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How Does Alcohol Affect Weight Loss?

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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/04/2022

Alcohol can impact weight loss and make it challenging to lose weight. Furthermore, alcohol can cause people to gain weight when consumed in large quantities. Alcohol is not good for weight loss because it’s calorie-dense and impairs decision-making. With impaired decision-making, people are more likely to make unhealthy food choices and stray from their diet. We’re going to take you through everything you need to know about alcohol’s effect on weight loss. Read on to learn more below.

What are the Reasons for the Prevention of Weight Loss by Alcohol?

Several reasons cause alcohol to prevent weight loss. While Weight loss also depends on other factors like diet and exercise, excessive alcohol consumption makes it harder to lose weight. Below are the reasons for the Prevention of weight loss by alcohol.

  • Empty calories 
  • Alcohol is not a good energy source 
  • Alcohol affects organs and organ function 
  • Alcohol causes excessive belly fat and bloating
  • Alcohol can impact hormones
  • Alcohol causes digestion problems 

Keep in mind that alcohol interacts with people differently. Therefore, its effects may vary.

1. Empty Calories

Alcohol has a lot of empty calories. While no calories are empty, the nutritional value of alcohol’s calories is abysmal. Calories don’t offer vital nutrients for the body and can cause weight gain over a long period. For example, the average shot of vodka contains over 100 calories. That’s 100 calories in a sip of alcohol that’s less than only a few ounces in size. Furthermore, beers can have over 150 calories per 12 ounces and a single glass of wine can have upwards of 150 calories.

Alcohol also becomes more calorie-dense when liquor is combined with additives like soda, fruits, tonics, and seltzers. In fact, some mixed drinks can have almost 500 calories for 12 to 15 ounces. Consuming alcohol in large quantities causes weight gain, primarily, because it adds unnecessary calories to a person’s diet.

2. Alcohol is Used as Energy Source for the Body

Calories from alcohol are not the same as calories from meals and other beverages. Alcohol is used as fuel in the body, which means the metabolism uses alcohol before glucose, fat, and other fuel sources. When alcohol is consumed, it prevents the body from accessing fat reserves for glucose and other nutrients. Even in a caloric deficit, alcohol can slow weight loss for this reason. However, when alcohol is used and excess glucose is not used, it’s stored as fat tissue (adipose tissue) in the body.

3. Alcohol Effects on Organs

Alcohol interacts with the brain and body in many ways. Still, alcohol’s effect on the liver is the most notable. The liver is responsible for cleansing toxins from the body, which is how it handles alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol damages the liver when consumed in large quantities and with high frequency. The damage can lead to a buildup of fat in the liver, which is fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is hard to treat and can cause the body to store glucose from carbohydrates differently. When this occurs, it’s challenging for the body to lose weight and use stored body fat for energy.

4. Excessing Belly Fat

Consuming alcohol can lead to excessive body fat. Alcohol is dense in calories, which leads to weight gain and fat storage. When calories are stored as fat within the body, the most common place for this to occur is around the belly. Unfortunately, belly fat is one of the most dangerous types of body fat. It can place pressure on the body’s organs and lead to several health problems like cardiovascular disease.

5. Alcohol Effects on Hormones

Alcohol has an impact on hormones in the body, especially ghrelin and testosterone. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, which causes the body to feel hungry. Consuming alcohol can lead to bad food choices because ghrelin can become more abundant in the body. Alcohol also affects testosterone but instead of elevating testosterone levels, it decreases testosterone levels. For men, this can lead to many negative health problems, including weight gain. 

Studies show that low levels of testosterone lead to several changes in the male body. Men with low testosterone can experience elevated levels of blood pressure and cholesterol, a higher body mass index, less satisfaction in life, worse sleep, and decreased sexual performance.

6. Digestion Problems

Alcohol is a toxin in the body and causes inflammation to occur throughout the digestive system. When inflammation occurs in the stomach and intestines, digestive enzymes struggle to break down food particles and fewer nutrients are absorbed. If alcohol impairs these systems, it can lead to discomfort and affect the organs that regulate metabolism; this leads to weight gain and more stored body fat. 

What are the Facts about Alcohol and Weight Loss?

Alcohol is a substance that can prevent weight loss and cause weight gain. Several factors contribute to weight loss or weight gain but alcohol increases the risk of weight gain along with other health problems. Below are some important facts about alcohol and weight loss.

  • Beer has an average calorie count of 155 per 12 ounces 
  • Alcohol interacts with sex hormones and can lower testosterone, which can cause weight gain in males 
  • Alcohol impacts judgment calls and can lead to unhealthy food choices 
  • Vodka and whiskey can have over 100 calories per shot 
  • Alcohol can increase appetite 
  • While there are some low-calorie alcoholic beverages, most are higher in calories than sodas and snacks 

Because alcohol correlates to weight gain, we recommend avoiding it if you’re trying to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle.

Is the Calorie Amount in Alcohol High?

The calorie amount in alcohol is high. Alcohol is a calorie-dense substance, with some liquors having 120 calories per shot. Wine also has over 100 calories per glass and some strong beers can have more than 200 calories per can. While there are some low-calorie choices, the majority of alcoholic beverages add empty calories to a person’s diet. In moderation the calories are negligible but when consumed daily alcohol can lead to substantial weight gain and other health problems.

Does Alcohol Increase Your Appetite?

Alcohol increases appetite by impairing judgment and adding empty calories to a person’s diet. When these calories are consumed, the body does not get enough energy and can trigger hormones that increase hunger (ghrelin). These hormones are responsible for appetite, so alcohol can increase appetite through hormonal changes in the body. Moreover, alcohol impairs judgment and causes people to make unhealthy food choices. These food choices can make people gain weight because they’re often calorie-dense foods.

Should You Stop Drinking to Lose Weight?

Yes, you should stop drinking to lose weight. Consuming two standard drinks per day equates to about 300-500 extra calories per day. Therefore, quitting drinking can remove these calories from your diet. It takes roughly 3,500 calories to lose weight, so by cutting out drinking people can expect to lose one pound of fat per week. That said, you don’t need to quit drinking to lose weight. People can also lose weight by limiting alcohol consumption. Limiting alcohol consumption slows down weight loss but it’s still achievable.

When Do You Start to Lose Weight after Quitting Alcohol?

Weight loss results from quitting alcohol can begin to occur after one week. When someone stops consuming alcohol, it removes thousands of empty calories from their diet. For this reason, many people can expect to lose about 2 pounds in their first week of quitting drinking. However, noticeable weight loss takes longer to occur. People won’t notice their weight loss efforts for about a month or two and significant changes start to occur after a few months. 

How Much Weight can you Lose by Quitting Drinking Alcohol?

On average, people who quit drinking lose between 1 and 2 pounds the first week they stop consuming alcohol daily. Over time, this can amount to about 20 or 30 pounds each year. Having a healthy lifestyle can also increase weight loss. If someone quits drinking and incorporates a healthy diet and exercise, weight loss occurs rapidly.

It’s also important to note that weight loss slows down over time as the body requires fewer calories to function as weight decreases. Someone who is obese will lose weight faster than someone who is only a few pounds overweight when quitting drinking, for example.

How can You Regulate Your Drinking Habits to Lose Weight?

The best way to regulate your drinking habits to lose weight is to stop consuming alcohol. If you consume little to no alcohol, you won’t have to worry about the impact of calories from alcohol on the body. However, you don’t have to quit drinking to see weight loss results. Instead, choose low-calorie alcoholic beverages and reduce the frequency of alcohol consumption. Having a few standard drinks per week won’t have a drastic impact on weight loss but consuming alcohol every night will. Therefore, it’s about limiting your alcohol consumption.

If you’re having trouble limiting alcohol consumption on your own, some resources can help. You can join groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to maintain sobriety, seek therapy options, and even get prescription medications that make the effects of alcohol less pleasant. Overall, there are many options for people who want to quit drinking for weight loss.

Which Drinks Contain Low Calories?

Some alcoholic drinks contain more calories than others. For example, mixed beverages that contain sugar and other additives can have more than 500 calories. In fact, a single shot of whiskey can be upwards of 120 calories. For these reasons, calories from alcohol can add up rapidly. Below are alcoholic beverages that contain low calories.

  • Michelob Ultra Gold 
  • Miller Light 
  • Bud Light 
  • White Claws 
  • Truly hard seltzer 
  • White wines 
  • Bud light seltzer 

Depending on where you’re from, there can be more or less low-calorie alcohol choices.