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Does Alcohol Effect Weight Loss? You Bet'cha!

food Feb 19, 2024

“I lost 30 pounds and it’s all your fault.”

As a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach, these words are usually music to my ears. But this greeting came from someone who wasn’t my client. She was an acquaintance and former client (from 10+ years ago). We run into each other occasionally, and often our conversations meander around to weight, food, and health. For purposes of this article, I’ll call her Annie.

“Hooray,” I said, “What did you do?”

“I took your advice and stopped drinking.”

Wow! I often advise my weight-loss clients to stop drinking if they are serious about losing weight. It’s a rare moment when that advice is heeded, and the results are so tangible.

Annie didn’t drink to excess. She is the president of a non-profit though, so wining and dining clients and donors is a regular part of her job. She attends events, dinners, and lunches regularly where she may have 1-2 drinks and maybe enjoy a beer or two on a weekend.

She's Just Like You. 

Like many of my clients, Annie is perimenopausal and moderately active. Perimenopause wreaks havoc on many a woman’s body. And, while it’s clear that hormones can play an important part in weight fluctuations, sometimes it’s much less complicated than that. Annie had a few things working in her favor.

  • She asked for help.
  • She made a change.
  • She could quantify the results.

This article is focused on alcohol and weight loss, so I’m not going to dive into the hormonal side of mid-life weight gain/loss for women. Follow me, though, and you may see an article on this topic in the near future.

In the time between when we had our conversation and when I saw her, the only significant change she made was giving up alcohol. And it wasn’t even that difficult for her. She simply changed her drink order when she was out with clients to ginger ale with a lime twist and stopped drinking on the weekends. Over the course of a few months, the weight came off.

Why did it work?

Alcohol can sabotage everything when you’re working on weight loss or health improvement. At a minimum, it will delay your progress. At its worst, it will completely derail your gains. Let’s look at why.

You Don’t Have to Be Drunk to Be Intoxicated.

Up to 20% of the alcohol you consume is absorbed directly into the bloodstream from your stomach. The other 80% makes its way to your small intestine, where it is absorbed and then processed in the liver.

Your liver can process (detoxify) 1 ounce of alcohol per hour. If you’re drinking more than one drink per hour, or if that drink has more than 1 ounce of alcohol in it, the excess alcohol remains in your bloodstream, waiting to be processed by your liver. This is when intoxication happens. Intoxication at any level can impact your brain’s ability to make decisions and control impulses. Here’s how eliminating alcohol turned things around for Annie.

Immediate Positive Outcomes.

  • Healthier Decisions All Day Long. Decision-making ability, especially as it concerns your health goes out the window. As you move from your first drink to your second, your brain’s ability to make healthful decisions may become altered. As you begin feeling over-confident and decide that the indulgence of extra calories won’t hurt, or you may forget that you have any health or weight-loss-related goals at all. When Annie eliminated the alcohol, she made healthier choices at the events she was attending and throughout her regular days.
  • Improved Sleep Quantity and Quality. Even if you’re just enjoying one or two drinks at dinner, the quality of your sleep can diminish by up to 24%. I’ve seen this myself in data from my FitBit. A single glass of wine 3 hours before bed drastically lowered my sleep quality score and increased my resting heart rate. Getting enough sleep and getting high-quality sleep is crucial for weight loss and health maintenance. Removing alcohol increased both of these for Annie.
  • Reduced Calorie Intake Without Changing Eating Habits. Alcoholic drinks, from wine to fancy cocktails, contain 150 to over 300 calories per serving. Just eliminating the casual drink or two with work events eliminated up to 1,000 calories from a typical work week for Annie.

Without drastically changing her eating habits or increasing her exercise, Annie lost 30 pounds in 3 months. One small change had an enormous impact.

Annie may sound just like you right now. A few drinks a week, nothing crazy. She wasn’t drunk or even binge drinking. It seemed like no big deal. And yet, making this single change had an enormous impact.

Will the same work for you?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that there is zero downside to eliminating alcohol from your diet. If you’re struggling to lose weight, why not give it a try?



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