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How Does Alcohol Affect Weight Loss?

By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

how does alcohol affect weight loss

Whether you enjoy drinking socially from time to time or drink alcohol daily, you might be asking yourself the question: how does alcohol affect weight loss?

The answer depends on your overall lifestyle and how much alcohol you drink.

Believe it or not, simply cutting back on alcohol can lead to significant weight loss if you’re a moderate or heavy drinker.

Keep reading as we dig deeper into the connection between alcohol and weight loss.

Learn how to use exercise to replace bad habits with good ones.

See the program 38,000 guys over 40 are using to get results like these

How Does Alcohol Affect Weight Loss?

The biggest reason is alcohol hinders weight loss is because of its high-calorie content.

While carbohydrates and protein each provide 4 calories per gram, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram — almost as much as dietary fat.

A recap of the calories present in macronutrients and alcohol are:

  • Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Alcohol: 7 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

The calorie content of alcoholic drinks goes up when you add certain mixers — such as soda, juice, or other sugary beverages.

Calorie Content of Alcohol vs. Healthy Food Alternatives

The following chart containing information provided by the National Institutes of Health lists the calorie content of some common alcoholic drinks vs. calories in healthy food alternatives.

how does alcohol affect weight loss Alcoholic Drinks  Healthy Foods 12 ounces of regular beer 153 calories 2 ounces of grilled chicken breast 84 calories 12 ounces of light beer 103 calories 1 cup of cherry  tomatoes 25 calories 5 ounces of red wine 125 calories 1 cup of carrots 50 calories 5 ounces of white wine 121 calories 3 ounces of cooked shrimp 84 calories 3.5 ounces of sweet wine 165 calories 5-ounce container of non-fat Greek yogurt 106 calories 3 ounces of sweet vermouth 140 calories 1 cup of blueberries 84 calories 2.25 ounces of a martini 124 - 139 calories 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese 81 calories 6 ounces of a mojito 143 calories 1/8 cup of almonds 82 calories 9 ounces of a pina colada 490 calories 1/8 cup of sunflower seeds 80 calories 3.5 ounces of a Manhattan 164 calories 1 cup of protein fortified almond milk 80 calories 3.5 ounces of a whiskey sour 160 calories 1 cup of sliced strawberries 53 calories 2 ounces of a Daquiri 112 calories 1 reduced-fat cheese stick 45 calories
Items on the healthy foods list provide the essential nutrients your body requires daily to function properly and keep energy levels high during weight loss.

Alcoholic drinks, on the other hand, provide lots of calories but few or no beneficial nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and boost satiety.

How Does Alcohol Affect Weight Loss in Research Studies?

The media may overstate the benefits of regular alcohol consumption, as in reality, the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to your health.

In regards to weight loss, a study published in the journal Obesity found that an excessive alcohol intake, which is more than two drinks daily for men, is associated with significant weight gain.

Another study published in 2016 in the journal Appetite found that when following a weight loss program, reducing alcohol is associated with greater weight loss.

Researchers found that alcohol consumption can lead to overeating during and after episodes of drinking.

Researchers recommend reducing alcohol intake to increase your chance of weight loss success.

The reason cutting alcohol works for weight loss is a pretty simple concept.

By replacing two to four alcoholic drinks daily with water, you may lower your total calorie intake by about 500 calories per day, even without making additional changes to your diet.

This means you might drop about 1 pound per week, as 3,500 calories equal about 1 pound of body fat.

Learn the answers to some of the most asked questions about drinking alcohol!


Do I Have to Cut Alcohol Entirely?

If you can cut alcohol out of your life entirely, do so to increase your chance of weight loss success and reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions.

However, you don’t have to eliminate alcohol entirely to shed pounds.

No alcohol is best, but if you’re going to have it limit yourself to one to two drinks per day.

What are the Drawbacks of Drinking Alcohol?

Why is no alcohol best you might be wondering?

Alcoholic beverages are linked with a higher risk of developing cancer — especially cancers of the mouth and digestive tracts.

This includes oral, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach, rectum, colon, liver, ovarian, and breast cancers, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that over time, drinking too much alcohol can lead to:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease or stroke
  • Digestive problems
  • Liver disease
  • Learning or memory problems, including dementia
  • Social problems
  • Alcoholism

While no alcohol is best for overall health, wellness, and weight loss, moderate drinking is better than heavy drinking to keep chronic disease risks low and drop excess weight.

If you do drink alcohol during weight loss, use it as a reward and avoid drinks that are highest in calories and sugar.

For example, use diet soda, club soda, and other calorie-free or low-calorie mixers in place of regular sodas and sugary beverages.

Choose light beer in place of regular beer to keep your calorie intake as low as possible.

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Are there Any Health Benefits Associated with Drinking Alcohol?

When it comes to weight loss, there isn’t a benefit of including alcohol in meals and menus plans, unless you’re using it as a reward for meeting healthy goals.

Some studies, such as a study published in Frontiers in Bioscience, show that drinking wine in moderation may be beneficial for heart and brain health.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that drinking up to one alcoholic drink per day may be associated with a lower risk for heart problems, gallstones, cognitive decline, and all-cause death — but that even moderate drinking increases the risk for bone fractures, breast cancer, colon polyps, and colon cancer.

Researchers conclude that drinking up to one drink daily is associated with both potential benefits and risks.

But are the health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption really related to alcohol itself?

Researchers who completed a study published in the Journals of Gerontology found that moderate drinkers had a better socioeconomic status than heavy drinkers and non-drinkers and that higher incomes associated with moderate drinking may be the cause of better health in men, not the alcohol itself.

See the program 38,000 guys over 40 are using to get results like these

Ways to Lose Weight, With or Without Alcohol

If you do include alcohol in a weight loss plan, limit it as much as possible.

That means drink no more than one to two alcoholic drinks per day.

If you can avoid alcohol entirely, do so to lower disease risks, enhance weight loss, and improve your chance of keeping lost weight off.

Eat Clean

Making dietary changes is one of the best ways to effectively shed pounds so you can look and feel your best.

Men often need about 1,500 to 1,800 calories daily during weight loss, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Your individualized energy needs vary based on your size, usual intake, and physical activity level.

  • Aim to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, cucumbers, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • Fill one-fourth of your plate with healthy proteins, such as lean chicken breast, fish, seafood, eggs, low-fat dairy foods or calcium-rich dairy alternatives, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
  • Fill one-fourth of your plate with fiber-rich starches, such as squash, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, quinoa, and brown rice.
  • Last but not least, add healthy fats to each dish. Examples include olive oil, other plant-based oils, olives, avocados, fish oil, nuts, and seeds.

If you do include alcohol in your weight loss plan use it as an occasional reward, not a daily habit.

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Get Enough Sleep

Getting plenty of sleep plays a crucial role in weight loss, as sleep deprivation can alter appetite hormones and boost hunger.

The CDC suggests men get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to maximize health and wellness.

While alcohol is a depressant that can make you feel sleepy, believe it or not, it actually has a negative impact on the quality and quantity of sleep patterns.

The National Sleep Foundation says that while drinking may make you fall asleep faster, it also:

  • Blocks REM sleep, the most restorative type of sleep
  • Causes you to wake up before you’re truly rested
  • Alters brain wave patterns during sleep to reduce the quality of sleep
  • Makes you more prone to snoring and sleep apnea
  • Can cause nighttime trips to the bathroom, which interrupts restorative sleep

The surprising effect of alcohol on sleep quality is just one more reason to nix it during weight loss.

Learn how you can leverage sleep to improve your health.


Work Out Regularly

Regular workouts help your body burn extra calories to get the weight off more quickly. Exercise also:

  • Boosts your metabolism, even during periods of rest
  • Improves sleep quality and quantity
  • Increases lean body mass and muscle definition
  • Burns excess body fat during weight loss

Aim to complete 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week, and stay as active as possible throughout the day.

Yard work and playing outdoor games with your children counts!

Incorporate a variety of cardiovascular exercises and resistance training workouts into your day-to-day routine.

Keep Stress Levels Low

Being stressed regularly can hinder weight loss, as it alters hormones linked with feeling hungry.

You can’t always avoid stressful situations, but reducing stress as much as possible boosts your chance for weight loss success.

Activities that can help you de-stress include:

  • Going for a walk or hike outdoors
  • Getting a massage
  • Reading a book or watching a movie
  • Taking a mental health day off from work to relax

Relaxation is just as beneficial for weight loss as getting plenty of sleep, eating right, and exercising regularly.

These stress and mental health tips will help you live a longer and healthier life!


Seek Treatment for Depression

Depression might be more common than you think among men and women.

In fact, 1 in 12 U.S. adults report symptoms of depression, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Depression can lead to greater consumption of alcohol, nicotine, and drugs.

It may also boost stress and anxiety, which makes sleeping more difficult.

Many of these lifestyle habits associated with depression can hinder weight loss.

If depression is getting the best of you and causes excessive alcohol consumption, check in with your doctor about support groups, counseling, or anti-depressant medications.

Stuck in a rut? Here's how to get out of it!


Drink Lots of Water

Any time you begin feeling hungry or have unhealthy food cravings, drink water first.

Consuming about two cups of water before meals help you eat fewer calories at mealtime and enhances weight loss, according to a study published in Australian Family Physician.

When you first wake up in the morning, drink 32 ounces (4 cups) of water to re-hydrate,  eat fewer calories in the morning, and reduce your total daily calorie intake.

Here's how to drink more water and avoid dehydration!


Join a Weight Loss Program

If you’re like many busy fathers over 40, you probably don’t have much time to plan out meals, menus, workouts, and lifestyle goals for weight loss and long-term healthy weight management.

You may also lack the social support and accountability necessary to keep you on track with weight loss goals.

That’s where joining FF30X comes into play.

Our program is a weight loss plan specifically designed for busy fathers over 40 seeking weight loss to become and stay healthy for life.

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Beginning Your Journey

Reducing or eliminating alcohol from your regular routine is one of the best ways to begin cutting calories for weight loss.

If you’re a heavy drinker and you can’t cut back on your own, talk with your doctor about local or online groups and programs designed to help you quit drinking and avoid the long-term health consequences associated with heavy drinking.

When you’re struggling to cut back, think of the question: how does alcohol affect weight loss?

Remember all of the negative outcomes associated with regularly consuming more than two drinks per day.

Once you get alcohol consumption under control, make dietary, physical activity, and sleeping pattern changes to enhance weight loss and improve your life.

A good goal is to lose one or two pounds each week until you've reached your goal weight.

You can do it!

Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on the question, ‘how does alcohol affect weight loss?'


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