Can You Enjoy Alcohol and Still Lose Weight?

Written by: Ashleigh Tosh

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Time to read 6 min

Raise a glass Goal Planners! The burning question on the minds of many is whether it's possible to enjoy a drink or two while still shedding those extra pounds.

 

And considering the 2024 season of Dry January is just about to come to an end, we’re sure many of you are wondering if re-introducing your favourite tipple will end up tipping your scales the wrong way.

 

Which, to be fair, is understandable considering we often hear that drinking and weight loss don't mix, but is that true?  Or is there a way you can still enjoy a drink, and hit your weight loss goals?

 

Without further ado, let's dive into the world of alcohol and weight loss to uncover the truth and provide you with evidenced tips on how to include alcohol without sabotaging your weight loss journey.

The Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Weight Loss

It's no secret that alcohol can impact our bodies in various ways, from making our skin look dull and ageing to messing up your sleep, forcing your blood pressure to rise and… hangxiety.

 

But when it comes to weight gain, alcohol is a real sneaky devil. You see, when you consume it, your body prioritises metabolising the alcohol itself, potentially slowing down other metabolic processes, including, you guessed it - fat burning.

 

Moreover, alcohol itself carries a high caloric content. For example, a single gram of pure alcohol contains about 7 calories, almost as much as a gram of fat, which has 9 calories!

 

On top of this, drinking can lead to poor food choices and overeating. I mean, we've all experienced those late-night cravings for greasy snacks after a few drinks. Plus, alcohol can lower inhibitions, making it harder to resist reaching for that extra slice of pizza or bag of crisps.

 

Basically, when we drink, it’s like the gateway to unhealthy choices just swings wide open, and onwards we skip without a care in the world until we wake up the next day bloated to beyond and feeling not too fresh.


In the United Kingdom:

"It's recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across 3 days or more. That's around 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine, or 6 pints of 4% beer. There's no completely safe level of drinking, but sticking within these guidelines lowers your risk of harming your health."

Source: NHS

Understanding Moderation and Mindful Consumption

You would think the simplest option is to swear off the Big A completely, BUT before you take the T-total plunge, understanding the key concepts of moderation and mindful consumption is crucial.

 

Moderation means finding the sweet spot between enjoying alcohol and not overindulging. The key is to be conscious of the quantity and frequency of your alcohol consumption.

 

Generally, moderate alcohol intake is roughly defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, although it's important to remember that "a drink" refers to a specific quantity, or unit measurement.

Of course, if you’d like to go T-Total, whether for weight loss or other health reasons that’s amazing!   The benefits of doing so are many, for instance:

Short-term benefits

  • Feeling better in the mornings
  • Being less tired and more energetic
  • Better-looking skin
  • Saving some money

Source: NHS Alcohol Guidelines

Long-term benefits

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of stroke, hypertension, cancer and liver disease
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Better mood, memory and quality of sleep
  • Help with weight management

That said, we’re here to question if you can still lose weight whilst enjoying a glass or two a week – and, in short, yes, you can! You just have to be strategic in how you approach it…

Strategies for Balancing Alcohol and Weight Loss Goals

I chatted with Goal Plans' resident PT extraordinaire, Jess for her top tips on how to strike a balance between enjoying alcohol and achieving your weight loss goals, here’s what she had to say:

1. Choose lower-calorie options

Some alcoholic beverages are more waistline-friendly than others. Choose light beers, wine spritzers, or spirits mixed with low-calorie mixers like soda water or diet soda. Avoid sugary cocktails laden with syrups and sweeteners, as they pile on the empty calories.

2. Seek alternatives

Explore alternatives to calorie-dense alcoholic beverages. For instance, swap a traditional margarita for a tequila with club soda and fresh lime juice. Get creative with mocktails or try non-alcoholic beers or wines.

3. Be mindful of portion sizes

Keep an eye on the size of your drinks. Use appropriate glassware to avoid overpouring, as larger servings can quickly add up the calories and grab yourself a measurer for spirits.

4. Prioritise alcohol-free days

It's essential to give your body regular breaks from alcohol. Designate specific days each week where you abstain from drinking. This practice not only aids weight loss but also promotes overall well-being.

Lifestyle Factors and Healthy Habits

Remember, drinking isn't the sole factor when it comes to weight loss. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to achieving your goals so as well as moderating your intake, make sure to:

1. Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity is crucial for weight loss. By incorporating exercise into your routine you’ll burn calories, boost metabolism, and improve overall health.

2. Eat a Balanced Diet

While enjoying alcohol, it's important not to neglect your diet. Choose for a well-balanced meal plan that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.  

 

And please, please, please don’t not eat just because you’re planning on having a glass of wine with the girls or beer with the boys. This is the sort of disordered eating minefield we want to avoid.

3. Hydration is King

Alcohol can be dehydrating – if you’ve never experienced the dry Sahara that is your mouth post drinking, you’re very fortunate.

 

Thing is, staying hydrated can be easy when enjoying a few, simply alternate alcoholic drinks with water! This will not only quench your thirst but also help reduce overall alcohol consumption too, thus helping your weight loss goals stay within reach.

Keeping Hydrated

Final Thoughts…

So, the answer to the question "Can you enjoy alcohol and still lose weight?" is a resounding yes, but within limits.

 

Maintaining moderation and practicing mindful consumption are essential components of incorporating alcohol while on a weight loss journey. However, drinking to excess regularly will likely make your weight loss journey a whole lot harder, if you struggle with this there is some useful information at the end of this article for you.

 

By making informed choices, opting for lower-calorie beverages, watching portion sizes, and balancing alcohol with a healthy lifestyle, you can enjoy the occasional drink while still making progress towards your weight loss goals.

 

Now go ahead, raise that glass with confidence, and savour your drink while knowing that you can still achieve your desired weight loss. Cheers to a balanced and enjoyable journey!

Medical Warning

Get medical advice before you stop drinking if you have physical withdrawal symptoms (like shaking, sweating or feeling anxious until you have your first drink of the day). It can be dangerous to stop drinking too quickly without proper help.


There's lots of support out there. Find your local alcohol support service now, or you can call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 for free, confidential help for anyone who is concerned about their own or someone else's drinking.

 

Source: NHS Alcohol Guidelines

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Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh Tosh

Wordsmith, bookworm, and avid food enthusiast. With a background in broadcast journalism, Ashleigh has been writing for the health & wellness sector for a decade. She is the lead copywriter at MuscleFood, feeding her passion for all things food and fitness. When she's not writing or typing away, you might find her sweating it out in the gym, exploring culinary creations in the kitchen, or conquering Scottish Munros.