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How Bad Is Alcohol for Weight Loss?

author image Elle Paula
Elle Paula has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.
How Bad Is Alcohol for Weight Loss?
A standard margarita packs 550 calories, more than 5 glasses of wine. Photo Credit: fortyforks/iStock/GettyImages

On average, 36 percent of men and 21 percent of women consume alcohol each day, according to Fox News Magazine. When embarking on a weight loss journey, alcohol is often first on the “no-no” list. Although it’s possible to drink alcohol in moderation and still lose weight, regular or excessive alcohol can significantly hinder your weight loss efforts.

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Tipping Back Calories

Alcohol itself contains 7 calories per gram -- almost double the 4 calories per gram from protein and carbohydrates and just 2 calories short of the 9 from fat. Unlike carbohydrates, protein and fat from whole foods, however, alcohol doesn’t provide any feelings of satiety, so you’re likely to drink these calories in addition to the calories you’re eating. It’s not just the calories in alcohol itself that cause disruptions in weight loss, but also the calories that come from mixers like soda and sugary syrups. While a 4-ounce glass of red wine contains 95 calories, a margarita packs a whopping 550 calories. That's almost half of your entire calorie count for the day if you’re on a 1,200-calorie weight-loss diet.

Drinking Away Inhibitions

Alcohol has a tendency to lower inhibitions, making you more likely to indulge in foods that you would otherwise stay away from when trying to lose weight. You may start out with good intentions, but after a couple drinks, that pizza and those french fries or nachos aren’t as off limits as you’d originally planned.

Messing with Metabolism

Drinking alcohol also interferes with the way your body burns fat, a vital component to successful weight loss. Normally, the liver metabolizes fat calories allowing you to use them for energy. When you drink alcohol, fat metabolism takes a backseat to the breakdown of the alcohol. Instead of using fat for energy, your body turns to the calories from the alcohol. This causes a buildup of fatty acids and can hinder weight loss.

Drinking Smartly

You don’t have to completely avoid alcohol when you’re trying to lose weight, but limiting consumption and making smart choices are vital to success. When you do drink, don’t drink more than recommended amounts -- one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. A drink is defined as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of spirits. Choose wine, light beer or a low-calorie mixer, such as club soda, over juice or cola. Don’t skip dinner in an effort to conserve calories. Instead, eat a healthy, satisfying meal before you indulge. That way, you’ll be less likely to drink too much or binge on unhealthy foods.

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