Everything You Need to Know About Alcohol and Weight Loss

by Millie
alcohol and weight loss

With the holidays around the corner, let’s talk about alcohol and weight loss. Most of us are aware that alcohol can cause weight gain. I’m sure you heard of a beer belly, usually referring to men who store most of their excess weight on the abdomen. 

So if alcohol can cause a beer belly, what effects does it have on your body when you are desperately trying to lose weight? How does alcohol affect your weight loss? I hope to show you that you can still enjoy a drink or two when you are on a weight loss journey.

I am long past the drinking to excess days, but I do enjoy a cocktail or two (or three) social events and especially on vacation. Plus we all need an ice-cold beer at the summer barbeques. 

Also read 13 Great Tips to Surviving the Holidays on a Weight Loss Journey

But when I started my weight loss journey, I became keenly aware of alcohol and weight gain, and most importantly alcohol and weight loss. Here is how alcohol affects your weight loss.

alcohol and weight loss
Alcohol and weight loss

How Alcohol Affects Your Weight Loss

We are all different and alcohol may also affect us differently. These differences include sex, age, weight and previous alcohol history.

Nonetheless, there are several important ways that alcohol is not the best thing for weight loss. There is little disagreement among the weight-loss experts that dieters should limit or avoid alcohol.

Empty Calories

It doesn’t matter what diet you are on, weight loss is effective when you have a calorie deficit. And for me, it means that I count my calories to keep me on track. 

When you pay attention to calories, you soon realize that calories are not created equally. Some calories are quite filling and leaves you satisfied, for example, chickpeas. Some foods are calorie-dense, like steaks, and have more calories per bite than other foods. 

And still, some foods and drinks are empty calories. This is the group that alcohol belongs in – empty calories. Alcohol has no nutrients that your body needs, So you are just simply adding extra calories to your total daily intake.

Also read 52 of the Best Zero Calorie Foods and Drinks

And let’s not forget that alcohol is usually at events and activities where there are extra calories served. Plus the mixers are also high in calories and are also empty calories. Do not assume that a diet mixer is better. 

Alcohol is Burned First

The problem with alcohol and weight loss is further compounded by the fact that your body burns the calories from alcohol. So instead of your body burning fat, it now has to burn the alcohol you consumed first!

In order words, your weight loss is on the back burner until your body burns the calories from alcohol. This is especially hard if you have had a long night of drinking.

Bigger Appetite

alcohol and weight loss
Alcohol can increase your appetite

Have you ever noticed that when you drink you tend to also eat more? Not just more food, but more high-calorie junk food. All inhibitions and caution are thrown to the wind when alcohol is around.

It seems that having a good time means eating and drinking too much. And too much alcohol affects your judgement. Next thing you know all the smart choices you have been making for the past days and weeks are quickly forgotten.

Sadly, the damage continues the day after as well. If you are unfortunate to have a hangover the following day. The excess calories continue.

Also read 4 Worst Foods for Weight Loss

I have bever heard anyone recommend a large garden salad with balsamic vinegar as a cure for a hangover. Apparently, a high fat, greasy meal is the best way to get rid of a hangover.

Poor Sleep

alcohol and weight loss
Alcohol can lead to poor sleep

Most of us think that we sleep better after a few drinks. We have all heard or tried a nightcap. However, what research has discovered is that while you have no trouble falling asleep that sleep, on the other hand, is not restful. 

As discussed in a previous blog post poor sleep, even one night’s poor sleep can increase your appetite, increase your hunger and consequently lead to weight gain and affects weight loss. So in addition to eating more when you’re drinking, you may even eat more the following day. 

Also read Everything You Need to Know About Sleep and Weight Loss

And depending on how much you drank, the following day you are not likely to exercise. In fact, some experts recommend that you don’t workout after drinking. 

Belly Fat

Of course, you can have a beer belly even if you don’t overindulge in alcohol, however, there is strong evidence to suggest that too much alcohol is correlated with excess belly fat. 

Obviously, if your six-pack abs are covered by a few inches of excess fat limiting or avoid alcohol is a good start to your weight loss journey. 

I once worked with someone who lost weight simply by cutting out alcohol. 

Best Alcohol for Weight Loss

alcohol and weight loss
Prosecco is one of the best drinks for dieters

Generally, you want to choose spirits (e.g., brank, whisky gin or rum), dry wine instead of sweet wine, or light beer instead of regular beer. My first option is to abstain, but when I do indulge, my drink of choice is prosecco. 

Here’s a quick guide to some of the best alcohol for weight loss.

DrinkCalories Per Serving
Light beer100
Beer (regular)153
Best alcohol for weight loss

Check out 12 Healthy Alternatives to Boozy Drinks for low-calorie cocktails. My favorites are Tequila Paloma (107 calories) and Frozen Strawberry Daquiri (90 calories)

Worst Drinks

On the flip side, the worst drinks include:

DrinkCalories Per Serving
Long Island Iced Tea780
Pina Colada640
White Russian500
Worst Drinks

As you can see, you can have a whole healthy meal instead of these worst drinks. So choose wisely. I loved Pina Colada, but when I see the number of empty calories it has, I rather have an 8-ounce sirloin steak which has about 360 calories!

alcohol and weight loss
Alcohol and weight loss

Alcohol and Weight Loss

In closing, you are really going to slow down your weight loss if you have a few drinks every week, But if you have a (one) drink on special occasions, the damage to your weight loss will be negligible.

And if you decide to have a drink you can make better lower calorie choices to reduce the effects on your diet and weight loss journey.

If we can have a cheat meal, why can’t we have a cheat drink?


Everything You Need to Know About Alcohol and Weight Loss

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Amanda Kerr November 10, 2020 - 9:03 pm

I love this post! Very informative and really helpful for someone starting out with their fitness journey!
I sure notice I do eat more when I drink! ? Wine and cheese is my thing! Heheh! Cheers girl!

Millie November 10, 2020 - 9:48 pm

Thanks, Amanda! Please don’t remind me of wine and cheese!

Emily Terrell November 11, 2020 - 12:36 am

Whew! Talk about an eye opener!!! I’m starting my weight loss journey since my health took some nasty turns this year. Drinking alcohol was never a big thing for me, but I do it socially. Now I know which ones to avoid! I needed this post break down to get me back on track, thanks!

Millie November 11, 2020 - 1:36 am

Hi Emily, Good luck on your weight loss journey! I’m so glad that I am able to help. You got this!

Kay | Blowing Bubbles With Mama November 11, 2020 - 11:59 am

Very interesting post. I have to say that my thoughts on which neat drinks had fewer calories were completely the wrong way around! It’s good to know that the alcohol is burned first and then the calories, I’ll be keeping this in mind from now on.

Millie November 11, 2020 - 4:59 pm

Hi Kay, I was like you. I had a lot of misinformation about the calories in alcohol.

Kileen November 12, 2020 - 5:10 pm

This was so informative and so helpful! I had no idea how many calories were in pina coladas and margaritas!

Millie November 12, 2020 - 8:25 pm

Thanks, Kileen! I know! It’s incredible, but now you are informed!

Mosaic Art November 12, 2020 - 10:35 pm

Awesome information, thank you so much! I am trying to stay away from alcohol because all the reasons you mentioned.

Millie November 13, 2020 - 12:14 am

Thanks and good luck avoiding alcohol. You can do it!

Yanitza Ninett November 13, 2020 - 4:52 am

Wow! Great information. I’ve been off the drinking path for six years now and I don’t miss it all. I really never realized how it affects weight loss.

Millie November 13, 2020 - 7:33 pm

Thanks, Yanitza! Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize how much calories are in our alcoholic drinks.

Nikki Wayne November 13, 2020 - 9:54 am

Thanks for sharing this. It’s always great to be reminded of the cons when drinking alcohol.

Millie November 13, 2020 - 7:40 pm

Thanks, Nikki.

Krysten Quiles November 13, 2020 - 11:33 am

Alcohol is my DOWNFALL. I love a good beer or mixed drink after a hard day. Thanks for sharing the best and the worst for me!

Millie November 13, 2020 - 7:46 pm

Hi Krysten, I think we are all drinking more these days. But now you know how much calories you are having.

Natasha Mairs November 13, 2020 - 6:08 pm

This is a really great post. My husband is a big drinker and also over weight. I will have to share this with him .

Millie November 13, 2020 - 8:15 pm

Thanks, Natasha! Wish your husband good luck for me.

Norma November 14, 2020 - 2:08 am

This is so interesting! Since I learned how many calories alcoholic beverages have I don’t even think about drinking any of them. Coffee and Tea are calorie free and I love them.

Millie November 14, 2020 - 6:38 pm

Great idea, Norma! Stick to coffee and tea … sugar-free.

Kuntala Bhattacharya November 14, 2020 - 11:19 am

This is an eye opener for me. I was having a different opinion about the gain in calories by alcohol intake though I am not a frequent drinker of alcohol.

Millie November 14, 2020 - 6:40 pm

Thanks, Kuntala. Most of us are surprised by the number of calories in drinks.

rm November 14, 2020 - 12:03 pm

I don’t drink but it is very useful informaiton. Thanks for sharing

Millie November 14, 2020 - 6:41 pm

Thanks for reading.


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