Two of the questions I get asked the most is, ‘Can I lose weight and still drink alcohol?’ and ‘Why does alcohol make you fat?’
The short answer is YES, you can do whatever you want while you are trying to lose weight, but alcohol does impact on weight loss. To find out how much read on!
What Is Alcohol?
Simply put, alcohol is fermented sugar called ethyl alcohol or ethanol. No matter what type of alcohol you consume, it all has the same effect on the body, however all alcohol is not created equal. The source of the sugar used to make the alcohol, determines the type of alcoholic drink produced and it’s calorie content.
Types Of Alcohol
Take a look at this table and you can see the massive calorie difference between some of the more common alcoholic drinks:
- Full Strength Beer (375ml) – 140 calories
- Mid Strength Beer (375ml) – 130 calories
- Light Beer (375ml) – 105 calories
- Spirits (30ml) – 65 calories
- Wine (240ml) – 120 calories
- Wine Cooler (250ml) – 135 calories
- Liqueurs (30ml) – 100 calories
Why Does Alcohol Make You Fat?
There are a lot of variables when it comes to weight loss, fundamentally weight loss is a process of creating a calorie deficit in your body by consuming less calories than your body requires to function.
Once you create a calorie deficit, your body calls on stored energy (fat) to meet your energy requirements. For more information on creating a calorie deficit to lose weight click here.
The 2 biggest problems with drinking alcohol while you are trying to lose weight are; firstly you usually end up in a calorie surplus and secondly how the alcohol is processed by your body.
Problem # 1
As you can see from the table above the odd alcoholic drink here or there is not going to have a great effect on your overall calorie intake. Having a glass of wine or a beer is going to add about 120-140 extra calories to your daily intake total.
Those extra 120-140 calories, are less than most poor food choices, in fact most alcoholic drinks contain less calories than a large latte which can contain up to 170 calories.
Rarely does a person only have 1 drink. As a social drinker myself I will drink about 3 or 4 drinks over a nice meal or when catching up with friends.
What that means is, when I have a social drink, I can be consuming up to 400-500 extra calories for the day. The more you drink, the more calories you consume.
Problem # 2
Your body digests alcohol differently to the way all other foods and drinks are digested. When you drink alcohol it goes directly to the blood stream. About 20% of the alcohol you drink is absorbed through your stomach wall into you bloodstream while the remaining 80% percent is absorbed through the small intestine.
What that means for your body, aside from the buzz you get from the alcohol, is those calories are going to be immediately used as your body’s energy source as they are being converted so quickly. Any food you eat while you are drinking, is going to be stored as fat because your body is getting a continual supply of rapidly converted calories from the alcohol you are consuming.
This problem is often compounded by the calorie dense food we eat when we are having a social drink. You know what I mean, pizza, kebabs, fries, fast food.
We are all guilty of it, after a few drinks, the alcohol lowers your inhibition and you succumb to the shit food cravings. By the end of a night of social drinking and could have easily consumed an extra 1000 calories.
Given that alcohol calories are empty calories, meaning you get all the calories with little or no nutritional value, and it’s a fair bet the the food you eat doesn’t have a whole lot of nutritional value, it is safe to say this is a disastrous scenario for weight loss.
Tips On How To Lose Weight and Still Drink Alcohol
It’s not all doom and gloom, losing weight doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have a social drink again. What it does mean is you have to be a bit smarter about how you go about it.
Tip # 1: Before you go out and have a social drink, make sure you have a nutritional meal, that is high in protein. This will help you feel fuller for longer and you will be less likely to make poor food choices because you are hungry. Also make sure on hot days you quench your thirst with non-alcoholic drinks, such as water, prior to drinking alcohol.
Tip # 2: Instead of drinking beer or wine, look at drinking white spirits, such a vodka or gin. Both of these options can be mixed with something as simply as soda water and fresh lime, which will limit the amount of liquid calories you are ingesting as both the soda water and lime contain virtually no calories. You can also look at mixing spirits with diet soda. Whilst diet soda isn’t an overly healthy option, as I have explained in a previous article here, it is definitely the lesser of the 2 evils when the choice is between it and regular soda.
- Bourbon and regular soda – 120 calories
- Bourbon and diet soda – 70 calories
Tip # 3: If you have a party or event you are going attend and you are planning to have a drink, look at creating an extra calorie deficit in your diet for the week before. Practically, take about 100 calories per day off your normal target calories each day. If you do this for 7 days before you have a social drink, you would have put about 700 calories in the bank in preparation for the calories you are going to consume while you are drinking.
At the end of the day the choice to drink alcohol or not while trying to lose weight is up to the individual. Personally I enjoy a social drink, my drink of choice is usually bourbon with diet coke or gin lime and soda.
If you are reading this article, chances are you enjoy a social drink and are trying to lose weight. Essentially, my overall message when it comes to any nutritional or weight loss advice is, what you are doing needs to be a lifestyle.
There is no point in going on a diet, eventually it will end and you will, more than likely, revert to your previous eating habits. Basically, if you are planning to drink alcohol, you need to learn how to incorporate it into your nutritional plan, with moderation as the key consideration.
At the end of the day a social drink every now and then is not going to be the cause of your fat thighs or beer gut. Your fat thighs or beer gut are a result of your body having a calorie surplus.
The truth of the matter is alcohol is not adding that many calories to your daily intake. What people really need to do is look at the food that they are eating on a day to day basis.
If you can create a calorie deficit in your body, even when you have a social drink, then yes you can still lose weight whilst drinking alcohol.
Remember, weight loss is a simple formula. You must burn more calories than you consume, and 3,500 burned calories equals one pound or half a kilo of weight loss.
If you are struggling on your weight loss journey, you should consider taking a look at my recommended nutrition plan <— Link to Website. Once your nutrition is in order I recommend you have a look at my recommended training program for women <— Link to Website or my recommended training plan for men <— Link to Website.
If you have any questions about alcohol and weight loss, drop a comment below.