Can you drink alcohol and still lose weight?

Like any other person, I am in the process of losing weight but I don't want to completely sacrifice my social life in order to do so. I am not in any way a heavy drinker, but like a lot of people, I enjoy a few alcoholic drinks now and then with my friends. I just wondered if anyone has the same problem and if they know a solution? It would also be helpful if someone could explain the science of alcohol a little more. Understanding this to a degree has been helpful so far.

I know that the body has to convert alcohol before it can burn off any other calories so as soon as it enters your system, anything you eat cannot be burnt off and is just going to get stored as fat which explains why I pile on the pounds if I have a takeaway at the end of the night.

But this is a problem in itself... what about the food you eat to line the stomach before drinking? Even if it's just a light 400 calorie meal, it's not all going to be burnt off between the time I finish it and the time I start drinking so basically I am worried that this meal will also just get stored as fat and I will put on weight every time I want to have a few drinks. The only alternative is drinking on an empty stomach but that is too risky and I would never do it because I've more chance of getting too drunk and also my appetite would go through the roof after a few hours.

Can anyone who knows more about this explain if I am right about eating the light meal beforehand and if there is anything else I can do to prevent weight gain?

Thanks in advance

25 Replies

  • I personally know that i can't have alcohol while I diet. It is not just the calories in the drink, it is the food ideas that a glass or two gives me.

    Other people are different. You could try and see how it goes. There is no strict rule.

  • "I just wondered if anyone has the same problem and if they know a solution?" You seem to have identified that this is causing you a problem, and I think you may have your own solution too. You are much more likely to buy into your own solution.

    I could make a suggestion, but if that didn't work you could come back looking for more solutions, and that would be dis-empowering you, not supporting you. Good luck!

  • In my younger days, I would think nothing of having a few drinks come the weekend, and dare I say, often followed by a curry :) I would eat a meal before I went out too. In my 20's I used to weigh a very healthy 10 stone. The reason that I did not get fat, was that my overall lifestyle was what I would call very active. I worked around 12 hours a day, doing highly physical work. I used to walk, cycle or run everywhere. I never even owned a car until my mid 30's.

    The weekend was most certainly the time for me to let my hair down. I would never go to the pub simply for a chat with my mates, it was usually a place to meet up before going on to a disco. We would have a couple of beers and then off to the disco and dance the night away. Sometimes we may go on to a concert instead, but not often.

    On Saturday and Sunday mornings I would go swimming, canoeing or rowing to freshen myself up from the night before, but on Sunday evening I would often go out dancing and then, straight on to work at 5 in the morning :)

    The points that I'm making are that firstly, I never went drinking for the sake of drinking, it was only ever a social prelude to something far more enjoyable. The second point is that, I never worried about calories, because I needed all the calories I could afford, to give me the energy to live the lifestyle I was living.

    So perhaps you may wish to look at your overall lifestyle and consider how best to burn off the calories you are consuming :) Many of my friends played football or some other team sport. A healthy lifestyle is one that develops you physically, mentally and socially.

    For many of us, we develop the bodies which reflect the lifestyle we lead. That's a terribly sweeping statement and cannot apply to those who have little choice; those that have disabilities or who are handicapped by circumstance.

    Worrying over a few calories in a pint of beer will not give you the body of an athlete, only by becoming more active, can we achieve the healthy body you seem to desire. Many of the sportsmen and women we admire, eat and drink far more than I do, but they also burn far more calories too.

    The cause of my weight piling on the way it did (six stone in all) was years and years of reduced activity.

    Life is a balance, and we must also balance our calorie intake with our calorie expenditure. If it would curtail my social life to reduce my intake further, I would be looking instead, at how I could burn more calories. I understand that many on here use a thing called MY FITNESS PAL to monitor their levels of activity and it may well be worth looking into that as a starting point.

    I'm sorry if I've not answered your question in the way you expect, but hope that you may use my reply as the starting point for developing a balanced lifestyle to keep you happy and healthy.

    Wishing you all the best :)

    PS Using a skipping rope can burn 10 calories a minute.


  • You have to enjoy life and have a few drinks if you want to but if you are trying to lose weight the calories in alcohol have to be counted in your daily allowance. So try to go for clean spirits like vodka or gin with a low calorie mixer or a couple of glasses of wine. Alcohol is very high in calories but you compensate by eating fewer calories throughout the day or just have a few drinks once in a while as a treat and forget the calories. The body will always prioritise alcohol to process because it's a toxin so the body wants it eliminated as soon as possible and it does this processing before tackling the food you've eaten. Excess calories will be stored as fat. But life is for living and you make your choices.

  • My view is that alcohol is just wasted calories. I normally have one or two pints of beer at most per month so think I am virtually tea total. On a recent two week holiday I had a good drink every night and I piled the pounds on.

    If you want the truth then in my opinion ditch the alcohol.

  • You are obviously aware of the calorie content of alcohol, but are you aware that gram for gram it has even more calories than fat. Protein and Carbohydrates each have 4 calories per gram, fat has 8 calories per gram and alcohol has 9.

    I understand your statement about enjoying a few drinks with friends every now and then but you are not very specific about how often that is, once a week, once a month or every other night. I also enjoy a drink occasionally but I know that if I want to lose weight that 'occasionally' has to be very rarely.

    Why do you feel the need to drink alcohol to socialise?

    I would suggest you decide which is more important to you while trying to lose weight, alcohol or food because if you consume calories with one you can't consume them with the other and still succeed in losing weight.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh but from what you have written you are obviously aware of the cost in calories of alcohol consumption and it is almost as though you are looking for an answer of how to lose weight without changing your habits and the answer to that is you can't .

    Good luck with your weight loss but don't expect it to be easy or to happen without making changes.

  • My weight loss journey has been a change of lifestyle rather than diet so I have not given up alcohol but reduced to only weekends. I agree that alcohol does rather mean munchies, choice of food changes etc and when I don't drink I can live off a very light diet but cutting out completely would be unrealistic. Also if whilst on a diet you cut completely you would probably find when you return to drinking again then you would pile on the pounds. It's a slower process but more doable. Especially at this time of year when it's party time! Good luck. ☺

  • Whilst I agree with those who say avoid alcohol altogether IF you can, only you know if you can totally abstain without alienating partner/friends and social life. In my case, a few drinks at the weekend was part of my life for many, many years so when I decided to lose weight I built this into my weekly calorie total. I tried to be a bit careful eg gin & -slimline or small measures of wine , but I still drank. I lost my spare 30 lbs at a steady rate of about 1 pound a week , reached my target BMi last april, and have maintained ever since. BUT only you know if you can count it in effectively and not just throw the towel in after a few bevvies.

  • I had good intentions about cutting out a lot of alcohol during my weight loss, but actually ended up making a lot of compromises. Its interesting what you say about your body metabolising alcohol first, this is a whole other approach and maybe worth reading more about. I know for diabetics alcohol is a problem as it turns into sugar in the body. But for me I approached it in three ways.

    1. Calories - I counted and planned the calories for the amount of alcohol I would have, tried to stick to my plans, or reduce cals over rest of the week/up exercise to compensate if I went over

    2. More-ish-ness - I tried to start the evening as I meant to go on. This meant buying a half not a pint, a small not large glass of wine, and having water alongside. I also alternated alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks e.g. Bloody Mary followed by Virgin Mary, vodka+tonic followed by just tonic with a slice of lime. These tactics helped me stay in control of how much I had.

    3. Alcohol-related cravings - you mention the end of night takeaway. For me, alcohol also opens the gate for cravings, overeating etc. I found the only real solution was to drink less alcohol.

    I know this doesn't strictly answer your question but hope it's some help :)

  • It's so difficult to completely ban alcohol especially if your on a night out with friends.

    I like you am not a heavy drinker and only drink if it's a special occasion and out with friends. I don't count the calories but I tend to stick to the lower calorie cocktails like a mojito rather than a pond colada and stay away from wine and have a vodka and Diet Coke.

    What I also tend to do is have a good meal before hand or during, and to be honest I usually feel that bloated from alcohol these days I never want to eat later on in the night, even though I used to love a takeaway afterwards.

    hope this has been helpful in some way


  • georgeSY

    I have read all the replies and it's so nice to confirm I am human !!!

    And I love a tipple or two,but my guard well and truly goes down when I drink,saying that if my weight is under control I can normally steer myself back the next day...and get on track again,(It's hard) if my mindset is LOW then all hell breaks lose and I go on a binge......NOT GOOD !!!

    So this is my plan....

    1, Drink in moderation ( Friday & Saturday)

    2, Get back on plan by Sunday

    3, BecksBlue is a non alcoholic beer 38 calories per bottle & tastes good

    4, Enjoy this life we have been blessed with

    5, Drink lots & lots of water

    6, Smile 😄

    Here ends my lecture xx

  • Yay for non alcoholic Becks Blue ... I discovered that too and it was very useful. We still keep some in the fridge and the bonus is , it tastes like the real thing to me

  • elliebath

    It does taste the same and I also keep some now, and you don't get a hangover!!! 38 calories!!! No brainier!!! 😆 Xx

  • I love red wine so I am not going to deprive myself otherwise I will get very grumpy and eat a big bar of chocolate. I tried to limit myself to weekends only but realised that bingeing is far more harmful. So for me I have a small glass of the finest vino with my dinner.

  • Hi georgesy,

    Do you know what? Don't beat yourself up about it. Use my fitness pal to count your calories , have couple of slices of toast when you get home and drink a glass of no added sugar squash. I find that helps. I only drink at weekends too.

    If you want to have a drink then do so, you'll make yourself miserable otherwise and the diet will go out the window...

    Cheers 🍺🍺


  • I told my granny when I drink alcohol I want to eat all round me

    She said 'no no what's the point in eating? Then you have to drink more Alcohol As food sobers you up'

    I've got a rule started this week that when drinking if I am hungry I will only eat fruit and a yoghurt if needs be

    I know I will have to cut down the drink but I'm trying one stage at a time

    First cut out the junk food

    I do alot of socialising

  • You certainly generated response from your peers! Satisfying reads, all of them, particularly like what Tewson and Ruthcanalrunner say. And I agree. If you feel the need to have a glass of wine with a meal, or in socializing situations, do so, but remember the wine calories equal a snack or two.

    Also, drinking lets down our guards, we do start craving munchies. Plan your drinking.

    Tewson, am totally impressed by your fitness schedule. Strangely, I have been doing those things too. Was supposed to retire this year (teaching), but got called back. Have two days "off" weekly and now I do 8 hours of exercise those days. The NHS fitness programme heightens body awareness, and I am so pleased by the little (really big) benefits, such as low blood pressure again, normal weight again, and just feeling I could mountain climb again.

    So have a glass of wine - not everyday, but on the weekends, and keep the tally in mind.

  • There's plenty of good advice here. One thing I'm a little wary about though, is counting the calories in alcohol.

    Our bodies require sufficient nutrients to function effectively and it's never a good idea to count alcohol as part of your daily nutritional requirements. Despite the number of calories in a drink, those calories should not be included in your daily diet because there are no/few nutrients in the drink. By all means count the calories and know that those calories must be worked off somehow, but never replace a foodstuff with alcohol.

    I've just got visions of someone sitting down in the evening after a hard days work and thinking "shall I eat or shall I drink". Not a good idea :(

    I hope that makes sense.

  • You know the science, so the only way not to put on weight is not to drink too often or too much. The effect on our metabolism cannot be altered, it's not for nothing that people are asked to "name your poison".

    As Tewson has said, never ever cut down on food in order to drink. The effects of alcohol can vary from person to person. The heaviest drinkers I have known were skinny but very, very unhealthy.

  • Why are a lot of heavy drinkers skinny?

    Perhaps part of the answer can be found in this article

  • Interesting read, but I am curious about what happens to the meal you eat before you start drinking.. science says the alcohol take priority over burning the food so the meal just get stored as fat. So how come we get skinny alcoholics are who basically intoxicated every minute of every hour, ever day? They are most likely skipping meals but it's not as if they are literally not eating anything. Even if it's just a bag of crisps, science says that it would get stored as fat and cause weight gain?

  • I suppose it very much depends on how much time passes between eating and drinking. Also the type of food you have eaten.

    It's interesting that the article blames the sugar in drinks as being a major factor in weight gain, which is something I very much believe.

    How the body processes alcohol is very much beyond me, I'm not a scientist. :)

    I do know that far from giving me energy, alcohol saps my energy and sends me to sleep. :)

  • The science is complicated. Basically, It seems that if you mess up your metabolism enough, your body breaks down muscle.

  • Beware some skinny folk are very unhealthy too

  • I think you need to count the calories in alcohol to know how many you are consuming, however, I think you need to bear in mind that these are 'empty' calories as they provide you with no nitrous value at all

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