Losing some weight soon would be ideal. You feel like you’ve let yourself go in the last few years. The problem is: you enjoy socialising on the weekends and having a few drinks. You don’t want to give that up. We understand, and we like a few drinks here and there at Sports Samurai too! This article is going to show you how you can still drink alcohol and achieve weight loss. Keep reading.
How do you lose weight?
Let’s ignore alcohol for now, and start with the basics of weight loss. It’s important that you understand the science behind how to achieve it. This is fundamental to the rest of this article, so make sure you’re concentrating.
In order to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit. This means that you eat few calories than your body burns each day. At Sports Samurai, we recommend a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories. This is the sweet spot between losing a good amount of weight, but also, not feeling low and lethargic daily (because weight loss isn’t easy, trust us!).
This figure depends on your starting weight, however, and if you’re heavier, you can probably have a higher deficit than this.
What does this mean in terms of the total calories you should be eating each day? The easiest way to calculate this is by going to a website such as this to calculate your daily maintenance calories (the number of calories you need to maintain your current body weight).
Subtract 500 from this, and this is the total number of calories you should be aiming for. Use MyFitnessPal to record this, and get as close to this as you can every day. It’s that simple! Before you know it, you’ll be losing weight in your sleep…
The key to long-term weight loss is to adjust your calories accordingly, especially when you start to lose weight. This is because your daily calorie requirements change when your weight changes.
It’s surprising how often you see people who have lost some weight initially but start to plateau. It’s because they continue doing what they did, to begin with, and expect to see the same results. This doesn’t work in reality. Your body adapts quickly, and you need to keep adapting with it, in order to continue seeing the results you want.
Anyway, enough of this, now. You get the picture. Let’s talk about the real reason why we’re here.
Does alcohol have calories?
Unfortunately, it does. It has a lot. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. This is almost as many as fat, which has 9 calories per gram. Protein and carbohydrates both have 4 calories per gram.
Going out for a couple of drinks after work, or at the weekend, can add 500 or more calories to your daily intake. See below for a calorie chart for some of your favourite drinks:
Just for your information – we’re not suggesting you drink a whole bottle of wine. This is just how the image came!
It gets worse. The issue with calories from alcohol is that they contain little to no nutritional value at all. This is often referred to as “empty calories.” Some alcohol drinks have trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, but not enough to make a difference. The reason why alcohol has many calories is that it’s made from sugar or starch. If you want to know more about the numbers of calories in your favourite drinks, this is a great resource.
We know what you’re thinking. That pint of beer doesn’t look as tempting, now you know how many calories it has…
How does alcohol affect weight loss?
We already know that we consistently need to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. We also know that alcohol contains a significant amount of calories. But how does alcohol affect weight loss?
It’s simple. It’s harder to maintain a calorie deficit if we drink alcohol, period. This isn’t to say it can’t be done. It’s just difficult. Let’s put some numbers around this to demonstrate it.
Let’s say, for example, a person needs to eat 2500 calories in order to lose weight (after they’ve subtracted 500 calories). If they drink 2 pints of beer that day, that person will only be able to consume 2000 calories from food or other drinks.
Now, 500 calories might not sound like much, but you’re likely to feel this difference if you do this often. Remember: you’re already in a calorie deficit as it is, and the number of calories your body needs to eat to maintain its weight is actually higher than 2500 (it will be 3000 if you take our calculation above).
This isn’t to say that we think you should give up alcohol completely. It’s your life, and your choice. You’re a grown-up. Well, at least hopefully you are. If you’re under 18 and reading this, please stop drinking full stop.
Some people are happy with eating less every so often, in order to enjoy a couple of drinks with their friends. Some aren’t, and would rather drink less often (or not at all!), in order to eat more on their weight loss journey. It’s up to you.
Either way, if weight loss is your goal, we would recommend this: stay in a calorie deficit, limit alcohol, and get your calories from real food as much as possible.
Treat yourself to a new gym bag from Sports Samurai…
Other effects of alcohol on weight loss
This is where it gets difficult. Let’s go back to the situation we described above where the person who requires 2500 calories a day to lose weight, drinks a couple of beers, at 500 calories total and consumes 2000 calories that day from food. Because they would still be in a calorie deficit, they would still lose weight.
In reality, it’s not that easy. There are other ways in which alcohol affects your weight loss:
- It lowers your inhibitions and can make you hungrier. You may do things you wouldn’t usually do that you do when under the influence as alcohol, such as eating a few slices of pizza or the kebab you’ve been craving. This may mean you end up in a calorie surplus for the day (a calorie surplus is the opposite of a calorie deficit). You now have to work harder that week to burn those extra calories
- It can change the way your body burns fat. After you consume alcohol, your body is focused on breaking down alcohol, rather than burning fat. It may take longer to lose weight if you’re consistently consuming alcohol
- It can also have an effect on your sleep quality. Sleep is one of the most underrated factors when it comes to weight loss, and a good night’s sleep is key for weight loss. This study is a good place to read about the importance of sleep on weight loss
- You’re less likely to be active the next day. When alcohol affects the following day, and maybe even the day after this, it becomes a problem. Remember: we need to be in a calorie deficit consistently to lose weight. If we’re hungover and sleep-deprived, we’re going to feel lazier the next day. We won’t want to exercise. This may prevent us from being in a calorie deficit for two or three days, instead of just the day we consumed alcohol
What alcoholic drinks can you drink for weight loss?
As long as you’re in a calorie deficit, you can drink any alcoholic drink you wanted. However, if you’re wanting to eat as much as possible, whilst maintaining a calorie deficit, it’s important to have some low-calorie options available for when you drink. Here are some:
- Light beers, instead of the normal kind. These sometimes contain half of the calories as normal beer, so a good option to have
- Vodka and soda
- Any spirits, with diet mixers, such as diet coke, diet tonic water, diet lemonade, or diet anything. Remember, doubling up these drinks have double the calories, so be careful with this. Stick to single measures where possible
- A small glass of red or white wine
- A small glass of champagne
- And our personal favourite: anything on the rocks
It’s important to remember that you’re trying to reduce your calories, so it doesn’t mean you can have double the amount. Drinking in moderation is still key.
Alcohol and weight loss: Can you drink alcohol and still lose weight? The final verdict…
Drinking alcohol has become normal for some people, and we understand why. It’s important to meet up with friends or family, and enjoy the odd beer, or glass of wine.
However, if weight loss is your goal, it’s important to remember that alcohol contains calories. It’s more difficult to maintain a calorie deficit if you drink alcohol, so enjoy it in moderation.
Pro Tip: Use the lower-calorie options above in order to continue drinking, but still achieving weight loss.
What’s your favourite alcoholic drink whilst losing weight? Let us know in the comments below.