If weight loss is your goal, cutting back on boozy beverages can help. But exactly how long after stopping drinking will you lose weight, and how much weight can you lose by not drinking alcohol?
When it comes to weight loss, eliminating alcohol is not the only step you can take — it's just one habit that may help, in addition to other lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
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So if you're quitting drinking to lose weight, here's what to expect.
There's no specific timeline or amount of weight loss to expect when you cut out alcohol. How fast you lose weight, how much and what else happens to your body when you stop drinking, will depend on factors like your diet, exercise, age and genetics.
How Soon Will You Lose Weight After Quitting Alcohol?
If you're able to create that 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit every day by cutting alcohol, eating a nutritious diet and exercising, you may lose a pound or two of weight in the first week after stopping drinking, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How long it takes to lose alcohol weight, though, depends on how much you typically drink. Per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), other factors also affect how much weight you lose, including:
- Race or ethnicity
- Daily activity
- How much sleep you get
- Where you live
How Alcohol Slows Weight Loss
If you're not accounting for those extra cocktails, you may end up with a few extra pounds around your waistline. Even drinking in moderation can add calories to your diet. Per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, here's the definition of moderate drinking for adults:
- People assigned female at birth: Up to one drink per day
- People assigned male at birth: Up to two drinks per day
Here's how many calories some common drinks contain, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM):
- One 12-oz. beer: 153
- 1.5 oz. of 80-proof gin, rum, vodka or whiskey: 97
- One 4-oz. margarita: 168
- One 4-oz. mimosa: 75
- One 4.6-oz. Bloody Mary: 120
- One 5-oz. glass of white wine: 128
- One 5-oz. glass of red wine: 125
And it's not just the calories from alcohol that can slow your metabolism. It's also the plate of nachos or extra slices of pizza that can come with a night of drinking.
A March 2015 study in Current Obesity Reports found that when alcohol consumption goes up, the ability to make nutritious dietary choices goes down — in other words, it's easier to choose high-fat, high-sugar foods while sipping alcohol.
Will I Lose Weight if I Stop Drinking Alcohol?
If you stop drinking, it's possible that you'll lose weight if you sustain the habit over time.
Why? Well, creating a daily calorie deficit — where you burn more calories than you take in — is a key component of any weight-loss plan, according to the Mayo Clinic. Alcoholic drinks are often high-calorie, so when you cut them out, you've suddenly got a deficit.
Cutting 500 to 1,000 calories per day (by eating fewer calories and/or exercising) can help you lose weight at a safe and sustainable pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week, per the Mayo Clinic. And depending on how much and how often you drink, cutting out alcohol could substantially contribute to that deficit.
For instance, if you've stopped sipping your two glasses of white wine each evening, you'll create a deficit of about 256 calories, per the NLM.
Depending on how many calories you cut by eliminating alcohol from your diet, you may need to supplement your deficit by eating fewer calories overall or exercising more often (more on that later).
Weight-loss tactics don't have to be all-or-nothing. Cutting out some of your alcohol consumption while still allowing yourself to enjoy a drink every now and then can also be an effective way to cut calories without restricting yourself too much.
How Much Weight Can You Lose if You Stop Drinking?
How much weight you can lose when you quit drinking depends on factors like your current weight, activity level, diet and genetics, though you can typically aim for a safe weight-loss pace of 1 to 2 pounds a week.
A great example is this woman featured by LIVESTRONG.com that lost 50 pounds in one year by quitting booze and late-night binge eating.
Per the NIDDK, certain factors can make it more challenging for someone to lose weight, such as:
- Having an underlying medical condition
- Taking certain medications
- Having unmanaged stress
Do You Retain Water When You Quit Drinking?
If you are not losing weight after you quit drinking, you could be retaining water. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes you to pee more than the normal amount, according to a July 2017 study in Nutrients.
That's why your body could be holding onto more water than typical, and why it seems as though you're gaining weight since you quit drinking. This is water weight that will go away over time.
Other Weight-Loss Tips
Cutting out alcohol isn't the only way to shed pounds.
Here are some other strategies to help you lose weight.
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a nutritious diet is an important part of any weight-loss program. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should eat the following nutrients and foods every day:
On the other hand, limit foods like:
What Alcohol Can You Drink When Trying to Lose Weight?
Lower-calorie drink options include rum, whiskey, vodka and tequila (100 calories per serving); wine (125 calories per serving); champagne (95 calories for 4 oz glass); and light beer (between 60 and 100 calories per serving).
A good rule of thumb on diet-friendly alcohol: the higher the proof, the higher the calories.
Besides cutting out alcohol, you can also supplement a calorie deficit for weight loss by exercising. And even if weight loss isn't your aim, including daily physical activity in your day can help prevent or manage health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, mood disorders and more, per the Mayo Clinic.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of intense cardio exercise) and at least two strength training sessions per week.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Getting less than that regularly can rev up your hunger hormones, prompt your body to store more belly fat and weaken your willpower when it comes to eating healthy and getting exercise.
4. Manage Stress
When we're stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. When those levels stay elevated, it can prompt the body to store belly fat. Not to mention that when you're distracted by stress, it's harder to focus on healthy eating and making time for exercise.
To help keep your stress levels in check, try regular meditation, deep breathing and exercise or movement you enjoy.
- Current Obesity Reports: "Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"
- Mayo Clinic: "Follow the Healthy Weight Pyramid"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Calorie count - Alcoholic beverages"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- National Institute of of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Factors Affecting Weight & Health"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How Much Sleep Do I Need?"
- Nutrients: "The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial"