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Feb 23 / Jeremy & Kim

Alcohol and Weight Loss

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Calories in AlcoholConsuming alcohol is a common aspect of many people’s lives, whether it is a glass of wine with dinner, happy hour with friends, or a Friday night blow out.  But what if you are serious about losing weight?  Does your fat loss plan necessitate that you decline the invitation to your friend’s party or commit to drinking only soda water with lime at happy hour?  Does it make a difference if you drink light beer or regular beer?  Is liquor loaded with calories and sugar?  Are some choices healthier than others?  Let’s discuss various options and see if we can make some recommendations for those who choose to consume  alcohol  while trying to lose weight.

Let’s be honest…

You will most likely lose fat faster if you completely refrain from alcohol while you are trying to burn fat.   When it comes to fat loss, calorie is king, and when people drink they are much more likely to consume large amounts of calories whether it’s from eating too much food along with the liquor or the sometimes ghastly amount of calories in some of those brighter colored beverages.

It is also worth noting that alcohol consumption limits the amount of healthy calories you can eat while cutting fat.  This is because alcohol consists of calories that have little to no nutritional value, often referred to as ‘empty calories.’  If you are limiting your caloric intake to lose fat, then this means you have to limit the number of healthy calories you consume to maintain steady weight loss (i.e., every empty calorie of alcohol you consume is one less healthy calorie of fat, protein, or carbohydrate you can consume).

However, alcohol does not necessarily have to inhibit your weight loss progress either.  You just need to make informed decisions and do a little planning when you know there will be a social event you just can’t miss.  Besides, sometimes you just need to be able to unwind guilt free after a long day.  Fat loss should not be a miserable experience and having a drink every now and then is okay, just drink smart (i.e. in moderation and with the lowest caloric intake possible)

So if you are going to imbibe in an occasional adult beverage while you are trying to lose weight then let’s discuss some of your best and worst options.  The list below begins with the worst choice you could make and follows in order to our recommendation.

The worst first.

The Umbrellas: Margaritas, mudslides, and all other super fruity brightly colored drinks that are served with umbrellas.

Did you know that there can be up to 195 calories in only 6 oz. of margarita mix (and that doesn’t include the Tequila!).   The reasons to avoid these should be obvious.  They taste so good because they are full of sugar and empty calories!  If you are serious about weight loss, then these are not for you.  AVOID at all costs.

The soda mixers:  Full calorie sodas (e.g. pepsi, 7up, tonic)

Even if your favorite alcohol contains very few calories per ounce these mixers will send your caloric intake way over the top!  One can of coke has 140 calories (again not including the liquor).  These mixers add a ton of calories and are loaded with sugar.  They will make a week’s worth of cutting calories and exercise null and void if you drink them throughout the night.

Calories in BeerBeer:  We are not going to bother distinguishing between light beer and dark beer, low carb beer and wheat beer.   If you like to have a beer at your house to wind down at the end of the day, that is fine, but keep in mind that you are adding between 96-185 calories per beer.  Limit yourself to only one.  If you are at happy hour or hanging out on Saturday night with friends and you have trouble limiting the number of beers you consume then try something else (without an umbrella!).  Beers can go down quickly and social drinking with beer will usually mean the consumption of at least 500 additional calories.  Ouch! There goes the workout the day’s workout, and the hangover will probably take care of tomorrows workout, too. Though some beers don’t necessarily have a high calorie count per bottle, it is designed to be less filling and it can be extremely difficult to limit your intake of beer in social settings.  Who cares if your beer only has 84 calories if you end up drinking 6 bottles!?

Calories in WineRed Wine:  Wine is really not a bad option; it is just not the least caloric option.  Red wine has been proven to have some health benefits when consumed in moderation (i.e. one glass per day).  If you love red wine and 1 glass a day is your modus operandi, then feel free to continue, but make sure you’re considering the additional calories.  One 5 oz. glass of red wine can contain up to 145 calories.  If you plan on a night of drinking red wine, then the calories will add up fast and the headache will hit you hard the next day.

White Wine:  As with red wine, if you are a habitual wine drinker on a diet then it is best to limit yourself to 1 glass due to the amount of calories you will consume.  A 5 oz. glass of white wine usually contains about 120 calories.  If you’re at the bar and find they are going down fast, then maybe it is better to switch to something with lower calories that you can sip, or switch to soda water with lime.

The Best Options are on the Top Shelf!

If you are heading to a party or an evening soiree, the best choice you could possibly make is to drink liquor without the sugary calorie loaded mixers.  Generally, the caloric intake of one drink (1.5 oz.) of 80 proof  liquor is between 95 – 105 calories.  Sure some beers have fewer calories per bottle, but many people will drink 2-3 beers in the time it takes to sip a glass of scotch.  In the end, the scotch wins, but be warned, Liquor is Quicker, so if you choose these options then make sure that you drink them slowly or mix them with a calorie free soda (e.g. diet cola, diet tonic, soda water).  From our experience most people who see you drinking whiskey neat or on the rocks expect you to take your time to enjoy it.  As long as they see a drink in your hand they won’t push you to get another.  You won’t be expected to keep pace with all the beer chuggers.

Calories in Liquor

If you are going to consume alcohol during weight loss, then keep the above list in mind.  It will help to ensure that you don’t throw your weight loss gains down the tube simply because you wanted to join your friends for happy hour.  If you find it difficult to limit the amount of calories you consume through alcoholic beverages throughout the week, then there as a way to manage your diet to be prepared for the occasional caloric splurge.  The method is called intermittent fasting and you can learn all about it by checking out Brad Pilon’s book, Eat Stop Eat.

What is your favorite weight loss alcohol?  Let us know in the comments below.


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  1. Waist, Hips, and Thighs / Feb 24 2011

    I must admit alcohol is something I enjoy and I find myself telling people to stay away from it. The reason is simply because I know how to drink empty calories and at the same time make the sacrifice by not eating as much calories that day or the day before.

    If I know a party or bar-b-que is coming up I will simply put some calories on reserve for those days by eating less on others. So instead of having 2000 calories i might on have 1000 or 1500 on two days. People use to say Im not eating enough but I say they are eating too much thats why they cant lose weight.

    I still go out, have fun, eat burgers from BK, drink, etc. but I know what is enough. And those little mixed drinks are loaded with calories so be careful.

    Nice Post!


  2. Raymond-ZenMyFitness / Feb 24 2011

    When I was trying to lose a lot of weight I did avoid alcohol completely it just deosn’t make sense but now I’m at my target weight I’ve eased up a bit will have a glass of red or a beer every now and then.
    But I certainly stopped the daily drinking it wasn’t getting me anywhere, in fact when I do have it I really appreciate the taste now.

  3. I have to admit my challenge is the fact that once I start drinking I really can’t stop eating! My way around this thought is like Thomas; I try and prepare for the days when I know I’ll be a little naughty by eating less and eating clean, and I always find I feel better afterwards when I cut back on the eating and let my body recover for a while.


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