Can You Drink Alcohol + Still Lose Weight?


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Technically, yes, as long as overall, you’re still at a calorie deficit.

You know I’m an advocate of not arbitrarily eliminating foods (drinks, in this case) that you enjoy. That being said, I do consider alcohol with a little bit of an asterisk beside it. 

Where Does Alcohol Fit?

There are 3 macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat. Each plays important roles in your overall health. (If you’re not familiar with macros, read this article.)

Alcohol is in a category of its own and at 7cal/g, it sits between protein + carbs (4cal/g) and fats (9cal/g) in caloric density. These are essentially empty calories, as alcohol isn’t providing your body with anything that it needs to function (ie macronutrients, vitamins, minerals). In essence, these calories are counting against your daily intake but aren’t providing you with anything in exchange.

Your body can’t store alcohol, so when you consume it, breaking it down becomes your body’s priority #1. This means that food digestion and fat breakdown take a backseat to alcohol metabolism. In other words, your fat loss basically pauses while your body deals with the alcohol.

So that’s the first issue that makes alcohol a little different than other food & drinks.

How Else is Alcohol Different?

Additionally, alcohol can do some other things that pack a pretty mean punch against your weight loss efforts:

  1. Increase your appetite
  2. Decrease your inhibitions
  3. Increase your total calorie intake (basically the result of 1+2)
  4. Decrease your motivation to exercise
  5. Negatively impact your sleep

Granted, some of those have a lot to do with how much you’re drinking but depending on your alcohol tolerance, drinking history, what you’re drinking, where you are on your weight loss journey, etc., you might experience those things after just one or two drinks.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what is likely to happen when those things combine, but if you need a hint, eating appropriate amounts of foods that make you feel good is probably not it.

How to Make It Work

Now that you have an idea of what alcohol does in your body, you have a few choices. You can:

  • Cut out alcohol completely while you are trying to lose fat.
  • Figure out when indulging in alcohol is most worth it for you (special occasions, etc) and abstain at other times.
  • Drink regularly but moderately.
    1. No more than 1 drink per day for women (this might mean cutting back if you’re currently drinking more than this)
    2. One drink being – 1.5oz of liquor (thats one point five, I know the decimal point is small but it’s definitely not a fifteen), 5oz of wine, or 12oz of beer.

(Not sure if you’re drinking moderately? Track your intake for a week and see how you compare to the guidelines above).

  • Make smart choices to cut down on excess calories and sugar in drinks with a lot of ingredients. In general, the simpler the drink (fewer ingredients), the better.
  • Choose to prioritize meals with protein, fiber, and healthy fats before you drink since you’ll likely be getting plenty of calories from carbs.

All that being said, it’s up to you to be able to honestly assess whether drinking has a place in your day-to-day life right now. If you are eating balanced meals according to the Body Transformation guide 90% of the time and you’re exercising on a regular basis but aren’t seeing the results you desire, it might be time to reassess drinking.

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