Can You Drink Alcohol & Lose Weight?

Two ways alcohol is interfering with your fat loss

I think we all instinctively know that excess alcohol consumption and achieving those body composition goals often don’t go hand in hand. So let's explore why that is and what you can do to make socialising and fat loss that little bit more effective.

How does alcohol interfere…

1. Excess calories

The simplest link between alcohol and weight loss comes down to the fact that alcohol contains calories, 7kcal per gram (less than fat but more than protein and carbs) and excess consumption makes staying in a deficit much more difficult.

In addition we know (unfortunately) that alcohol breaks down into compounds which are toxic to the body, therefore our body's number 1 priority is to metabolise alcohol first, regardless of what other nutrients are also being consumed at the time. Making the breakdown of other nutrients such as dietary fats and carbs much less efficient.

Interestingly though research suggests that excess calories from alcohol are not converted to fat any more readily than excess calories from carbs, fats or protein. Unfortunately for anyone pursuing a fat loss goal is that excess calories from any nutrient group is going to stall progress; and we know that when alcohol is consumed in excess the calories add up quickly. Not to mention lowered inhibitions and more settings often lead to more calorie dense food choices both at the time and after alcohol consumption too.

2. Sleep quality 

If you’re working on your body composition then sleep is one of the most important lifestyle factors to consider, especially if you’re looking to drop weight and body fat.

Poor sleep quality is associated with higher calorie intake, higher sugar intakes and reduced feelings of fullness after eating. Poor or insufficient sleep also makes it more likely for an individual who has achieved a calorie deficit to lose muscle though their weight loss phase.

According to the UK sleep foundation moderate alcohol consumption (2 drinks for men, 1 for women) decreases sleep quality by 24% and this increases to 39% when alcohol intake is high.

This is problematic on both a biological level but also impacts our daily choices. We know it’s much more difficult to stick to the healthy sleep choices after a poor night's sleep and battling a sore head. 

How to make alcohol and fat loss work 

1. Moderate your intake (not a groundbreaking suggestionI know). Less is absolutely more when it comes to alcohol and dropping body fat, try to have at least 4 nights off alcohol per week and don’t exceed the recommended 14 units per week. By the way, this should be an upper limit, not a target.

2. Plan your alcohol and plan your food. If you are having 2 or 3 glasses of wine on a Friday make sure your breakfast and lunch that day are super balanced and healthy. Try if you can to plan your evening meal too and make sure that Saturday morning is organised too. Start the day with a healthy breakfast and try not to let the overindulgence continue for too many meals/days.

3. If you track your calorie intake then record your alcohol too. On days that you drink try to maintain a deficit. If this however means being very restrictive on food then I would suggest trying to achieve your maintenance calories instead so as not to miss out on crucial nutrients and energy. 

4. There's not much we can do to negate the effects of alcohol on sleep but I would recommend making sure your sleep schedule is on point during all other nights of the week and again, planning food for the following day can make it easier to swerve the cravings and impulse purchases.


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