Can Alcohol Help You Lose Weight?

Healthy Alcoholic BeverageMost of us have heard the news by now―There are many good benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine. But weight loss is generally not considered one of them, and here’s why: Alcohol contains what’s known as “empty calories”, meaning there is no nutritional value to your body for those calories. Consuming excess alcohol just adds extra calories to your daily intake without any nutritional benefit to show for it. This usually leads to weight gain, not weight loss.

But there is hope! Having a drink here and there also helps you to feel full, meaning you may consume less food calories and keep excess weight at bay. The key here, as always, is moderation.

If you are on a reduced-calorie weight loss plan or simply watching your calories to lose weight, drinking alcohol is filling those limited calories with nearly no nutritional value. You’d be much better off with a handful of almonds or cashews, which are good for you and keep hunger at bay. The problem is going out with friends after work for a round of nuts isn’t quite as appealing now, is it?!

Why does excess alcohol wreck my diet?

Ethanol, the alcohol portion of the drink, has no nutritional value and your body uses it first. Any food you eat, like a plate full of appetizers, is consumed by the body second and only when necessary. Otherwise, it is stored as that dreaded three-letter word, F-A-T.

Consuming excess alcohol gives your body less of a need for the energy from food, so these calories are stored as fat. Where they are stored is up to your body type, gender, and the cruel genetics of your ancestors.

The more alcohol you consume, the less your body has need for that cheeseburger and fries sitting in your stomach. It therefore turns those items into stored fat for later. The way to maintain or lose weight while consuming alcohol is to create a good balance. If the drink is moderately filling, then in theory you should consume less food. The key is to find that balance.

Why does alcohol cause the munchies, anyway?

Since alcohol contains empty calories and has no nutritional value, excess consumption of alcohol inevitably leads to the munchies. This leads to stored fat, which eliminates any chance of weight loss for most people. But there is hope.

Having a small amount of food before drinking can help keep you full and possibly prevent an after-drink binge on pizza. Again, the key here is moderation. A moderate amount of food and a drink or two is not going to wreck your weight. Excess amounts of either, however, are a different story.

Surprisingly, alcohol is not really filled with as many calories as you would think. Compared to a candy bar, alcohol is the low-calorie champ. The number of calories depends greatly on the type of liquor and the quantity.

What calories are found in alcohol?

Generally speaking, beer has more calories than wine and hard liquor. This is because beer contains carbs, which add to the calorie count. However, many good low-calorie beers have been introduced in the last few years, so indulging in a few brews won’t necessarily wreck the diet. Beer also makes you feel fuller―again because of the carb content―so it should make you eat less at dinner.

Most beers contain around 200 calories, with light beer around 130 calories or so. A few ultra-low calorie beers introduced recently contain less than 100 calories. Most wines, whether red or white, contain around 120 calories, with a few coming in closer to 100.

That is significantly less than a bottle of beer, but the portion size of wine also tends to be smaller, at around five ounces or so. So bear that in mind. If you regularly have two glasses of wine, you are right up there calorie wise with a single cold brew.

For hard liquor, the calorie content is a little trickier. Most shots of liquor (1.5 ounces) contain around 100 calories. This would include gin, rum, vodka, brandy, tequila, and cognac. The problem lies in what you mix it with.

The majority of hard liquor is served in soda, juice, or seltzer, upping the calories significantly. A rum and cola, for instance, is around 185 calories in a standard serving. That is nearly double the rum calorie content due to the mixer. Also, the calorie count assumes a standard shot size is used and not free poured, which can add extra calories quickly.

What are the health considerations for alcohol?

Alcohol consumed in excess is extremely hard on the liver, the organ responsible for metabolizing it. But most doctors agree that having the occasional drink poses no real health threat; again, if consumed in moderation. Red wine is especially good for you, as it contains antioxidants and a heart-healthy substance called resveratol.

If consuming small amounts of alcohol causes you to eat less and lose weight, the health benefits of weight loss are also a consideration.