I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to cut alcohol out of your life completely to lose weight. But as long as you nosh on nuts and other healthy bar snacks, you can actually lose weight, experts have now said.A study found that drinkers who opted for high-protein, lean foods consumed fewer calories overall than people who abstain from drinking entirely.This is because protein has a satiating effect, so people eat less. It’s known alcohol increases appetite, particularly for savoury food, a phenomenon that’s known as the ‘aperitif effect’. Meanwhile, alcohol suppresses the appetite for sweet food, like cakes and biscuits, which do contribute to putting on fat.Analysis, presented at the International Congress on Obesity in Melbourne, Australia, found people who drank consumed on average 1,749 calories daily, including those from alcohol. This was 577 fewer than they needed to maintain current weight, and 451 less than the 2,200 racked up by the non-drinkers.
This however, was only the case for drinkers who consumed protein rich foods. Drinkers who munched on carb heavy, low protein savoury foods consumed an average 3,051 calories on average — 813 more more than their daily allowance. Alcohol is often said to be empty calories, because it is energy dense yet doesn’t contain many nutrients. But evidence suggesting it contributes to weight gain is inconclusive. The findings are based on 9,341 Australians and found that those who drank alcohol consumed more savoury foods than those who didn’t. The experts suggested that people select healthier lean protein sources such as lean red meat, chicken, fish, seafood or legumes and avoid the urge to snack on low-protein, savoury snack foods when drinking.
As a general rule, the higher the alcohol content of a beverage (for example alcohol by volume or ABV), the more calories. That means a shot of hard liquor like gin, whiskey, or vodka (80-100 proof) will have about 68-85 calories per ounce. An ounce of beer or wine, on the other hand, will have about 12 and 24 calories per ounce, respectively.
But forget about the calories in your go-to spirit for a second, because for most people, the calories in the mixers of their favorite cocktails pose a far greater barrier to weight loss than the actual alcohol. Just 4 oz of some daiquiri or margarita mixes can contain upwards of 35g of sugar—that’s 7 teaspoons of sugar!
Plus, these drink mixes have more than double the amount of calories than the shot of rum or tequila included in the drink (that is, if you’re only served half a cup of the mixer). What’s more, the calories from mixers are the worst kinds of calories: simple and refined sugars. When they’re combined with how alcohol affects metabolism, it gets even worse.
How the Human body deals with alcohol
A few commonly-asked questions: Does vodka make you gain weight? What about beer? Does wine make you fat? But it’s time to call it quits with the “alcohol-makes-you-fat” worries. That’s because it’s actually a myth (!!) that alcohol will make you “fat.” The truth: It’s the combination of alcohol and sugars found in mixers (or the bar food often consumed with alcohol) that inhibits weight loss and potentially causes weight gain.Alcohol does contain calories, which, yes, can cause weight gain. But that’s not the only potential factor to blame. It is also the metabolic priority that your body places on alcohol (over carbohydrates and fats) that causes the damage. Your body wants to process the alcohol before anything else, which has been shown to create a metabolic environment that is almost the opposite of the one your body creates following exercise—one of high circulating levels of fat and inhibited fat burning.
How not to gain weight
While this may sound all doom and gloom, there are benefits of alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink per day for women) increases your HDL (good) cholesterol, and studies show that people who have a couple of drinks each week live longer. So, here’s how drinking alcohol and weight loss can, in fact, work together:
Check the size of your serving. When you drink, know your alcohol-serving size. A glass of wine is not a glass filled to the brim, but 5 oz (red wine glasses can hold 12-14 oz when filled).
Pay attention to the mixers you are going to use. Minimize the calories from mixers. Make margaritas with real lime juice, use diet tonic water, or even naturally calorie-free club soda instead of regular tonic water and other high-calorie carbonated drinks. (These low-sugar margaritas will satisfy your craving while minimizing your sugar consumption.
Think about the future. If you’re aggressively pursuing a weight loss goal, consider your schedule before popping open a post-work bottle of wine. Although it’s essential to treat yo-self, you might want to save that glass for, say, your friends birthday dinner on Saturday night. This can help reduce drinks’ impact on your overall fat burning.
Get to know calorie counts. This does’nt mean you need to start calorie-counting (in fact, calorie counting isn’t necessarily the key to weight loss and can lead to very restricted dieting and eating.) But having an idea of the lowest calorie alcohol options can help you make smart choices before you sip and, in turn, keep to your weight-loss goal. Here, a few types of alcohol with the least calories per serving, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila: 97 calories per 1.5 oz
- Brandy, cognac: 98 calories per 1.5 oz
- Champagne: 84 calories per 4 oz
- Red wine: 125 calories per 5 oz
Eat before you drink
If you’re sacrificing food calories for booze calories, you may think it’s perfectly fine to skip a meal in lieu of a “liquid dinner.” Not the case.
Science shows having food in your stomach slows alcohol absorption. In fact, your alcohol blood content may not reach a quarter of what it would on an empty stomach.
Plus, it can help you avoid the “drinking munchies,” which is when you feel hungry after a couple of drinks. There’s actually a very good scientific reason why they occur: If you have a few drinks on an empty stomach, your liver can be blocked from releasing stored glucose into the bloodstream, which can lead to low blood sugar and cause you to feel hungry.
Drinking alcohol and losing weight might sound like one of those “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” scenarios (sorry for the cake visual!), but it doesn’t have to be. If imbibing is part of your social schedule or just a go-to way to unwind, you don’t have to give it up entirely.
But (of course there’s a but) if your average night out or Zoom happy hour currently features more than a few margaritas or craft beers, you may need to rethink your drinking.
Alcohol is a source of calories, after all. And one way those calories differ from, say, macronutrients like carbs, fat and protein, is that they can impair your judgment — which can affect the food choices you make while drinking. Regularly pairing your drinks with fried bar food or late-night pizza and nursing a hangover with an epic breakfast the next morning will most certainly sabotage your weight-loss goals.
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