Not getting the results you deserve from exercise?
Get full details of our Online Nutrition Coaching course.
The Truth About Alcohol and Weight Loss
“Can I still drink alcohol whilst losing weight?”
This is one of the questions that eventually gets asked, sometimes during the first consultation session! Alcohol and weight loss seems to be a hot topic for a lot of people who are looking to lose weight but are also concerned about having to give up on alcohol. Let’s dig into the details to find out more.
Alcohol and Weight Loss – The impact of drinking alcohol whilst trying to lose weight:
- The first bit of bad news is that alcohol is highly calorific, coming in at 7 calories per gram – being only just behind dietary fat at 9 calories per gram. So this presents an initial challenge as to how to fit these calories into your programme and maintain overall energy balance. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.
- A second piece of bad news is that drinking alcohol effectively stops your body from burning fat for energy. So again, this doesn’t mean you can’t drink alcohol but you need to be aware of this effect and factor it into your programme.
- The third problem is that people tend to make poor dietary choices (junk food snacks) after consuming alcohol.
Alcohol and Weight Loss – How can I make alcohol work with my diet
So you’ve read the negatives but are still keen to enjoy a few drinks! OK, let’s take a look at some strategies that we can implement to still manage to drink alcohol whilst not totally un-doing our dieting efforts:-
- Where possible, minimise your intake. This probably sounds like an obvious one but the point here is that a moderate intake is much more preferable to over-indulgence. Limiting yourself to 2-3 drinks will mean you still get the pleasure of relaxing with alcohol but have a minimal intake of excess calories and should easily be able to avoid poor food choices.
- Not all drinks are equal! Changing the sources of your alcohol intake can lower the impact to your diet programme and goals. What we are looking to do here is limit the amount of hidden sugars (and in turn calories) that are in the alcoholic drinks. Some easy tips to implement are:-
– Preferable Alcoholic Drink Choices:Drink simple spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey etc.) with diet mixers or plain water.
– Drink dry wine – red, white, cava / champagne!
- If your favourite drink doesn’t fit into the advice above then you need to limit the intake or appreciate it is going to have a major impact on your weight loss programme.
- If you know you have a night out or event on a specific day, there are 2 approaches you can implement to minimise the impact:-
– Tailor your calorie intake accordingly. An easy approach to doing this is to dial down your carbohydrate and fat intake during that day and get most of your calories from good protein sources with a reduced level of fat and carbs. This will provide you with the ‘wiggle’ room to fit in the calories from the drinks without derailing your progress.
– Perform some cardio or strength training that day to put yourself into an additional calorie deficit which in turn allows you to cater for the calories gained from alcohol.
- When possible, alternate your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water.
My personal approach – (Yes I drink and enjoy it!)
To help give some context to the advice above, here are some details of how I approach alcohol and weight loss:-
- I’ve enjoyed drinking most of my adult life and prior to losing my 3.5 stone of weight I used to be an enthusiastic lager and red wine drinker. Well, I still drink, however I’ve changed what I drink. These days I tend to drink red wine, Gin & Slimline tonic and Cava. Each of these are good choices if you are going to drink but you do need to consider the impact to your programme and work it in appropriately.
- If I know I have a night out / social event planned. I implement the recommendations above: Strength training on that day and sensible meal choices in the build up to the event. This leaves me confident that I can enjoy the event without feeling ‘guilty’.
- I make sure that I have a selection of go-to snacks available at all times anyway but it’s especially important after a few drinks – the last thing you want to be doing is mixing up ingredients or worse chopping after a few drinks!
The low down on drinking alcohol and weight loss:-
- The only way you will gain fat from drinking is to be in a Calorie Surplus (energy balance).
- Studies have found a moderate intake of alcohol actually provides a small increase of testosterone levels in men!
- If you’ve never enjoyed alcohol – there is no need for you to start drinking now!
- Alcohol cannot be directly converted to fat, although it will stop your body from burning fat for energy.
- Moderate drinking does not impair the body’s ability to build muscle.
- Where possible: Limit intake to a moderate level, avoid high calorie drinks, plan ahead for the calories and have good food choices available.
- Reducing your intake of alcohol will mean that when you do drink, you will get a higher state of euphoria from a lower amount.
That’s it – if you implement the tips above you can continue to make progress whilst enjoying a drink.