Staying Lean with Alcohol

Alcohol and weight loss never go hand in hand. However, many people will continue to drink regardless of the various health risks associated with alcohol consumption. For people that are specially looking to cut weight while maintaining their drinking habits, you should first understand how alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to lose weight.

Alcohol Will Add Pounds to Your Waistline

When you consume alcohol, your body goes through basic metabolic processes. Alcohol is converted by the liver into a certain kind of sugar, known as acetate. The body now treats this foreign substance as priority number one where it needs to burn this sugar off. While you think this is actually a good thing, it is not because your body’s burning capabilities are being taken away and being concentrated on burning off the alcohol sugar. Therefore, your fat and carbohydrate burning efforts (used from food intake and your general energy stores) are being put on hold to tackle the alcohol sugars first and not burning off fat in your body. Additionally, not all of the alcohol sugars are going to be burned up. Whatever is not burned up accumulates in your body and the unused energy then becomes stored as body fat.

Alcohol dehydrates your muscle cells, which makes muscle growth dramatically slower. Alcohol also decreases protein synthesis and decreases testosterone levels, which are precursors in building muscle. As a result, you may actually lose muscle mass while gaining fat.

Consuming alcohol can give you the drunk “munchies”. Alcohol interferes with the liver’s ability to break down glycogen in the body. As a result, your blood sugar levels drop, which triggers the hunger reflex. When you are in a drinking environment, the foods that are around you tend to be higher in calories (heavily fried foods). In addition, alcohol can impair your judgment with food and drinks. When you are impaired, you tend to care less about what you consume and rather what satisfies your appetite or urges best. You may tend to eat unhealthy foods and continue to move onto higher calorie drinks, such as mixed drinks.

Moreover, alcohol manufacturers don’t put nutrition labels on their products because they are not required to do so by law. Why would these manufacturers want you to know that most beers have between 150-200 calories in a 12 ounce can? If you and your friends each have a 6-pack of Budweiser (at 145 calories and 10.6 grams of carbs in each can) before you hit the bars then you will have consumed 870 calories and 64 grams of carbs by the time you even enter the bar. Once at the bar, you could expect your caloric intake to double. Even a 6-pack of Bud Light gives you 660 calories and 40 grams of carbs with less alcohol content in each beer.

Types of Alcohol with the Lowest Calories

The following serves as a guide for those who are looking to lose more weight and stay lean while maintaining their drinking habits. We provide you with the best and worst choices for each type of alcohol in terms of what is better for your diet. Be aware that there are other alternatives out there that may be more or less beneficial for your health but I took popularity into account.

Note: Alcohol consumption should be rarely encouraged, as there is a range of health problems associated with it. Alcohol is alcohol and just because one drink has less calories than another doesn’t mean the alcohol content in the drink is any different.

Beer pouring into glass

Beer (12 oz)

There is a reason for the term “beer belly”. In fact, we probably all know friends that have gained a beer belly over the past couple of years. Beer is loaded with calories, sugar and empty carbs, which pack on pounds to your waistline

Best Choice: Miller Genuine Draft Light 64
64 calories and 2.4 g of carbs

Honorable Mention: Michelob Ultra Light
96 calories, 3 g of carbs

Worst Choice: Guinness Extra Stout
176 calories, 14 g of carbs

Honorable Mention: Heineken
150 calories, 11.5 g of carbs

Bottle and glasses of vodka poured into a glass isolated on white

Shots (1.5 oz)

Shots of alcohol are not much better than drinking beer. In fact, they could be worse. Most shots can possess anywhere from 60-80 calories. People tend to drink more shots because it is less filling so be beware of how many shots you are actually consuming. You can easily consume more calories with shots than you would with beer.

Vodka, Rum, Tequilla, Brandy and Scotch all have between 64-66 calories and no carbs so there is no clear cut winner or loser.

Five Cocktails

Mixed Drinks

Mixed drinks are loaded with not only alcohol, but also with tons sugar to eliminate the taste of the alcohol. This gives you even more calories than shots or beer. Try ordering mixed drinks with no sugar. Stick with diet drinks to mix with your alcohol.

Best Choice: Vodka w/ Club Soda
65 calories, no carbs

Honorable Mention: Jack and Diet Coke
65 calories, no carbs

Worst Choice: Margarita
750 calories and 56 g of carbs

Honorable Mention: Long Island Iced Tea
750 calories and 44 g of carbs

Red and white wine

Wine (4 oz glass)

Studies suggest that a glass of red wine every night can be beneficial to your health. Red wine boots numerous antioxidants and flavonoids, the most beneficial being resveratrol. Resveratrol has been linked with reducing bad cholesterol (LDL), while at the same time increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. This may play a big role in fighting against coronary heart disease. Therefore, you should choose red wine over white wine for this reason. Remember…drink red wine in moderation to avoid the negative effects of the alcohol and its empty calories.

Best Choice: Cabernet Sauvignon
90 calories, no carbs

Honorable Mention: White Zifandel
80 calories, 1.6 g of carbs

Worst Choice: Ruby Port
185 calories, no carbs

No honorable mention (There is no close second to Ruby Port)


Enjoy a drink but try to take calories into consideration. Enjoy your alcohol but be responsible. Remember, ALWAYS consume alcohol in moderation.

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