Can You Lose Weight if You Drink Alcohol?
Many of us enjoy the occasional drink with friends over dinner or social events. And as we drop our guards just a little, it can help to lubricate human relationships and even smooth the wheels of big business.
Alcohol’s been around for thousands of years. But what about health and weight loss?
Enjoy Healthy Drinking
In terms of safe drinking levels, the US Dietary Guidelines (1) show the maximum recommended amounts of alcohol as below:
- Men 2 standard drinks per day
- Women 1 standard drink per day
1 Standard drink is measured as:
- Beer : 12 fluid ounces (at 5%) 3/4 of a pint Budweiser (approx 146 calories)
- Beer : 12 fluid ounces (at 5%) 3/4 of a pint Bud Light (approx 110 calories)
- Wine : 5 fluid ounces (at 12%) (approx 123 calories)
- Spirits: 1.5 fluid ounces single shot Gin (at 90%) (approx 110 calories)
- Spirits: 1.5 fluid ounces single shot Whisky (at 86%) (approx 105 calories)
- Spirits: 1.5 fluid ounces single shot Vodka (at 80%) (approx 97 calories)
Source: USDA Food Composition Databases
Alcohol is also a toxin to the body, so whenever it’s consumed, the liver stops burning fat until all the alcohol has been completely broken down(2). This stops the fat burning process for at least 1 hour per standard drink consumed for the guys, and a little longer for the ladies.
Consumption of alcohol also interferes with the absorption of vitamins and nutrients from the diet(3) as it affects the lining of the intestinal tract, as well as the delicate balance of beneficial bacterial in the gut. For this reason it’s good to have a few days without alcohol each week, to allow the gut lining, and intestinal flora and fauna time to recover.
Alcohol can also cause inflammation in the body.
From personal experience, over indulgence can give a bulging or heavy look to the face, and more recently after consuming a little too much red wine of an evening, I noticed the following day my waist had swollen by 2 cm!
However let’s take a look at the upside!
Alcohol and Weight Loss
For weight loss you may wish to enjoy just 1 Standard drink per day for men, and half a standard glass for women.
For best effect I generally try to avoid it for at least three or more days each week. This is because alcohol can cause insulin resistance for 2 days after consumption so you’ll tend to put on more weight during that time(4,5).
I personally find that when I drink one large glass of wine every night (187 ml glass or 25% of a 750 ml bottle), I can still lose weight, however my weight loss is slowed to about 1 pound per week (0.45Kg).
When I don’t drink, I’m back to losing at around 2 pounds per week (0.9 Kg).
This may vary for different people, as it depends on what sort of drinks you enjoy and how your own body processes alcohol.
The Best Alcoholic Drinks to Enjoy for Weight Loss
As you can see from the standard drinks table (scroll up), quite a few of the different alcoholic drink have relatively similar amounts of calories.
However when weight loss is our priority, the key thing that makes one drink better than another is the amount of carbohydrates it contains.
The best low carb drinks are:
Great – low carb
- Whisky 0 g carbs per jigger serving (1.5 fl oz / 42 g)
- Rum 0 g carbs per jigger serving (1.5 fl oz / 42 g)
- Gin 0 g carbs per jigger serving (1.5 fl oz / 42 g)
- Vodka 0 g carbs per jigger serving (1.5 fl oz / 42 g)
- Tequila 8 g carbs per jigger serving (1.5 fl oz / 42 g)
Fair – medium carb
- Low Carb Beer Approx 0 g – 3 g carbs per 330 ml bottle
- White Wine 3.8 g carbs per serving (5 fl oz glass / 147 g)
- Red Wine 3.8 g carbs per serving (5 fl oz glass / 147 g)
Worst – higher carb
- Beer Approx 10 g to 40 g per 330 ml bottle depending on the brand
Be Careful with Mixers
When drinking spirits, the thing to be careful of is the mixers.
Mixers such as ginger ale, tonic water, cola, lemonade are loaded with sugar and can contain up to 5 teaspoons of refined sugar in each standard drink!
So choosing the diet versions of these mixers may be preferable here.
Otherwise, stick to soda water (fizzy carbonated water).
When to Enjoy Alcohol
It’s generally thought best to enjoy alcohol with food, as this helps to slow the absorption of the alcohol into the body.
Don’t drink alcohol especially if you’re fasting or haven’t had much food, as talking from personal experience, you could feel a little unsteady in the morning!
The Take Home
Alcohol can quite easily slow or even undo your dieting efforts.
However, within sensible limits it’s definitely still possible to lose weight AND enjoy a drink or two with friends!
And that’s got to be good news right?
What are your thoughts about Alcohol and Weight Loss? – Leave a comment below.
(2) M. Perspectives in Nutrition. 7th ed Print. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2007 by Hampl, Jeffry S. Wardlaw, Gordon.
(3) Relationships Between Nutrition, Alcohol Use, and Liver Disease by Charles S. Lieber, M.D., M.A.C.P.