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Can Drinking Alcohol and Losing Weight Coexist

There are a lot of rumours out there that if you are drinking alcohol while trying to lose weight, you won’t be able to do so. Questions have been asked such as what the science is to back-up such a statement, how does alcohol impact weight loss, is it because there are calories in alcohol or is the reason more biochemical in nature?


The Nature of Weight Loss 

In order for you to lose weight you must burn more calories than you take in through your diet. In other words, the best way to lose weight is by restricting your calorie intake and increase physical activities. The fewer calories you take in and the more exercise you perform, the more weight you will lose.

Of course, weight loss will depend on how much you weigh and how much weight you have to lose and still maintain a healthy lifestyle. An individual’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) determines how many calories are used every day for normal metabolic activities of the body such as breathing, digesting of food and pumping of the heart. From this, one can determine how many calories should be restricted and how much exercise is necessary in order to lose the correct amount of weight.

Alcohol And Calories

Alcohol containing beverages are made by distilling and fermenting natural starch and sugar containing products, and this is what produces alcohol in these drinks. Since these products contain sugar, of up to 7 calories per gram of product, this then means that alcoholic beverages are high in calories. These are regarded as empty calories since there is no nutritional value to them. A 500ml (pint) of beer can contain as many calories as a slice of pizza, and a glass of wine has the equivalent calories of 4 cookies. This would then answer the question whether alcohol contains any calories. Also, alcohol intake can lead to the intake of high calorie containing foods such as chips, nuts and other snacks.

Another issue is that alcohol intake results in your body reducing the amount of fat it can burn for energy. The reason for this is because since alcohol can’t be absorbed by the body as an energy resource, like carbohydrates and proteins, etc., your body prioritizes getting rid of alcohol first. This then results in nutrient absorption and burning of fat, which are the processes that should be taking place in order to stay healthy and lose weight, to be interrupted. This explains, on a biochemical level, why the intake of alcohol can interfere with weight loss.

It would then seem that not only do alcoholic drinks cause weight gain, due to having a high calorie content, but they also interfere with the body’s ability to burn fat.

 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain From Alcohol Intake

  • At all costs, you should avoid “binge drinking”. Not only is it detrimental to your health and can negatively affect organs such as your stomach, liver and pancreas, but it will also result in unnecessary weight gain.
  • It is suggested that men and women not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This is equivalent to 10 glasses of light wine or 6 pints of normal strength beer.
  • You shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach. If you do want to snack on something, rather choose a healthier option such as a sandwich instead of chips, or a plain chicken burger instead of a fatty lamb kebab.
  • Before going out to drink, rather enjoy a healthy dinner before you head off. This will also help to decrease the chances of eating high calorie snacks.
  • It is advised to alternate an alcoholic beverage with a glass of water. This will help to prevent you from becoming dehydrated.
  • Drink in moderation. Cut down on your alcohol intake with a friend, as you’ll be more likely to be successful with moral support, and try to pace yourself by taking small sips of your drink. Also, if you drink in rounds you can end up drinking more than you wanted to, so rather make sure you drink at your own pace.
  • If your drink of choice is white wine, try adding soda water so that your alcohol intake is lower.

The Importance of Alcohol and Weight Loss

It’s very important to take note that not only does alcohol cause weight gain, but it can also lead to weight loss. You may think that this is a positive aspect as the article deals with weight loss, but this weight loss is anything but desired and healthy. Excessive alcohol intake can initially lead to weight gain. As one continues to drink alcohol, which is then taken on a daily basis, this then results in negative effects directly on the body.

Alcohol in the stomach can trick this organ into feeling that it’s full, therefore less food and nutrients are consumed. Persistent alcohol use may result in increased acid production that may result in an upset stomach and acute or chronic vomiting. Alcohol also targets the liver which can cause it to become enlarged, inflamed or fail to secrete toxins, and can cause this organ to shut down and stop working.

Suggestions to Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

 Make a note of how much you drink as this may help you reduce your intake.

  • Know the normal sizes of alcoholic beverages so you can count your drinks accurately.
  • It would be good to have some days when you don’t drink, so, decide on which days you’ll drink and how many beverages you’ll have on those days.
  • Alternate your alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one.
  • Have something to eat before drinking so that the alcohol will be absorbed into your system much slower.
  • If drinking has you preoccupied, then try taking part in activities to better fill the time up.
  • If you have relied on alcohol to be less socially awkward, cope with issues or elevate your mood then look for other healthier ways to deal with those problems.
  • Try avoiding places or people who act as triggers for you to drink, even when you don’t want to. If drinking at home is a problem then keep little or no alcohol there.
  • If you can’t avoid a trigger and an urge to drink occurs, then you should remind yourself of why you’re changing, discuss these feelings with a loved one or a good friend or take part in a healthy activity, like exercise, to distract you.
  • If you’re offered a drink and you don’t want one, then don’t be afraid to say “no, thank you”.


  • Dr. Halland Chen

    Halland Chen is an MD who currently practices in New York at the Vein Institute and Pain Centers of America. With a passion in regenerative medicine, Dr. Halland helps patients alleviate pain and avoid surgery whenever possible.

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