Do you feel like every time you indulge in even a small amount of alcohol, you sabotage your weight loss goals and wonder if it’s truly possible to enjoy an alcoholic beverage and lose body fat? You’re not alone; in fact, most people, even our new clients come to us believing alcohol and weight loss are not synonymous.
While achieving lasting weight loss success without giving up your favorite cocktails and wines may sound too good to be true, it isn’t. Our clients can attest to the fact that you don’t need to cut out alcohol completely to lose weight. Instead, mindful drinking and clever strategies can go a long way towards attaining your weight loss goals.
As registered dietitians and personal trainers, we’ve been sharing our strategies with our clients for years, and now we’re revealing six of these practical tips with you so that you can enjoy alcohol and lose weight too!
There’s good news: moderation, not deprivation, is the key to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle that allows you to enjoy your favorite beverages while still losing weight.
Why does alcohol make weight loss harder?
While it is possible to lose body fat and drink alcohol, it’s important to understand why drinking it does make weight loss more challenging so you understand why using the strategies we’ll share, is so important. Also, it’s good to know what’s going on in your body especially if you’ve been beating yourself up about not seeing weight loss results while including alcohol in your life.
Remember, it IS possible to lose weight and enjoy your favorite beverages, you just need to know what to do, and that’s what we’re sharing with you today! But first here’s more about alcohol and what’s going on in your body when you drink it…
Does alcohol slow your metabolism?
When you drink alcohol its detoxification takes priority and your body stops metabolizing other foods because the body recognizes that alcohol is a toxin and wants to metabolize it and get it out of your system before focusing on the digestion of other nutrients. This hinders the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates, putting them on the back burner. This means fat oxidation is impaired as your body is using alcohol as the main source of energy, causing excess lipids from fat, and glucose from carbs, to end up getting stored.
What’s more, as we mentioned, alcohol also interferes with the efficient digestion of food and this, as well as alcohol itself irritates and stresses the stomach and the rest of the gut. As a result, you produce less digestive juices, so your food isn’t broken down well and nutrients aren’t appropriately absorbed, so they don’t get to the organs that rely on them to aid metabolism. Clearly, this is bad news for your speedy, fat-burning metabolism and for your weight loss goals.
Does drinking alcohol make you want to eat more?
While alcohol has a negative impact on your metabolism, adding to trouble for fat loss, it seems to trigger neurons in the brain that stimulate appetite, typically leading to overindulgence and/or making unhealthy food choices. This can be particularly problematic given that alcohol lowers your inhibitions so you care less about your weight loss, while also making you hungrier, ah!
Our clients tell us that if they don’t use our techniques to prevent overindulging when they drink alcohol, they typically overdo it when it comes to food, not just alcohol. Of course, both feeling hungrier and overeating spell trouble particularly when your body is not working efficiently to get the extra food digested appropriately.
Weight loss and alcohol
Adding to this, alcohol causes blood sugar swings and when blood sugar crashes it can trigger cravings for sugary foods as the brain craves sugar for a quick pick-me-up. Most people reach for calorie-dense foods when this happens. This is why we help our clients to prevent the blood sugar dips caused by alcohol, plus, doing so helps to prevent hangovers! (We share tips for this below).
A few more things to consider that will help to motivate you to use our strategies to help negate some of these effects while losing weight…
- Too much alcohol is hard on the liver and can lead to the accumulation of fat and insulin resistance.
- Poor sleep quality linked to alcohol intake can contribute to weight gain, and its influence on hormones might amplify cravings.
Now that you know some of the ways that alcohol impacts your body and how it can interfere with health and weight loss, let’s dive into tactics to counteract these effects! Cheers to your weight loss journey and not having to sacrifice the things you love!- -here are 6 strategies to start you on your way!
Determine how many drinks you will have before you start drinking.
This way, as the drinks are flowing you will have a plan with a set number of drinks in your head, rather than just drinking willy-nilly and accepting each drink that comes your way. We recommend limiting alcohol to one to two drinks maximum per night. You’ll save hundreds of calories compared to what the average person typically drinks in a night with cocktails.
We highly recommend writing down or sharing out loud with a friend the amount you decide to stick to to help to hold you accountable. There’s something about putting it on paper and/or stating it out loud that helps you to commit. Our clients often like to tell us their limit and commit to it out loud with us and then they tell us they picture us in their minds when they are out drinking and it helps to hold them accountable! 🙂
Make it easy to follow the “every other” rule.
Alternating every alcoholic beverage with a lower-calorie, alcohol-free beverage to slash calories and consume less alcohol over the course of the night is a lot easier when you have a delicious, non-alcoholic, low-calorie alternative. While many people find soda to be a tasty option, remember that regular soda is loaded with calories and tons of sugar.
And while diet soda is calorie-free, if you’ve been seeing recent headlines, you’ve seen that aspartame, the artificial sweetener, also known as NutraSweet has been shown to damage DNA and to be a possible carcinogen and also negatively impact the gut microbiome, including in ways that favor weight gain and increase fat storage, particularly around the abdomen and increase fat in the muscle. This was shown to be the case for saccharine as well as for diet beverages. No, thank you!
For a delicious drink alternative, go for a flavored seltzer with a splash of lemon or lime or a small splash of juice, like cranberry juice! Or try our Raspberry Ginger Lime “Detox” Drink.
Keep in mind, that alcohol has been shown to disrupt the gut microbiota, allowing bad bacteria to more heavily populate your gut. This is so important if you’re looking to avoid weight gain, as bad gut bacteria mess with your metabolism, favoring weight gain. This makes every other rule more impactful besides just saving you calories, as you’re also protecting your gut microbiome.
Fill up on veggies and protein before you start drinking.
We’ve found this to be particularly helpful for our clients and make a big impact on the scale, particularly for women. The fiber and protein keep blood sugar on an even keel and help to keep you satiated, helping to counteract alcohol’s ability to lower your inhibitions. This way, you’re less likely to make poor food and drink choices. You’ll also be a bit fuller, so filling your stomach with more liquid from alcohol will be less appealing.
Another benefit of filling up on protein and fiber and reaping their blood sugar-stabilizing benefits before drinking alcohol is that doing so helps to blunt the blood sugar swings that occur from drinking alcohol. While drinking alcohol often results in rebound hypoglycemia during sleep, interfering with a good night’s rest, the protein and fiber help offset this, resulting in better sleep following alcohol consumption. This is good news for your health and for your weight–when you don’t sleep well your metabolism is negatively affected and you’re more likely to crave sugar and extra food.
Another bonus? Much of the hangover effects occur from blood sugar swings. Preventing the blood sugar swings means a less severe hangover!
Go for light beer and low-carb beer.
Beer can range from 64-198 calories per 12 ounces, so you can cut calories by one-third to one-half by choosing the light options, which is a significant saving over time. Our clients have varying tastes when it comes to low-carb and light beer, so if you don’t love one brand, try another (and another, until you find your favorites!). You may find that you like them all.
Have alcohol as dessert, not the appetizer.
Starting a night with alcohol and an empty stomach sets you up to feel the effects of alcohol sooner, making you hungrier and care less about what you eat and drink. Saving the alcohol for dessert helps to ensure you’ll be satisfied when you indulge and have fewer hours of drinking and less food ahead of you to help prevent overindulging.
Just like having protein and fiber before drinking, eating your meal before drinking alcohol will also help to offset the blood sugar swings that alcohol causes, particularly helping you to sleep better with fewer blood sugar dips and less interrupted sleep.
Compared to other wines, it has fewer calories (roughly 90 in a 5-ounce wine glass) compared to 125 in most other wines. Most mixed drinks clock in around 300-600 calories.
Use standard wine glasses.
A standard serving of wine is 5 ounces. If you drink from a large glass, it’s easy to consume two servings of wine and mistakenly believe you had one glass. Matters get worse for your waistline—if you have two of the large glasses of wine, you’ll get the calories and alcohol in 4 servings!
We had a client who went to the same restaurant several times a week and they served her in a very large wine glass. When we pointed out to her that she may be getting more than she thought, she measured it and found out that she was getting more like 12 ounces in each glass (not the 5 she thought!). She lost weight quickly when she started drinking 10 ounces of wine each night instead of 24!
So there you have it! You still can have your favorite cocktail and lose weight too, simply follow these tips! –
If you’re curious how our clients have applied these tips to their lives, we’ll tell you about Rachel.
Rachel came to us right after she turned 48 years old and said every year since she turned 30 she literally had gained one pound a year and that while it was a slow and steady increase, she now found herself 18 pounds above her ideal weight.
She said she came to us for help because she knew we like to make sure that everyone is indulging in the foods that they love while working to get lean because she realized that’s the secret to achieving sustainable weight loss.
Rachel really wanted to be able to enjoy a bit of alcohol while losing weight and said she’d choose it any day, even over chocolate. However, she said that if she had even a little bit of alcohol, she’d gain weight. And she couldn’t figure out what was happening. It was driving her crazy!
We started with her as we do with all clients by looking at her prior labs, medical history, diet, and lifestyle and we made some tweaks that got her body functioning better and her metabolism functioning optimally. Then, we improved her digestion so that she started to absorb more of the nutrients from food.
Personalized hacks to drink alcohol and weight loss
Also, we made a few dietary changes that saved her extra calories. And when it came to the alcohol, what worked best in her lifestyle was the protein and veggies beforehand as well as the “every other rule” (these work like magic for so many people). When she started using just those two strategies, the pounds started coming off. And in just over six months she lost the 18 pounds she had been holding onto over the last 18 years!
We still meet with her monthly and she continues at her ideal weight. She always says how important it is for her to use the “Protein and veggies first” trick and it’s been a game-changer for her to alternate alcoholic beverages with alcohol-free, low-calorie drinks. She typically goes for prosecco followed by a seltzer with a splash of lemon or lime. However, if she can get seltzer and a splash of pineapple, that makes the “every other” rule even easier for her to follow! And she’s really good about just using a splash of the juice!
We hope you use these tips the next time you find yourself at a social gathering or simply unwinding at home with a drink in hand because they will change your life and help you enjoy your alcohol while losing weight for good!