The one question everyone asks themselves when diving into a weight loss journey, “Can you drink alcohol and lose weight”.
I get it. Alcohol is sometimes a part of culture and societal norms (which we may challenge later on in this article).
As well as I know sometimes you may just thoroughly enjoy a drink or two… or 8. Cough.
Therefore if you are embarking on a weight loss journey, it would only make sense to ask the question “Can you drink alcohol and lose weight”.
You may ask this question and get a multitude of different answers. I am going to make sure you leave this article knowing the ins and outs of alcohol and weight loss.
Just be sure to not glance over it or skim it (yea, I know you were either already thinking about it or doing it!) because you may miss something.
I don’t want you to miss anything. I want you to leave here knowing every single thing you need to know to reach your goals.
Can You Drink Alcohol And Lose Weight
Background On Weight Loss & Alcohol
Now if you have followed me for any amount of time, you may know the next few sentences of what I am about to say.
But maybe this is your first time stumbling across one of my articles, which in that case, let’s first lay out how weight loss occurs in the first place.
Yet the only way you are going to lose weight is by creating a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit is simply eating less calories than your body burns on a daily / weekly basis.
Energy in vs energy out. Calories in vs calories out.
As long as the calories coming in are less than the calories going out, you my friend will have yourself a weight loss equation.
This is the over the top most important factor. If you are in a calorie deficit you will lose body fat. Bottom line.
This is important because obviously alcohol plays a role in this calorie balance equation due to the fact alcohol has calories.
Let’s dive a bit more in depth into alcohol and calories respectively now.
Calories, Macros, and Alcohol
Briefly, let’s cover a few things about can you drink alcohol and lose weight.
You have your overall calories, then you have the macronutrients that make up your calories.
Protein – 4 calories per 1 gram
Carbs – 4 calories per 1 gram
Fat – 9 calories per 1 gram
Usually, people know these 3 macronutrients that make up our calories.
Alcohol is in fact it’s own macronutrient.
It has 7 calories per gram.
Yep, people usually don’t know alcohol is it’s own macro. They usually chalk it up to a carb or sugar, which it very well could have some of those depending on the drink you are consuming.
This is important to know because people will pick the “lower sugar” or “lower carb” drinks, which could very well save you calories..
Yet this could simply mean instead of drinking 1000 calories in alcohol you are drinking 500 calories.
Which again if you are looking to be in a calorie deficit these calories count. Not only do they count, they can add up rather quickly if you are not careful.
Let’s take a real life example.
Let’s say you are going out with your friends and planning on having 3 8oz vodka and tonic drinks around 8pm.
This would be roughly 200 cals per drink, leading to about 600 calories coming from alcohol for that day.
Let’s then say your overall calories you are trying to hit is 1600 calories for that day (if you don’t know how many calories you are supposed to be eating for fat loss, check out THIS ARTICLE HERE after you finish reading this one).
This would mean the rest of the day you are going to need to figure out a way to only eating 1000 calories from say 8am to 8pm.
This is how you can keep the overall calorie deficit we talked about above.
Not to say it’s impossible, but you may have already been thinking “.. only 1000 calories!”.
Yep, you can lose fat and drink alcohol, yet it does in fact make it harder for this exact reason.
Let’s also talk about something you may have heard before which is the “empty calories” from alcohol.
Empty Calories From Alcohol
You may have heard your annoying cousin, bodybuilder friend, or Keto Karen aunt talk about how alcohol is “empty calories”.
Now, while those 3 people above don’t seem very enchanting, they do have some validity behind their claims.
They probably don’t know why, they more than likely just regurgitated info they heard someone else say out of a magazine.
Yet nonetheless, let’s talk about why this is true.
Let’s take a look at the one 8oz vodka and tonic drink for 200 calories.
Those 200 calories essentially do nothing for you.
They don’t fill you up or keep you satisfied. Which, when talking about a calorie deficit, you are trying to optimize your calories.
You are trying to keep your calories low and your satiety (how full you are) high because inherently eating less calories than you burn is going to leave you a bit hungry, proving to be challenging to stay in a caloric deficit.
Take 200 calories coming from say a chicken breast. That 200 calories and protein coming from a chicken breast is going to keep you full because protein is the most satiating macronutrient.
Ingesting 200 calories of alcohol essentially does not help keep you full or satisfied, leading it to be harder to stick to your calorie deficit because you are “wasting calories” in a sense.
Nor does alcohol provide any real nutrients, vitamins, or minerals to you from a health standpoint.
Take 200 calories from chia seeds for example.
It would provide some good nutrients like fiber which can help give you energy and keep you satisfied (again, helping out a calorie deficit).
As well as providing some omega 3 fatty acids which can help with the anti inflammatory process in your body.
Whereas alcohol is usually going to cause inflammation inside your body.
Let’s also talk about something people don’t understand with alcohol.
It makes me laugh sometimes people will smash 4, 5, 6 beers without blinking an eye, but white rice is apparently a direct spawn of Satan.
Let’s take 200 calories from rice compared to 200 calories from alcohol.
You may think “well what does rice do!? It’s just carbs!”.
Yep, carbs that your body is going to soak right up to use for energy for your workouts. There is something called glycogen. Think of glycogen as just fuel for your muscles.
Eating 200 calories of rice is going to get stored as muscle glycogen so that when you go and do your workouts, you will be able to push harder.
Lift more weights, do more reps, have more endurance, stamina, etc.
If you do this you are going to change your body more because your workout performance is heightened.
As opposed to alcohol where not only will it not store as muscle glycogen, it is actually going to impair the muscle protein synthesis in your body, which helps you recover from workouts, in turn changing your body.
So, it actually hinders your progress.
Not to mention if you wake up after a night of 3 4 5 drinks and try to go get a solid workout.. Don’t lie to me, that workout is going to take a hit. That is if you are lucky enough to even get a workout in.
Needless to say, that’s why alcohol is considered “empty calories”.
It really does nothing positive for you, your fitness journey, or body.
Now it may be sounding like I am a bit biased, and while yes I personally don’t drink alcohol, I am not saying this to say you shouldn’t drink.
I am purely just stating the facts and providing you with the information.
So while the answer to the question of “can you drink alcohol and lose weight” may technically be yes as long as you are in a calorie deficit.
It is going to make it substantially harder for you just from those reasons above.
Yet we aren’t done yet.. Let’s dive into some more facts about alcohol and weight loss.
Can You Drink Alcohol And Lose Weight? Things To Think About..
Let’s bring up the topics of sleep, alcohol, and fat loss.
Again, as we mentioned earlier, you are going to lose weight so as long as you are in a calorie deficit.
Yet, just knowing that often doesn’t provide contextual information to real life situations.
Let’s play it out.
Let’s say you have one night where you do have a few drinks. Maybe you don’t even get completely wasted but you have enough drinks to impair your sleep for that night.
Do you know what happens when you are “sleep deprived”?
There are two hormones in your body called Leptin and Ghrelin.
Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain “I am good, I am NOT hungry”.
Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body “I am NOT good, I AM hungry, let’s eatttt sucka”.
Even if you aren’t actually hungry.. This hormone will tell your brain you are.
When you are sleep deprived your Leptin decreases and your Ghrelin increases.
This means, even if you are not “actually” hungry for more food, you are going to be hungry for more food solely because your sleep got impaired due to the alcohol consumption.
Once again, can you still lose weight even though this is apparent?
Yep, for sure. Yet once again it makes it substantially harder because now you will be hungry due to being in a calorie deficit on top of your Ghrelin being increased.
This fat loss game is hard enough as it is and this is just making it that much harder.
Why put yourself behind the 8 ball and stack the chips against you that much more if you don’t have to?
We just talked about the hunger that comes with having impaired sleep, let’s now talk about the activity changes it affects.
Remember, for you to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. This means you are eating less calories than you burn.
Now while I don’t usually encourage you to focus on doing tons and tons of cardio to lose weight because that is a game you will never win..
You can’t out train a bad diet.
I am not even talking about doing “cardio” per say. In this section I am going to be referring to just simply MOVING throughout your day.
There is something called your NEAT, Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
This plays a critical role in your metabolism and your overall calories burned that day.
Think of NEAT as just all the extraneous movements throughout your day. All of your steps, all of your fidgeting, chasing your kids around, walking to the mailbox, everything.
When you are drinking alcohol.. Staying out late.. Having impaired sleep.. Are you heading into that next day like the Energizer Bunny?
I think not. A whole lot of laying out, netflix, and chips (we will touch on the food part here shortly).
Your NEAT is massively going to decrease that day and the next day after, which is going to decrease your calories burned, which is going to negatively affect your calorie deficit & weight loss.
Again, making it harder for you to stay in that calorie deficit to lose weight.
Can you? Sure. Is it making it harder? Yep.
When it comes to answering the question of can you drink alcohol and lose weight, your workouts have to be mentioned.
We spoke earlier about you will have worse workout performance because alcohol is “empty calories”.
I also want you to think about it from this perspective.
If the day or two after drinking you are kind of dragging a** and not really able to push yourself as hard in your workouts, inevitably you are going to burn less calories.
Again, I am not a believer that you should be focusing your workouts on how many calories you are burning during your workouts. I believe your workouts should be focused on getting stronger, hitting new PR’s, doing more reps, etc.
Yet when we talk about weight loss and the overall energy balance equation of calories in vs calories out, it has to noted that if you aren’t able to push as hard in the gym you don’t burn as many calories.
Your muscles don’t contract as hard so you don’t expend as much energy. You’re not able to lift as heavy which doesn’t expend as many calories. You don’t have as much stamina or energy so you can’t extend the sets as long so you burn less calories.
Again, point being, you are making it harder on yourself as a direct result of drinking alcohol.
It’s not just the 3 drinks and the calories from them… There are a million little ripple effects that come from those 3 drinks that you may not have even have connected together until right now.
Speaking of the calories from drinks, let’s be a bit more honest about that.
Can You Drink Alcohol And Lose Weight : Food Consumption Too…
Okay let’s face it.
When you drink, what the hell are you snacking on while you are drinking?
Pickles, celery, carrots, and romaine lettuce?
Yea, you aren’t fooling me (or your body).
Chips, nachos, burgers, pizza, etc. All foods that are higher in calories.
While again, can you eat all of those foods and still lose weight 100% yes… It makes it harder inherently because they are higher in calories.
Let’s take our example from the beginning, you have to eat 1600 calories to lose weight.
You are going out and going to have 3 drinks which is 600 calories then have a few slices of cheese pizza for roughly about 500 calories.
Cool, that’s 1100 calories for that specific time slot… That would mean the rest of the day you would need to eat 500 calories in order to stay in your deficit.
Possible? Sure. Likely? Not… Not likely.
Therefore you need to take into account the fact it isn’t just the alcohol calories coming in, it is usually going to be some food calories as well.
Those foods tend to be higher in calories per serving compared to something like eggs, oatmeal, salads, chicken, etc.
Again, making this journey a bit more difficult for you to lose weight..
Now, you may say “ERIC! HOW DARE YOU! I ABSOLUTELY WILL STAY STRONG…”.
Okay, lemme hit you with this.
In my opinion maybe the most important point of the answer of can you drink alcohol and lose weight comes down to this one word.
If you are unaware of what inhibition is – for the topic of this article -it is essentially your ability to say no to things.
Your judgment, willpower, and control. That is “inhibition”. It just kind of gets kicked to the curb when you drink alcohol.
It is proven that when you drink alcohol your inhibition lowers. This is the exact reason why it isn’t a great idea to drink and drive, amongst others like delayed reaction time.
Therefore if your inhibition lowers, you are much more likely to to say “F*ck it, yea, I’ll have another drink!”.
Okay well another 1, 2, 400 calories later you are out of your calorie deficit.
You are more likely to to say “F*ck it, yea, let’s get that pizza and wings!”.
1500 calories later from wings and pizza you blew your calorie deficit out of the water for that night.
In general you are just more likely to not care about your goals or calorie deficit because your inhibition is lowered, which I can assume you know how that would end up.
Does Alcohol Stop Fat Loss While In Your System?
One thing you may have heard is that while alcohol is in your system, it’s stops fat loss and muscle growth.
The answer to that question is yes, this is true to a degree.
If you are having ONE drink, I would not worry about it.
Yet, if you are drinking enough to get pretty tipsy or drunk, yes, the physiological processes of muscle building and fat loss stop in the short term.
I say the short term because alcohol is a toxin after all.
When the toxin is found in your body in high quantities, your bodies main job is to get that toxin out first before it can continue with it’s processes of changing your body.
Therefore for a brief period of time muscle gain and fat loss stop, yes, but again as long as you are in your overall calorie deficit you will still lose body fat in the long term.
But again… do you see a common theme of alcohol and weight loss?
Can You Drink Alcohol And Lose Weight? The Final Answer
The final answer to can you drink alcohol and lose weight is in simple terms : YES.
As long as you remain within your calorie deficit you will be able to still lose body fat, for sure.
I am not telling you NOT to drink. You are a grown adult, you can make your own decisions for yourself. Who the hell is some rando on the internet to tell you otherwise?
Now, does it make it exponentially harder due to all the reasons we just went over?
You are going to make something that is already hard (losing weight) even harder.
Now that you have the information you can make an adult decision of what you choose to do moving forward.
My personal suggestion is if you are very serious about losing weight would be to limit your alcohol intake to 1-3 drinks per week.
Yes, you read that right, per week.
Again, you don’t have to listen to me, but I would just strongly encourage you to decide what it is that you really want.
Does alcohol really serve you that big of a purpose? Or do you want to reach your overall bigger goals?
The beautiful part about life is you get to decide.
Hope it helped and if you were interested in getting some extra guidance, help, and accountability during your journey, you can fill out this form HERE to potentially work with one of our coaches.
Wish you well and chat soon,