In this article, I’ll be answering the often searched question. Can you drink alcohol and still lose weight?
The truth is, alcohol isn’t as diabolical to your weight loss goals as you may think.
You absolutely can lose weight and enjoy your favourite alcoholic drinks.
Here’s the deal, as long as you’re in a calorie deficit. And tracking the calories in the drinks that you do have. You’ll lose weight, guaranteed.
5 Facts About Alcohol And Losing Weight
1. Weight Loss Comes Down To Calorie Control
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight. Even if some of those calories come from alcohol.
2. Calories You Consume Come From:
- Protein (4 calories per gram).
- Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram).
- Fats ( 9 calories per gram).
- And in this case alcohol ( 7 calories per gram).
3. Alcohol Isn’t Directly Stored As Fat. Although, Drinking Alcohol Makes It More Likely That You’ll Store Fat From The Food You Eat
This is because your liver converts alcohol into something called acetate. Which then gets oxidized into water and carbon dioxide.
Your body treats alcohol like poison. And your body’s main aim is to get rid of it before burning calories from the food you eat.
The net effect of this is that alcohol isn’t stored directly as fat. But it does temporarily suppress fat burning.
This means that if you eat in a calorie surplus (more calories than you burn) you’ll store body fat more easily.
4. It’s Easy To Drink Lots Of Calories From Alcohol, And Wipe Out Your Calorie Deficit
A standard pint of beer contains roughly 200 calories. If you drink 5 of these you’d consume 1000 calories.
Add to this a fatty kebab and some chips, and you may consume another 1000 calories.
So just like that you could consume a couple thousand calories without even realising it.
Add to this some other fatty foods that you might have ate during the course of the day. And you could quite easily be in a calorie surplus ( eating more calories than you burn). Rather than in a deficit (eating fewer calories than you burn).
5. Alcohol May Increase Your Appetite
This one study assessed two different groups.
Group one didn’t consume any alcohol before lunch.
Group two did.
The group that drank alcohol before lunch had a heightened appetite. And ate more food during lunch than the group that didn’t drink any alcohol.
The group that drank alcohol ate more high-fat and salty foods. And hunger was rated to be higher during the course of the day.
This study lines up with many people’s experiences. We like to eat fatty, salty foods after drinking alcohol.
Moderation Is The Secret To Drinking Alcohol And Losing Weight
Some people are too flexible with their diet and never make progress.
Others are way too restrictive and have an all-or-nothing approach. Which can cause problems as well.
The truth is, you need to strike a happy medium between these two extremes.
You need to be disciplined enough to stick to your deficit. While also allowing some calories for enough alcoholic drinks to have fun.
This is where moderation comes in. Going to the pub or out on the lash with your mates once in a while doesn’t have to ruin your progress.
What Is Moderation?
If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.Epictetus
We can all define moderation differently. But I define moderate alcohol consumption, as having a couple of drinks once or twice per week.
Although you may drink more or less than this. You want to drink enough so that you enjoy all of the social benefits. Without feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck the next morning.
The 5 Step Strategy So That You Can Drink Alcohol And Still Lose Weight
1. Make sure you’re in a sustainable calorie deficit.
2. Eat enough protein.
3. Save a buffer of calories for your alcoholic drinks ( I recommend 15% of your intake).
4. Avoid eating lots of food when you’re drinking (especially fatty foods).
5. Drink enough water.
Here’s an example of this strategy in action.
1. Finding Out A Sustainable Calorie Deficit
I’m using an example of myself for this strategy.
Bear in mind that :
- I need to eat roughly 2500 calories to maintain my weight.
- If I plan on losing a pound of fat per week I’d need to eat in a 500 calorie deficit.
- In a pound of fat, there are roughly 3500 calories, and a 500 calorie deficit over the course of a week = 3500 calories.
- If I wanted to be in a sustainable calorie deficit I’d need to eat 2000 calories per day.
- This situation assumes that I’ll be having drinks in the evening.
2. Eat Enough Protein
I recommend that you eat around 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight. The satiating effect of protein will help fight against cravings for fatty foods later on. This would mean I’d need to eat 178 grams of protein per day (because I weigh 178 lbs).
Eating the majority of your protein intake early on leaves you with fats and carbs to save for the evening.
I recommend that you swap out some of these fats and carbs for the alcohol you’ll be drinking.
3. Save A Buffer Of Calories For the Alcoholic Drinks You’ll Be Having
I find that drinking no more than 15% of your calories from alcoholic drinks is the perfect amount for:
- Still enjoying the benefits of alcohol.
- Not having shitty workouts the next day.
- Not feeling rough the next day.
So for me, this would mean not drinking any more than 300 calories from alcohol during an evening.
Because 15% of my calorie intake while in a deficit is 300 calories.
This is equal to:
- A beer (200 calories) and a vodka mixed with diet coke (100 calories).
- 3 vodka and diet coke’s (300 calories).
Remember: 15% is just a guideline that I believe to be most optimal. You can set your calorie buffer to how much you’d like to drink.
I wouldn’t go much higher than 15% though. If you do, this is where the downsides start to manifest.
If on occasions, you want to drink more than this then that’s perfectly okay. As long as you’re consuming alcohol in moderation, and it’s a one-off you’ll do well.
For example, say that you’re going out for your mate’s stag/ hen night. And you know you’ll be having a few more drinks than you probably should.
For this night you could potentially:
- Do intermittent fasting and break the fast at around 12- 2 pm with some protein and veggies.
- Save 800-1000 calories for some drinks in the evening.
4. Avoid Eating Lots Of High Fat Foods
Remember drinking alcohol may increase your appetite and blunts fat burning. This is why you must consciously make an effort to not eat lots of fatty foods during the night on which you drink.
If you do want to eat some food while out drinking, make sure you save up the calories on your meal plan for this.
Because as long as you’re in a calorie deficit overall, you’ll lose weight.
Fasting for the beginning of the day. Then consuming your calories when you go out for a meal/ drinks can be a good strategy. Especially if you expect to have a big meal and several alcoholic drinks.
You could potentially save up your whole calorie intake for this meal. This will help you stay in a deficit while eating a big meal and having drinks. And as long as you don’t eat any more than your maintenance calories you won’t gain fat.
But when you’re out drinking try to avoid foods like these:
- Take out foods like kebabs, pizza, chips, burgers.
- Anything fried. E.g. fried chicken, and anything battered.
- Anything with lots of cheese.
- Anything cooked in creamy sauces.
And before you go out drinking. Try to fill up on lean protein sources, and fruits and veggies like the ones listed below.
- Fat-free Greek yoghurt and cottage cheese.
- Whole eggs and egg whites. Preferably egg whites if you’re dieting on lower calories.
- Protein powders.
- Chicken breast.
- Lean beef/ steak (95/5)
- Ground turkey.
- Protein bars.
- Green beans.
Low Calorie Fruits:
- Honeydew melon.
5. Drink Water To Stay Hydrated
Most of the awful side effects of a hangover are due to you being dehydrated.
If you drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink, you’ll give your body no reason to become dehydrated.
Thereby being able to have more effective workouts. And being more productive the next day.
Fat Loss Friendly Drinks
- Vodka with a zero-calorie mixer (e.g coke zero) 100 calories.
- Dry red & white wine 175 calories per glass.
- Light (low calorie) beers 152 calories per pint (bud light).
- Normal beers, IPA’s, Ales, Cider 208 calories.
- Cocktails Such as long island Ice tea (780 cals) , margaritas (740 cals) Pina colada (644 cals).
Best Beer And Lager Options (Not In Any Order):
- Tennent’s light lager 60 calories per 300ml bottle.
- Skinny brands premium lager 89 calories per 330ml bottle.
- The original small beer session pale 59.5 calories per 350ml bottle.
- Bud light beer 132 calories per 330ml bottle.
- Brew dog light speed hazy IPA (brew dog is one of my personal favourites) 95 calories per 330 ml can.
- Michelob Ultra 95 calories per 330 ml bottle.
Best Mixed Drink Options.
- Vodka lime and soda 106 calories (my personal favourite).
- Vodka and diet coke 106 calories.
- Southern comfort and 7 up free 70 calories.
Best Wine Options
- Champagne 95 calories per glass.
- Sparkling white wine 87 calories per glass.
- Chardonnay 123 calories per glass.
- Riesling 115 calories per glass.
The Bottom Line On Can You Still Drink Alcohol And Lose Weight?
- Just like eating 1 – 2 doughnuts every so often won’t cause excessive fat gain, yet eating a whole tray of doughnuts every night will. Alcohol only becomes a problem when you overstep the bounds of moderation.
- Eating less, and saving up a buffer of calories will help you indulge in alcohol and still lose weight. As long as you’re in a deficit.
- Just because you have a goal of losing weight doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite drinks. You absolutely can. As long as you track the calories in those drinks. Read that again.
- Fitness is meant to improve your life, not make it more stressful.
- Use the advice in this article to enjoy your favourite alcoholic drinks. Guilt-free.
What your favourite alcoholic drink?