How does alcohol affect weight loss?
Find out if your drinking could be making it harder to achieve your weight loss goals.
If you’re carrying a few extra pounds losing weight could have wide ranging benefits for your health and wellbeing. Watch the video below to see the effect alcohol could be having on your weight.
The key to losing weight is to burn more calories than you consume, and reducing the amount you drink can help you lower your calorie intake. And it’s not just the calories you’ll cut out that could help you get in shape; cutting back on alcohol will mean you’ll get a better night’s sleep1 so you’ll feel refreshed and perhaps have a little more motivation to go for that morning run or swim.
It’s important to remember that you should only try to lose weight if your BMI (Body Mass Index) is above the healthy range for your age, height and gender. You can find out your BMI using the BMI calculator on the NHS choices website.
Alcohol is higher in calories than most people realise, containing seven calories per gram2, compared to protein and carbohydrate which have around four calories per gram and fat which has nine. The calorific nature of alcoholic drinks can be deceptive, as while you may know treating yourself to a pizza is a bit of an indulgence, but a few drinks after work every so often might not seem anything out of the ordinary. However, a pint of beer can have as many calories as a large slice of pizza, and a large glass of white wine could be the same as an ice cream and cone, so the calories in those few drinks can quickly add up. What’s more, calories in alcohol are considered ‘empty’ calories, as they don’t provide any nutrients.
It’s not just the calories in alcohol that can contribute to weight gain, it’s also the greasy takeaway food that seems so appealing on the way home from the pub, or the chocolate at the back of the fridge after a couple of glasses of wine at home. Drinking less makes it easier to stick to your healthier meal choices, which in time will have a positive impact on your waistline.
The ways in which drinking less can make it easier to lose weight don’t end there. Whether you workout, jog or play sport exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight, and there’s no question that drinking less will make exercising that bit easier. If you’ve ever tried to drag yourself to the gym with a hangover, you’ll know what we mean. As alcohol is a diuretic, your body is dehydrated after a night of drinking, affecting the flow of blood through your body during exercise3. Being dehydrated also means your body can’t control its temperature as effectively, making you more likely to overheat4. Combining this with the other symptoms of a hangover such as a pounding head and sensitivity to light means exercising the morning after can be a real struggle.
Making a change for the better requires motivation and dedication, and that motivation will come much more easily if you wake up clear headed and well rested.
Drinking less to lose weight is a great idea if combined with a balanced diet and regular exercise. If you’d like to reduce your alcohol intake on a night out, why not try alternating every alcoholic drink you have with a glass of water or low-calorie soft drink? This will slow down the rate of your drinking and keep you hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is also recommended for people trying to lose weight, as it can keep you from mistaking thirst for hunger and snacking more5.
You could also try switching your regular pint for a low alcohol beer. Low alcohol beers tend to be lower calorie as well, so you’ll be consuming fewer calories as well as being more likely to wake up well rested.
If you drink wine, you could try adding soda to a small glass of wine to make a spritzer that lasts just as long as a large glass, to help you cut back the calories.
Finally, try keeping track of your drinking using the MyDrinkaware Online Drinks Tracker or our free Track and Calculate Units mobile app. You’ll be able to set yourself goals for reducing your drinking, and get even more tips and advice for cutting down.
 Roehrs, T. and Roth, T., (2001) Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use. Alcohol research and Health, 25(2), pp.101-109.
 Tayie, F. A., & Beck, G. L. (2016). Alcoholic beverage consumption contributes to caloric and moisture intakes and body weight status. Nutrition, 32(7), 799-805.Shirreffs, SM and Maughan, RJ (1997). Restoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: effects of alcohol consumption, J Appl Physiol 83: 1152-8.
 Sawka MN, Burke LM, Eichner ER, Maughan RJ, Montain SJ, Stachenfeld NS (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39:377–390.
 Dennis, E. A., Flack, K. D., & Davy, B. M. (2009). Beverage Consumption and Adult Weight Management: A Review. Eating Behaviors, 10(4), 237–246.