especially if you have more than one beer.
Can you drink alcohol and still lose weight, what do you think now?
To make things even more complicated, after your first drink, the body starts eliminating the alcohol faster, and starts creating by-products that the body considers dangerous, therefore the body starts using them as fuel.
So your body will use the calories from alcohol first for energy, prior to using fat or carbohydrates.
What does all that mean? It means that about the time you have your second drink your body will cut the fat-burning process to about 75%, and it will stop using carbohydrates for energy. Even when only a small amount of alcohol will be stored as fat, the carbohydrates and the fat you are ingesting are more likely to be stored as fat.
Other effects that moderate alcohol intake will have in your body, is that not only will it increase the amount of total calories you are ingesting, but will also decrease your motivation to exercise and can cause insomnia, especially because you will have to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, likely more than once.
If you are a heavy drinker, you are likely going to get dehydrated, your energy levels will go down and you can start having some negative hormonal changes.
Therefore I would suggest that you stay away from drinking alcohol if you can, especially during the initial stages of your weight loss, but if that is not possible for you, then try to chose alcoholic beverage that have less sugar content and also avoid having more than two drinks three times a week.
If you do decide to drink try to eliminate beer and wine, and stick to hard liquor.
Why is that?
Because hard alcohol contains no carbs, no sugars. Now we are talking about straight alcohol here, no mixed drinks or cocktails, those will be full of either fruit juices or sugary sodas.
Remember that hard alcohol will still contain calories, so you still have to count those.
So can you drink alcohol and still lose weight? Yes, you can, if you stick to mild to moderate amounts of hard liquor, keeping in mind that chances are your weight loss rate will be slower than if you chose not to drink.
What hard alcohol should you consider drinking? Gin, Rum, Whiskey and Vodka.
Hope this article helped you understand how alcohol can affect your weight loss.
Dr. Mayra Alfonso