How do alcohol and weight loss mix?
Can you drink alcohol and lose weight?
As a weight loss coach for Moms and obesity medicine physician, I get asked this question ALL of the time. My clients want their nightly glass of wine or a skinny margarita with friends to celebrate the day. At the same time, they want to lose weight. Can you have both?
How Alcohol Slows Weight Loss
Calories, calories, calories.
It’s not just the calories in the alcohol that you need to consider but the calories in the mixers used and the extra food eaten around alcohol. A serving of alcohol alone contains 100-150 calories. That’s not too bad. But most of us don’t drink the alcohol alone.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of my Mama’s favorite drinks:
- Corona Light -100 calories, 5 carbs
- Michelob Ultra – 90 calories, 3 carbs
- Bud Light – 110 calories, 7 carbs
- Coors Light – 100 calories, 5 carbs
- Glass of Moscato wine – 140 calories, 19 carbs
- Glass of Cabernet – 150 calories, 5 carbs
- Glass of Chardonnay – 150 calories, 4 carbs
- Skinny Margarita – 180 calories, 24 carbs
- House Margarita – 220 calories, 30 carbs
- Strawberry Margarita – 300 calories, 54 carbs
- Dirty Vodka Martini – 240 calories, 2 carbs
So, let’s say you have 2 drinks and throw in some popcorn. You have anywhere from an extra meal’s worth of calories to half a day’s allowance. And many of my clients do this every night.
Calories from alcohol provide little nutritious benefit and alcohol tends to be burned before stored energy sources. As alcohol is cleared through the liver, increased alcohol in a fatty diet can worsen liver function as well. For most of my clients, dropping the extra alcohol speeds up their weight loss.
How To Have Alcohol Without Slowing Weight Loss
Let’s say you drop the snacks that frequently accompany alcohol. And you stick to one drink. You enjoy that drink and want to continue making it part of your plan. Can you still have alcohol and lose weight? Absolutely. But you need to make the right choices for your diet.
Alcohol, like food, comes in varied shapes and sizes. And that means varied impact on your weight loss.
Here’s the best alcohol options for each of my 5 recommended diets. For more on the diets themselves, check out my How to Find Your Best Diet post.
- Low-calorie Drinks: Vodka comes in the lowest at 100 calories an ounce – mix that with a sugar-free mixer for a low-calorie drink. The other hard alcohol options of whiskey, gin, and tequila contain around 110 calories. The sugar-free mixers will make the biggest difference in total calories per drink.
- Low-Carb Drinks: Vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila – all 0 carbs. Just don’t mix those with sugary mixes. Low-carb spritzers like Truly and White Claw contain 2 carbs and can easily be worked into your daily allowance. Red wine and light beers can generally fit your allotment as well.
- Paleo Drinks: Alcohol in general is not totally Paleo approved. But, so is coffee. For weight loss sake, stick with the questionably Paleo options of red wine and tequila for unprocessed, less gluten heavy, and less sugary options.
- Mediterranean Drinks: This one’s easy. A glass of red wine a day is recommended in the Mediterranean Diet. You’re welcome.
- Plant-Based Drinks: Vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila – all plant-based options. Wine is as well. Stay away from anything with dairy (cream) and sugary mixes.
Should You Include Alcohol in Your Diet?
The health benefits and risks of alcohol continue to be an ongoing debate. Here’s the simplest take home points:
- Consuming 3 or more drinks per day causes more harm than benefit regardless of the type of alcohol consumed.
- At 2 drinks per day or less, the benefit vs risk profile depends on additional risk factors in each person.
- Age effects risks as well – those under 50 years of age tend to have more risk from light to moderate alcohol use than those over the age of 50.
- Recent studies provide more support for the British guidelines for alcohol consumption: 1 drink per day or less for those over 50 years and o drinks per day for those under 50 years is safest.
- For more on alcohol and your health, check out these articles from leading institutions: Harvard Nutrition Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/drinks-to-consume-in-moderation/alcohol-full-story/, CDC Recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/index.htm
Can You Drink Alcohol and Lose Weight?
As with all things weight loss, focus first on the results you want to create. In Weight Loss for Modern American Moms, my online weight loss coaching program, we create weight loss results by finding changes that work for you. I recommend you think of alcohol as calories or carbs in your daily allowance. And look at the results you want to create.
If that result includes alcohol, you can absolutely lose weight and still achieve that result. It will likely mean cutting out the snacking alongside the alcohol, limiting your servings, and picking an alcohol option that accompanies your diet.