How Does Alcohol Affect Weight Loss?

There are plenty of nutritionists and diet experts who recommend that you remove alcohol from your diet if you want to lose weight.  If consumed strategically, though, alcohol can have a positive impact on weight loss because of thermogenesis.

As we’ve discussed here before, thermogenesis is the heat the body creates to digest foods.  This is done through complex carbs that generate a lot of energy just to digest themselves.  It’s like feeding a bonfire with thick branches to keep the fire going longer.

Nutritional Value of Alcohol = None

One of the biggest problems with alcohol, according to nutritionists, is that there’s no nutritional value.  Alcohol is truly empty calories, since there are no minerals or vitamins to make it worth drinking at all.  This is one of the biggest reasons that it’s forbidden from nutritionist-approved diets.  While we say that there is a way to make alcohol work for you in terms of dieting, the truth seems to be the opposite, with alcohol’s lack of nutritional value being just the tip of the iceberg.

Alcohol and Blood Sugar

blood sugar level chart

Drinking alcohol can have a negative impact on your blood sugar.  When your blood sugars are elevated and crash repeatedly, it leads to overeating because you’re not keeping a steady blood sugar level.  That sugar crash is often why people feel like they need a nap around 3 pm.  They’ve had a sugary breakfast that leads to the sugar let-down associated with high blood sugar levels. The same can happen with alcohol when it’s part of a mixed drink.

Alcohol and Thermogenesis

There have been studies that introduced alcohol, fruit juice, or carb appetizers before consuming a meal.  Of those who were given alcohol, they had an increased energy intake for 24 hours following the introduction of alcohol.  This is really the only narrow window we’ve found where alcohol can help you at all, in terms of doing anything healthy for you.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re hoping that there’s some way that alcohol can be used to lose weight, or at least not gain it, but the truth is that, most of the time, alcohol is not your buddy when it comes to a healthy diet or losing weight.  It may be your buddy when it comes to fun times, but using it for health reasons isn’t what alcohol is designed for.

Look at the picture below and realize that it does not represent the road to better health choices.

drinking alcohol at a party

Added Calories

Every gram of alcohol has 7.1 calories.  The process of digesting the alcohol brings that down to approximately 5.7 calories.  If you were to consume straight whiskey in a glass with ice, you’re only concerned with the amount of alcohol in that glass.  It begins to be a problem for your diet when you consume mixed drinks or beer, which has added ingredients.  Those ingredients are often sugars and carbs.

With the added ingredients, you’re getting added calories.  You could end up consuming about 200 to 250 calories in one mixed drink.  That’s almost as much as a meal on a diet where you want to lose weight.  Most of the time, you won’t be consuming one drink but multiple drinks.  This is where people most often ruin their diets with alcohol.

Disadvantages of Alcohol Consumption and Weight Loss

It Loosens Inhibitions

appetizers

When you drink, you feel loose and happy.  You’re out having fun with friends, and don’t want to think about your diet anymore. This leads to more drinking, as well as other bad choices.  At the end of the night, you’ll realize that you’ve been consuming over 1000 calories in drinks and appetizers.  Relaxed thinking leads to you not making the best choices for your diet.  Alcohol also makes you hungry.  This is why you see people stumbling into a waffle house at 3 a.m. looking for food.  It’s unlikely that you’re going to make good choices when you’re feeling the effects of alcohol, either.  You’ll eat the fatty goodness that is full of calories without caring about the consequences.

Too Much Alcohol Lowers Testosterone

body builder

While it doesn’t seem possible, if you’ve ever seen a drunken brawl erupt in a bar over nothing, it can have an impact on testosterone.  Testosterone is an anabolic hormone that helps a person gain lean muscle.  When you lower testosterone, you’re lowering the body’s ability to gain muscle.  A lowered testosterone level means you’ll end up with a lowered metabolic rate because you don’t have the muscle gain to sustain a higher rate.

General Guidelines

Overall, alcohol consumption has more disadvantages than advantages when it comes to weight loss.  If you want to choose a drink after work to relax, pick one that is pure alcohol without the added calories from a drink mix.  Stay away from liqueurs that have high calories and high amounts of sugar.

wine and cheese

If you decide to drink beer or wine, try a low-calorie alternative.  When choosing a drink like whiskey, rum, or vodka, don’t add them to high-calorie sodas.  Use diet sodas to mix.

Consume water between drinks to increase your feelings of being full.  It’ll stop you from consuming too much alcohol or food during the night.

Best Alcoholic Beverages for Weight Loss

liquor

  • One ounce of gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey = 64 calories
  • One can of beer with 4-5% alcohol = 153 calories
  • A can of lite beer = 105 calories
  • One glass of champagne = 85 calories
  • A glass of dessert wine = 165 calories
  • A glass of reduced alcohol wine = 74 calories

When it comes down to drinking alcohol and weight loss, you’re better off sticking to hard liquor compared to wine or beer. Counting calories means knowing exactly what you’re consuming, and keeping within a certain amount of calories to lose weight. If you can consume hard liquor once a day without succumbing to the added sugars and bad choices that come with drinking, you can use the thermogenesis of the alcohol to help with the dieting process.

Jeanette Kierstead

About the Author

Jeanette Kierstead