Having to say no to your favorite cocktail because you're on a diet may result in you ditching the diet altogether. However, drinking in moderation may leave room for an occasional drink. Plus, if you're counting carbs, there is no sugar in whiskey and other low-carb alcoholic drinks.
No, drinking alcohol does not help with weight loss. However, there are ways to cut back on calories and sugar when choosing a cocktail.
Sugar in Whiskey
If you're watching your sugar intake, straight hard alcohol such as whiskey and brandy won't put a dent in your daily allowance. That's because the sugar in whiskey and the sugar content in brandy are both 0 grams per ounce. But if you're trying to lose weight, you also need to be concerned with the number of calories you're consuming.
Whiskey has 70 calories and no sugar per 1-ounce serving, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). While brandy has 64.7 calories and zero grams of sugar per 1-ounce serving, according to USDA FoodData Central, the reason these liquors have no sugar is that they get all of their calories from alcohol.
However, just because you're not consuming carbs, and more specifically sugar, doesn't mean sipping on a cocktail should be considered a freebie on your diet plan. In addition to the calories, which typically range from 65 calories to 80 calories for 1 ounce of alcohol, many drinks also contain mixers that increase the calorie and carb content of your favorite beverage.
With that in mind, it's easy to see that drinking hard alcohol doesn't help with weight loss, but in limited amounts, you may be able to enjoy the occasional drink.
Alcohol and Weight Loss
Depending on your weight loss goals and your drink of choice, swapping your nightly cocktail for a glass of lemon water may be in order. Many mixed drinks contain far more than 1 ounce of alcohol. In addition to a serving of alcohol, quite a few beverages include soft drinks such as ginger ale, cola or lemon-lime. Some also add in juices like tomato, orange, pineapple and cranberry.
Unless you're asking for the diet version of these drinks, you could be looking at an additional 50 to 77 calories, with the majority of the calories coming from carbohydrate sources such as sugar. This is based on a drink that contains 4 to 6 ounces of soda and 2 ounces of alcohol.
Fortunately, there are some low-carb alcoholic drinks that keep the calories low and the sugars to a minimum. For starters, consider ordering your usual cocktail, but ask for a diet version of the soda instead of regular. You can also swap out a lemon-lime soft drink for soda water and lime. Finally, there are many low-sugar juices to choose from including, lemonade and cranberry. While not free from carbs and sugar, they do cut the amount in half.
Weight Loss Basics
When it comes to losing weight, eating less and moving more, is a great place to start. But, to really tackle the pounds and boost your overall health, you need to put a little more effort into what you're eating and drinking and how often you're moving your body.
To lose one pound a week, the Cleveland Clinic recommends subtracting 500 calories each day from your diet. If you're not quite ready to cut that much, consider adding exercise. You can still lose one pound a week if you reduce your calories by 250 each day and include daily exercise that results in a 250 calorie loss.
Walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes can burn anywhere between 150 to 222 calories, depending on your weight, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Increase the intensity by going for a run, and you're now looking at potentially burning 240 to 355 calories.
Determining the number of calories you need each day depends on your age, weight and activity level. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that sedentary females aged 26 to 50 consume 1,800 calories per day, and sedentary men ages 26 to 40 should aim for 2,400 calories per day. If you're moderately active and want to maintain your current weight, you can add 200 calories to your day.
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Whiskey"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Brandy"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How to Lose Weight"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 2"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cola Soft Drink"