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Calorie Count Blog

Can I Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight?


By +Carolyn Richardson on Oct 13, 2012 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

Edited by Rachel Berman 10/21/2013

As we head into the holiday season, it is a question that is on the minds of weight loss hopefuls. The answer is much more complicated than counting calories. Unlike carbohydrates, protein, and fat, alcohol is not an essential source of calories, nor is it significant source of vitamins and minerals your body needs to function. However, many people who are in good shape swear by a drink or two every now and then. Are they the exception or the rule? 

Calories in Alcohol 

Pure alcohol serves up 7 calories per gram, almost twice as many calories as carbohydrates and close to the 9 calories in a gram of fat. That makes that cocktail, margarita or Mai Tai a heaping mound of calories in a small glass. Just a 1.5 oz shot of 80-proof gin, rum, or vodka can add 100 calories to any drink. When you think of the addition of fruit juice, soda, or grenadine, you’re looking at a calorie-infusion that could add up to meal-size calorie counts. If you want to save calories, have alcohol straight with fresh fruit, or mixed with club soda, or stick to plain old wine or beer.

Lowering Your Inhibitions

Beyond calories, something else to consider is alcohol's ability to lower inhibitions. To keep yourself from overindulging, eat a well balanced meal with protein and fiber before you start drinking. It will also help you steer clear of searching for a late-night meal, when your only options may not include low-calorie foods like fruits or vegetables. Research shows that drinking before a meal may increase your caloric intake by 20%.  

Alcohol's Impact on Metabolism

A beer belly is not caused by alcohol alone, but there are some direct correlations between alcohol and fat metabolism. When you drink alcohol, your metabolism slows down its energy conversion of fat and carbohydrates to first get rid of the alcohol in your body. Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, CSSD, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares, “Drinking alcohol stops fat metabolism in the liver causing it to build up around the waistline.” Of course this "build up" only happens in the presence of excess calories. In addition to staying under your calorie limit, rev up your metabolism by staying active and not skipping meals.

Alcohol's Impact on Your Sleep

Even if you do control your alcohol calories, and keep your metabolism revved, consuming alcohol can have a major impact on your ability to have a good night’s sleep if you consume it right before bed. Michael Breus, PhD tells WebMD that even if alcohol helps you go to sleep, it’s detrimental to your sleep experience. “It will keep you in the lighter stage…it will also wake you up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it will also dehydrate you which can affect your sleep.” He explains that alcohol consumption inhibits “deep sleep” stages 3 and 4, “where we see the increase in growth hormone, the cell repair, and the overall damage-from-the-day repair.” He continues that the resulting fatigued feeling can rob a person from feeling refreshed in the morning. Lack of sleep could affect not only your ability to workout effectively, but it could also hinder your well-intentioned eating habits. Just as you should aim to not eat 2 to 3 hours before bed, you should give up the glass or bottle within this time frame to enjoy a good night’s rest.


The “Alcohol Diet”

The American Heart Association recently released findings that most Americans fit into 5 dietary patterns. One of the five was the "alcohol" diet. The primary foods in the diet aside from drinks of course were proteins and salads. The study author Suzanne Judd, PhD, of University of Birmingham at Alabama, pointed out that those in the alcohol diet were usually moderate drinkers who ate "mostly salads, some fats, and coffee to restrict their calories." Whether you take a cue from the group, or cut calories elsewhere in your diet, make sure you stay within the moderate range. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends up to one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Examples of one drink include a 12 oz. bottle of beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or a 1.5 oz. shot of distilled spirits at 80-proof. Spritzers and wine coolers have less alcohol content and are therefore easier on calories.

The Bottom Line

All things being equal, if you continue to burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. And while drinking on its own will not inhibit weight loss, depending on the frequency and level of consumption, the effects of drinking alcohol could have a negative impact on your ability to eat good food, sleep well, and lead a healthy lifestyle. 

Your thoughts...

How has your alcohol consumption changed since you started counting calories?



Comments


On my case after retiring at 67 years I reduced my weight from 190 pounds (height 170cm) to 140 pounds with low carb diet , Zero alchool and exercise (4000 calories/week) . Now 5 years later with 4 drinks a day i recovered  to 160 pounds and a 100cm waist . !!!!!!!!!

 



I've been more cautious about my alcohol intake, more on the calorie side than because its alcohol. I have one 6 oz. glass of red wine each night. If I'm at my calorie limit that's it. If I'm still under I might have another half glass. I have noticed I am tempted to drink less wine because I'm not longer eating snacks at night. Over all I feel its been a positive change. I'm also dropping weight quickly even with the alcohol at night.



What this show is the reason why there are (simplistically) two groups of people now: those who have a healthy life-style and whose average life-span continues to increase over these last couple of decades, and those who have an unhealthy life-style and whose average life-span continues to fall despite advances in medical science.

Yeah, calories is an important factor (I am on a severe CRdiet - despite recent preliminary results of a scientific study on apes - so calories is my primary concern at present), but there are other factors including risk taking (try getting piss drunk and estimate your risk of injury and the adverse effect upon your body), food selection, and exercise.

I guess it is like that with money - some spend every cent that they have in their pocket and won't rest until they are broke, and there are some that will bank their money and deprive themselves for the sake of their bankroll.

BTW, it is difficult to visualize, but soon medical science will give us who passionate care about our longevity a chance at immortality.  Furthermore, there is about to be a paradigm change from scarcity to abundance (due primarily to new almost magical energy technology - LENR).  In other words, those who are "savers" or have a "healthy life-style" will be richly rewarded, while those who are "spenders" or lead a "unhealthy life-style" will lose more than they can now imagine.



I just have a glass of wine, and I log it.  As long as you are counting those calories, you are fine. 

You just have to realize, also, that the calories are taking the place of nutritious food, but we can't have every bite be nutritious... that's life.

 



One drink is okay anymore than that can have add some difference to your weight. Normally, I drink one beer or mixed drink most night, not all. But when I am feeling a little frisky and get on the scale I normally gain 2 lb. Probably just water weight. The next day it's back down to normal weight give or take a half pound. Plus I lift weights so drinking excessively causes me to get man-boobs. That's just my take on drinking and losing weight.


This "philosophical" comments of a fundamentalist dieter are terrifying ....  I just want to point that the commenter omitted the fact that I managed to loose 50 pounds and that at my age I run 1000 miles/year . The reason I started drinking again was the fact of a cancer dsagnosis on my wife, Howhever this was an enlightening situation as it shows the kind of people that appear on the internet . There is a lot of scum . No more dialogue 



One of my favorite tricks is to mix one regular or light beer with one O'Douls non-alcoholic beer (40 cal).  I drink this while cooking dinner.  Then with dinner I switch to a very large flavored sparkling water which lasts the rest of the night. I can then skip the starch at dinner filling up on vegetables and protein. I don't feel deprived.  After dinner I take the dog on a short walk to finish off the eating and upon return '"close the kitchen" to prevent late night snacking.  

 



To be honest, I am very health conscious but I am in college so I am binge drinking 2-4 nights a week. I haven't noticed a significant difference in my body composition so far this semester - however my energy levels have sadly declined. I still make sure to get lots of physical excersise and eat healthy though so I think it's alright. See I think even binge drinking is okay in moderation. Haha


Everything in moderation always wins! If we don't moderate the alcohol for the calories, we should do it for our liver and kidneys.  Those little organs work night and day to make sure our blood is pure and has only the best fuel possible for our body, brains and skin.  So, alcohol in moderation... just like other junk food. The organs have to work to clean that junk out as well.  

I definitely drink alcohol. But stay within the guidelines and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything!  :)



stop propagating the myth of the beer belly. the fact is that our bodies gain fat more in certain locations, such as the belly.


Since I just turned 21 on October 4th, this article is definitely very timely! I really only like red wine and words do not describe how much I hate beer, and I have a scholarship to maintain so I'm not a big drinker at all. I say that if I've eaten healthfully all day, a glass of red wine with dinner once in a while, logged into my calories, is not only "not bad" but can even have health benefits. With alcohol and caffeine, I think they prove healthy in moderation, but they can obviously cause health issues in excess (but what doesn't???)


This is an interesting title for an article (and the article is interesting too).

I've helped a bunch of people lose weight over the years and here's what I've seen through experience. If you have to ask if you can still drink alcohol and lose weight then chances are you are already a problem drinker.

I've see it far too many times.

As well, most cancer societies will list alcohol as a risk factor for developing cancer.

So if you find yourself asking that question, perhaps it's ALREADY time to STOP drinking alcohol altogether.



I also started to get back on a fitness regimen at age 69.

In 5 months I have lost 30 pounds and many inches..Thanks to a well designed Food Plan and Activity scedule.

One sideline is I have lost a craving for a beer, which was an occasional occurrence anyway.
I used to drink heavily but after awakening 4 days after a Massive Coronary and surgery, 8 years ago, I found the Alcohol "addiction" abated.

Follow my progress if you would like

My Personal Fitness Challenge



One thing I (and maybe others in my boat) have to consider when drinking is that I get "the munchies." Any slight bit of intoxication, leads to my lowered inhibitions with snacking. Plus, if I drink, I think that I need to eat to slow down the chance of being under the influence.

So it's not just the calories of the alcohol, it's also the calories from snacking that's harder for me to avoid when I have some drinks. Would hope I'm not the only one this happens to? (I have taken a bag of baby carrots to the bar w/ me on occasion!)



That seems a little harsh, kal_counter. I enjoy a glass of wine or a gin and tonic every evening, and it seems reasonable to want to continue that as long as it doesn't put me over my calorie count.  Need to? No. Want to? Yes. Judging me as a problem drinker isn't really helpful, or accurate.

Common sense might preclude the asking of the title question, but it's not beyond comprehension that someone might want to have a confirmation of what seems obvious, and continue to enjoy one indulgence. Personally, I find I am much less likely to want to indulge in a treat of any kind if I have decided I can enjoy in moderation, whether it is a drink or a chocolate from time to time.



With a long history of membership in Alanon - the last thing that appeals to me is alcohol in any form.  That is not to say that that weren't "times" that my song was a bit different.  Now, however, all my medications for this and that include "not to be taken with alcohol" on the labels.  There is just another very good reason for me to stay on the other side of the fence.



Original Post by: pamwoodall

That seems a little harsh, kal_counter. I enjoy a glass of wine or a gin and tonic every evening, and it seems reasonable to want to continue that as long as it doesn't put me over my calorie count.  Need to? No. Want to? Yes. Judging me as a problem drinker isn't really helpful, or accurate.

Common sense might preclude the asking of the title question, but it's not beyond comprehension that someone might want to have a confirmation of what seems obvious, and continue to enjoy one indulgence. Personally, I find I am much less likely to want to indulge in a treat of any kind if I have decided I can enjoy in moderation, whether it is a drink or a chocolate from time to time.


You have a glass of wine or a gin and tonic every evening??? So at the very least you admit to having 365 drinks in one year?

That's about 355 drinks more than me and I thought I was drinking in moderation.

Enjoy...

 



I feel that it was a pretty informative article. It's nothing that most drinkers don't know though. It just sort of put things into perspective. I used to be a heavy drinker and would consume several hundred calories a day just on alcohol alone. I gained about 50lbs in 5 years from my alcohol consumption and over eating (the wrong foods). I just turned 29 a couple of weeks ago and something hit me. I thought, "Wow, I feel old!" I don't look old and I'm told I look about 22ish, but I sure felt it. Having been active my entire life, up until 5 years ago, I thought it was time to get back in that saddle and go for it. I knew that alcohol was going to be a challege to break free of, at least for a while. I bought a gym pass for my birthday. I only consume nutritious foods and I drink 96 - 120oz of water a day. Although I've only lost 5lbs, I feel so much better. I working on getting back down to size 6 and I know that alcohol isn't helping my mid-section - at all!

 



I do. Thank you.



Kal_counter, I feel it's safe to say that it was a little harsh and even more so when you seem as though you're comparing yourself to others trying to build yourself up while putting others down. It's really important for people to see positive feed back and critique is definitely welcome, but it's also important to feel like the environment is a safe place to express how they're working on their personl goals. Just sayin....



I go out normally every tuesday night (that's my uni night) and it's never only 'one or two' drinks + normally one night on the weekend, sometimes more, depending on how much work/money I have, but I try to make sure I eat really healthy, low calorie foods on the days I know I'm going out and normally I drink vodka with sugar free soda or white wine because there are less calories.



I figure that after  retire, I'll lose a ton of weight because there won't be a NEED to consume alcohol anymore.



Just sayin'....



I have a named the house "moderation" that way I can drink what I like at home as it will always be in moderation. ;)



@ kal-counter....wow sweetie u need to take a chill pill and stop being so judgemental. This site is about building each other through motivation and inspiration and like another poster said your building yourelf up by putting someone else down. You have some info on drinking and health? fine its welcomed...trust. But what a person chooses to do with said info is up to them, not you. If the poster drinks more than you do i see no reason for u to state how much 'less' you drink than him/her, and with such obvious condescension too. Just a little positive vibration goes a long way in helping others on their journey sometimes....try it next time luv.



While I was actively losing weight, I cut my alcohol consumption back by a little over half. I would have a couple of glasses of wine 3 nights a week. I lost weight steadily and arrived at my current weight of about 50lb lighter ofter a year or so. Honestly, If I couldnt share a drink with my husband a few nights a week, that year would have seemed interminable.

Now, over 4 years on, I will have a glass or 2 of wine on most nights. My weight is stable. Do I HAVE to have it.....? Almost certainly no. Do I LIKE to have it....? Yes. It doesnt hurt my ability to lose or maintain my weight and I just enjoy life a bit more with a nice glass of wine in the evening with dinner. Plus I am probably fitter and healthier now than I have ever been. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones - but the facts stand.



I'm confused...you're first comment said when you just turned 21 and now you profile picture is of an older woman - while saying you've been in al-anon.  Are there two different people on here with the same cc name???  :)



Original Post by: dannygirl500

@ kal-counter....wow sweetie u need to take a chill pill and stop being so judgemental. This site is about building each other through motivation and inspiration and like another poster said your building yourelf up by putting someone else down. You have some info on drinking and health? fine its welcomed...trust. But what a person chooses to do with said info is up to them, not you. If the poster drinks more than you do i see no reason for u to state how much 'less' you drink than him/her, and with such obvious condescension too. Just a little positive vibration goes a long way in helping others on their journey sometimes....try it next time luv.


Um.

If that wasn't a clear case of "being so judgemental" and "building yourelf up by putting someone else down" and "with such obvious condescension" then I don't know what else it could possibly be.

BTW...it's "you're" not "your"....and you're welcome.



Oops.  I get it now.  LOL

 



Okay everybody.. I am going to respond to your comments directed at me.

First off... posting comments online does not accurately convey the "tone" with which it is was intended. If we had been sitting across the table from each other you would have heard my calm caring and compassionate demeanour.

It's important that you understand that my comments were said with compassion and care.

That said, (still using my "calm caring voice") I find it amazing how adults defend the regular consumption of alcohol. YES I drink... YES I drank a lot more when I was younger... and yes I do indeed enjoy a drink every now and then.

I have watched a family member die from alcoholism and I can tell you with confidence  (I am STILL  using my "calm caring voice") that anyone who is drinking every single day of the year is heading towards trouble.

Adults tend to invent some of the worst excuses for drinking alcohol regularly and that RARELY ever ends up with a happy ending.

YES you can drink and still lose weight...but ask yourself this one question... what health benefits does regular alcohol consumption provide your body with as you try to achieve the best possible health you can?

The same could be asked of soda-pop drinks... but in this blog it just happened to be alcohol.

Good luck to all and the best of health to you.

With smiles,

Kal_counter

 



Our family believes the "large" belly is genetic, without proper diet and exercise it seems that some of us on my (mothers) side of the genetics have acquired the large belly. My Husband on the other hand does not exercise, pretty much eats what he wants and has always enjoyed his Cold beers each day, he has a flat belly regardless. Anybody else?



Original Post by: kal_counter

Okay everybody.. I am going to respond to your comments directed at me.

First off... posting comments online does not accurately convey the "tone" with which it is was intended. If we had been sitting across the table from each other you would have heard my calm caring and compassionate demeanour.

It's important that you understand that my comments were said with compassion and care.

That said, (still using my "calm caring voice") I find it amazing how adults defend the regular consumption of alcohol. YES I drink... YES I drank a lot more when I was younger... and yes I do indeed enjoy a drink every now and then.

I have watched a family member die from alcoholism and I can tell you with confidence  (I am STILL  using my "calm caring voice") that anyone who is drinking every single day of the year is heading towards trouble.

Adults tend to invent some of the worst excuses for drinking alcohol regularly and that RARELY ever ends up with a happy ending.

YES you can drink and still lose weight...but ask yourself this one question... what health benefits does regular alcohol consumption provide your body with as you try to achieve the best possible health you can?

The same could be asked of soda-pop drinks... but in this blog it just happened to be alcohol.

Good luck to all and the best of health to you.

With smiles,

Kal_counter

 


Whoa.

I don't think anybody here is talking abot alcoholism. And if truth be told, I have a fair amount of alcoholics in my family background, too. One recovering, four dead. So please do not turn this into a body count or a kind of "my suffering is worse than your" scenario.

There are numerous studies which support the moderate consumption of red wine, for example, which have tremendous heart benefits due to the antioxidents present in the wine.

Having said that, it is also true the empty claories and the slowing of the metabolism rate do, in fact, contribute to weight gain or work against weight loss. I just see this as an either or decision. But I do see the need to keep a close watch on the amounts of alcohol one consumes if weight loss is a concern.



Pardon the typos...hunt and peck is the best I can do. But I am up to two fingers :-)



Corrected version:

Whoa.

I don't think anybody here is talking about alcoholism. And if truth be told, I have a fair amount of alcoholics in my family background, too. One recovering, four dead. So please do not turn this into a body count or a kind of "my suffering is worse than yours" scenario.

There are numerous studies which support the moderate consumption of red wines, for example, which have tremendous heart benefits due to the antioxidants present in the wine.

Having said that, it is also true the empty calories and the slowing of the metabolism rate do, in fact, contribute to weight gain or work against weight loss. I just do not see this as an either or decision. But I do see the need to keep a close watch on the amounts of alcohol one consumes if weight loss is a concern.





@ goodspeak Sak Passe? Thank you for correcting my grammatical error.....i have no excuses :D

Have a great day Smile



No worries :-)



When I was in my 30s and 40s, alcohol seemed to have little effect on my ability to lose weight or maintain my weight. I have always loved great wines and until a couple of months ago I would have a small glass while preparing dinner, one or two during dinner... Probably a total of 9 ounces a night. I should mention that I like the color in the stemware ... that deep red, the way it opens up during a meal. This love affair has gone on for 30 years. Over the last few years now that I am 62, I've noticed my love is turning on me. Now maintaining my weight is harder, I feel "puffy" and my dress size creeps up pretty quickly. So I figured maybe I should cut the wine out.

Like a habit that refuses to say goodbye, it was not that easy! I wondered if I could go 30 days for REAL -- not just in theory-- and was surprised to realize my dependency was preventing me from letting go of this habit.

Everything in this article is true for me. I set out to read as much as was available medically about what alcohol does to my metabolism, effects on executive functions in the brain, appetite, liver etc and came to the conclusion I was poisoning my body and mind. So I immediately stopped and began a healthy detox diet.

I lost five pounds immediately and I feel extraordinarily energetic. I had no idea the affects this love affair with wine was having on me. I seriously feel so much better. I believe my weight and health goals are now going to be easier to reach. Pellegrino with a twist of lime for me!!


I am a beer drinker and switched to canadian 67..

2 carbs

67 calories



The older I get the less alcohol I can tolerate. So I have just quit drinking altogether. These days I have to get by on my charming personality alone, lol. Seriously though, at parties, it's interesting observing folk's who drink behavior from a sober perspective. Cutting out the alcohol has helped me to become healthier and take up running and, so as much as I would love a Margarita, I think I'll pass. xo



I lost close 15 lbs and I think it has a lot to do with not drinking. Sophomore year in college, I partied a lot with my friends so we drank excessively at least four times a week - which affected my sleep which affected my daily schedule. Consistent hungover also led me to overeat simple, processed food.

Ever since I graduated college, I barely drink. If I do drink, I stick to two glasses of wine. The result is that I keep to my schedule better, sleep better, feel better, feel fit, and save a lot of money!! :)



Original Post by: kal_counter

This is an interesting title for an article (and the article is interesting too).

I've helped a bunch of people lose weight over the years and here's what I've seen through experience. If you have to ask if you can still drink alcohol and lose weight then chances are you are already a problem drinker.

I've see it far too many times.

As well, most cancer societies will list alcohol as a risk factor for developing cancer.

So if you find yourself asking that question, perhaps it's ALREADY time to STOP drinking alcohol altogether.


wow? really? i drink 5oz of red wine every week night and give myself a full 8 oz on the weekends. i work out 10+ hours a week (run, race walk, bike, weights, swim)  i am not the least bit overweight, and i enjoy a pretty healthy life at 49 yrs, 7 moths and 3 days.... guess it's the fact that i have a drinking problem that is keeping me so healthy ;-)



I lost 20 kgs in one year and never stopped drinking a glass of wine with dinner. I just counted it into my calories...

Since then I've regained most of my weight because of other factors.  Strange thing is I don't drink anymore...I can't tollerate alcohol...even small amounts because of medication I'm on.  I still count calories and exercise moderately but I'm maintaining rather than losing.

My feelings are that if you count calories and are honest about it, you can drink a glass or two of wine or beer with meals and lose weight.  If you drink outside meal times you will get hungry and eat more.

However, I also found that I could eat much more if I didn't drink.  It's really up to you and how much you look forward to that glass of wine or beer or whatever....if you can live without it you can eat a lot more, but if you can't ,work you calories so you can. 

I found that because I had to cook for my family, I would keep my calories really low all day, eating filling low calorie foods like egg whites, salads, mushrooms and home made soups without potatoes or pasta. That left me enough calories at night to eat a full meal with my family and a glass of wine.  I'm not saying this will suit everyone but a diet, isn't really a 'diet', it's learning to eat right for life, so you have to do it to suit your lifestyle.  That way suited mine.  If what you do, doesn't suit your lifesstyle, or if you think you're going to count calories and then once you get to your goal weight go back to you old ways, you're wasting your time.  You need to work around your life.  So, if your life includes a glass or two of wine you need to include them into your eating plan, otherwise one day, you will go back to they way things were...and so will your weight.

 

 



I am the same way. I enjoy my drinks and still like to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I am actually on a quest to find the right balance and decided to even start a blog about it. If you're interested go to www.lastcallforlettuce.com ;

Good luck!



My thinking is this: if you want to drink, drink! Just don't do it and drive! xo



Here's a GREAT way to enjoy drinks and not over-do it.

I am a big advocate of hydration and I LOVE beer and wine.  Instead of pounding a six-pack or a bottle of cabernet, I will do the following:

1)Drink a beer :-)

2)Drink a glass of water.

3)Have another beer

4)Have a glass of water.

5)Pee.

6)Realize that I've drank a lot of fluids and might burst if I have another beer!

Hydrating in between drinks has been a good rule for me to follow and it works GREAT.

Next time you're out partying and all your friends are slamming down drinks, follow the above plan and you'll not only save yourself calories, you'll also avoid feeling like crud the next morning AND you'll be hydrating yourself--which is where we all could probably use some help!

Jim ~ Eat less, move more, and HYDRATE (in between beers)

http://halfmealhabit.com



I have lost near 80 pounds and drink 1500 calories of beer a day,yea i know im working on it but from 260 to 180 so it can be done. And i am in the best shape of my life.



Its really simple -If you crave a mixed drink= Coke Zero, A good rum and Lime - 60 calories.  If you crave beer= Ultras (low carb and no hang over) a whole six pack would still be sub 600 calories.

The pitfall?  When I drink it takes longer to heal after a workout, adds an extra day, which is not good if you have your routine set.  Worse than that, getting intoxicated lowers inhibition and sets you up to going back and binging on junk food.  



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