If you have ever actively taken steps to look after your health and wellness, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can I drink alcohol and still lose weight?”
Well, we’ve got some good news for you. Like most things, you can still include alcohol within the framework of a healthy nutrition plan.
Here at WAG, we’re all about building a flexible and sustainable approach, and for many people, that means enjoying a few drinks with friends, family, or co-workers in a social setting. That said, there are a few things you need to consider if weight loss is one of your primary goals.
Alcohol Lacks Nutritional Value
Alcohol is its own macronutrient, but it is not essential for survival and does not sit alongside protein, carbs, and fat. It doesn’t provide nutritional value. This lack of positive benefits for the body means that all calories consumed via alcohol are essentially “empty.”
Unlike protein, which essential for muscle maintenance and growth, or carbohydrates, which are your body’s preferred energy source, alcohol brings no nutritional value to the table. This means overconsumption can lead to a significant portion of your daily caloric intake, providing your body no real benefit.
Alcohol is High in Calories
Protein and carbohydrates weigh in at four calories per gram, while alcohol is nearly double that at seven calories per gram. However, there is another factor to remember over and above its higher calorie count.
Alcohol is generally consumed as a liquid, and it is very easy to overconsume calories in that form. Consider the time it takes to prepare, sit down, and down 10.5 ounces of broccoli. Now, think about how quickly the average person drinks a 12oz beer bottle. Both have the same number of calories, but one will make you feel full and satisfied, while the other is created to be consumed at a higher volume.
Alcohol Inhibits Dietary Restraint
Not only does alcohol lower food inhibitions, but it can also stimulate appetite. This can be desirable in some circumstances, but when paired with social situations, it’s quite easy to find yourself opting into food choices you would (or know you should) otherwise avoid. What starts as a very sensibly planned meal can quickly devolve into a calorie-packed free-for-all.
Alcohol “Pauses” Fat Loss
Because of its toxic nature, the body immediately prioritizes metabolizing alcohol. This means that the metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates is suppressed, slowing down how much adipose tissue (fat!) the body is burning. Essentially, because the body prioritizes the metabolism and excretion of alcohol, fat burning is effectively “paused” when alcohol is consumed. If your goal is weight loss, this slowdown in your body’s optimal function and processing of “good” macronutrients is not advantageous - especially when frequency is high.
Alcohol May Increase Hunger
When tracking food for fat loss, you usually work with a limited allocation of macros daily. As mentioned previously, because alcohol is so calorie-dense, it can take up a lot of “real estate” that could otherwise be used for whole, nutrient-rich, filling foods. A lack of these foods, which provide both satiation and energy (ie, protein and fiber), can cause large spikes in hunger, leading to overeating. This is especially true in social situations where calorie-dense snacks are readily available.
Alcohol and the Scale
Even moderate amounts of alcohol have a marked impact on hydration. Because alcohol is dehydrating, drinking causes the body to retain excess water, which can lead to feelings of bloating and puffiness. What’s more, this retention also shows up on the scale. While the increase is temporary, seeing metrics trending in the “wrong” direction can still have a negative psychological impact.
Here’s what that can look like over 5 days:
Happy Hour Made Easy—How to Track Alcohol in Your Macros
Our free course will tackle more than just the scale. We’ll teach you how alcohol impacts performance, the best way to accurately track alcohol in your macros (with an awesome discount code from our friends at MacrosFirst), and our best tips and tricks for enjoying a drink or two while progressing toward your health goals.
We’d love to have you in the course—JOIN FOR FREE NOW!