Can You Drink Alcohol if You’re Trying to Lose Weight

Sip without the guilt.

By: Lexy Parsons

If you’re wondering what’s the buzz when it comes to alcohol and weight loss, you’ve come to the right place. At FitOn, we’re all about balance. We believe a restrictive mindset can be just as harmful as eating those “unhealthy foods.” So, rather than limiting ourselves, we believe moderation is key. This goes for alcohol, too! 

So many of us stress about the calories we would consume in 1 glass of wine, but if you think about it — those “low calorie” “weight loss” snack bars contain roughly the same number of calories and are being marketed as “weight-loss friendly.” Why should we obsess over the same amount of calories in that single glass of wine?

If you’re trying to reach your fitness goals while wondering if you can treat yourself to a drink every now and then, good news — contrary to popular belief, alcohol and weight loss aren’t mutually exclusive, and alcohol can be a part of a healthy weight loss plan, but moderation is key. Build a plan that fits your lifestyle. 

Ahead, find out how to enjoy yourself without derailing your progress, because so long as you don’t go overboard, there’s no need to feel guilty about treating yourself!

Alcohol & Weight Loss: Do They Mix?

When it comes to alcohol and weight loss, the biggest factor to consider is calories. While the calories in alcohol aren’t much different than other foods or indulgences, it can be easy to overdo it and derail your weight loss progress. There’s a big difference between enjoying an occasional drink and polishing off a bottle of wine!  

There are a few reasons it can quickly become easy to overdo it. Unlike broccoli, there’s no simple trigger to say “I’ve had enough.” Have two bowls of broccoli and you’ll walk away. Have 2-3 drinks, and everything (literally) can become fuzzy. Alcohol disrupts aspects of your brain, which can make it easy to not be aware of how much you’re taking in. 

Also, drinking tends to happen in social situations. Much like eating in front of the TV leads to more calories, drinking with friends leads to more drinks. And, at the most basic level, drinking dehydrates you (so you drink more). 

It’s also not just the calories in alcohol that can also quickly add up,  it’s what alcohol does for your cravings. Sometimes, you might only have 1-2 drinks, but alcohol can make you hungrier. And, research shows that drinking alcohol before a meal can increase how much you’ll eat during the meal.

With all this said, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the occasional drink! Research suggests light to moderate alcohol intake won’t harm weight loss goals — so, enjoy your cocktail, but don’t overdo it! The problem occurs when an occasional drink or two turns into a frequent binge. 

What you drink and how much you drink matters. Here are some tips on how to enjoy that glass of wine or occasional beer in moderation when you’re trying to lose weight. 

Set Limits 

Knowing that it’s easy to overdo alcohol for more than one reason, try setting limits before you drink that glass of wine. Determine how much you’ll drink — are you sticking to a glass or following a two glass rule? 

Make it Work in Social Settings 

You can do the same thing if you plan to drink in a social setting. Before going to dinner with friends, determine how much you’ll drink. Having this number and limit decided beforehand may make it easier to stick to after you enjoy that glass or two of wine. 

Plan Out Your Meals 

Another tip is to plan out what you’ll be eating for dinner based on whether or not you’ll be drinking. If you plan to have a glass of wine, beer, or cocktail, take this into account when deciding on your food choices. If you’re eating out, maybe this means skipping the appetizer bread and replacing it with some roasted veggies with hummus or a salad instead. 

Alcohol Calories Explained 

Alcohol Calories Per Gram 

Alcohol clocks in at seven calories per gram. While it’s less than the nine calories per gram of fat, it’s almost double the calories of carbs and protein (four calories per gram). 

Alcohol can still be part of a healthy diet, but keep in mind — calories from alcohol are considered “empty calories” meaning, they contain no nutritional value.

Wondering which beverage to choose when it comes to alcohol and weight loss? Let’s take a look at the calorie count.

Calories in a Glass of Wine 

Wine is made from fermented grapes, where most calories come from alcohol and carbs. An average glass of wine contains about 125 calories, though the nutritional value may vary depending on the variety. 

When it comes to alcohol and weight loss, choosing a wine lower in sugar and higher in nutritional value may be beneficial for your waistline. 

Healthier Ways to Enjoy Your Glass 

Opt For Red: Want to drink with a dose of health benefits? Choose red wine! Red wine is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant compound that has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation

Look For Wines Lower in Sugar:  The dryer the wine, the less sugar it contains. 10 grams per liter or less is ideal! Low sugar wines include Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio.  

Keep Calories in Check: Keep it under 250 calories by limiting yourself to 1 or 2 glasses!

Try to Make One Bottle of Wine Last all Week: This will give you the flexibility to enjoy yourself without consuming too many calories!

Calories in a Beer

The average glass, can, or bottle of beer can range anywhere from 50 to 180 calories per serving (about 12 oz) — a big difference when it comes to your waistline! If beer is your drink of choice, being mindful of what you’re sipping on is important in regards to alcohol and weight loss.

Tips to Consider When Enjoying Beer 

Opt For Light Beer: Light beer has less alcohol which means fewer calories! An average serving ranges from 50-100 calories, while IPA’s have double the alcohol and carbs which means double the calories of an average beer

Read The Label: Many brands offer “low calorie” or “low carb” options of 150 calories or less. Five light beers can equal 500 calories or more. Portion control is key!

Watch The Size: Reach for a 12oz bottle rather than a 16oz pint! 

Calories in the Average Cocktail 

The calories in an average cocktail range anywhere between 90 to upwards of 700 calories, depending on your drink of choice. Keep in mind, cocktails can be sneaky sources of calories, carbs, and sugar. Knowing exactly what’s in your glass can be beneficial when it comes to alcohol and weight loss. 

Here are some of the highest calorie and sugar offenders when it comes to cocktails. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can’t ever drink these options, it just means that if you do enjoy one of these every now and then, it’s important to know that one of these high-calorie cocktails is like having a big dessert. 

Frozen Margarita: 500-700 calories 

Pina Colada: 600+ calories 

Long Island Iced Tea: 700+ calories 

Mai Tai: 300+ calories 

To keep the calories on the lower end, try these swaps! 

Lower-Sugar Cocktail Swaps 

Avoid Added Sugar: Avoid sugary mixers and unnecessary calories by ordering your liquor neat or on the rocks. 

Use a Lower Sugar Mixer: If you are choosing a mixer, opt for seltzer or club soda with a hint of lemon or lime! These are the best low-sugar, low-calorie choices.

Avoid Pre-made Mixes: They’re loaded with sugar and are a hangover waiting to happen.

Ask For it On The Rocks: Are margaritas your guilty pleasure? Avoid frozen drinks and simple syrup — ask for it on the rocks. 

Make Your Own Cocktails: The best way to watch your waistline? Make your own cocktail at home! Try kombucha, freshly squeezed citrus, and tequila or vodka — making your own cocktail can be weight loss friendly and delicious! 

Moderation is Key 

While the occasional cocktail, beer, or glass of wine isn’t going to derail your weight loss efforts, it can be easy to let a sip turn into a splurge.

Excessive drinking not only racks up some serious calories but it can also lead to unhealthy eating and lifestyle behaviors. Let’s face it, we’re no stranger to the drunk munchies — yes, we’re talking about those 3 am wings and fries! Even if you don’t take it that far, it can be easy to munch during a night out and consume a few too many calories. We’re all for a splurge every now and then, but repeating this behavior can do more harm than good.

Plus, excessive drinking while eating isn’t doing our digestive system any favors. In fact, it can suppress fat burning — not so favorable for our weight loss goals! Whenever alcohol is consumed, it takes priority over digestion as the body works to rid toxins from the body. As fat oxidation is temporarily suppressed, any food enjoyed is more likely to be stored as fat rather than fuel. However, research suggests this only occurs when more calories are consumed than burned! So, as you can see, moderation really is key!  

Don’t Forget About Hydrating After Alcohol 

Every time you drink, you spend half the night in the bathroom. Sound about right? That’s because alcohol is a diuretic! If you want to avoid a gnarly hangover and prevent dehydration, it’s important to hydrate while drinking to replenish any fluid lost.

Tip: Try drinking one cup of water for every alcoholic beverage. This will help you stay hydrated while limiting the number of drinks consumed (and, therefore, calories)! 

It’s All About Balance 

You can still enjoy yourself while achieving your fitness goals! When it comes to alcohol and weight loss, the key is finding balance between restriction and overindulgence. Build a lifestyle that works for you and your goals by making healthy choices that are sustainable long-term. Pour your glass of wine, guilt-free!