Do I need to quit alcohol to get rid of fat?


First, I'll ask you a good question here. (I drink green tea right now, but feel free to sip whatever you want.) When people ask "does alcohol make you fat" or "should I stop drinking to lose weight", the answer is complicated, but can be summarized by:

  • No, you don't have to lose alcohol to lose fat …
  • BUT, if you cut down on drinking, it might help.

Alcohol and Weight Loss: It's Complicated

Let's start with the first point here. Metabolic, alcohol and your body have a strange relationship. There has really been a lot of research into this over the years because it's so weird.

Many studies, both in observational and controlled environments, have shown that people can consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol and not necessarily gain weight. (Moderate drinking is defined as 1 drink per day for women and not more than 2 drinks per day for men.)

An infographic showing what a standard alcoholic beverage looks like

Part of this may be due to the unique effect of alcohol on the body. Your body cannot store all 7 calories per gram of alcohol. (Yup, it has calories – more per gram of carbohydrates and protein, but less fat.) So, the body quickly breaks down the parts that water through your system.

In addition, a high percentage of calories from alcohol burns through your metabolism through a process called Thermal Effect Foods (TEF). The thermal effect of alcohol is about 22.5%, which puts it at the same level as protein (having 25-30% TEF) and far ahead of carbohydrates (6-8%) and fat (2-3%) .

All this is to say: Alcohol on its own will not necessarily make or break your weight loss goals.

"If you enjoy a few drinks during the week, it is still possible to have an extremely successful fat loss journey," says Born Fitness Head Nutrition Coach Natalie Sabin.

Now for the but…

Why Alcohol Could It makes you lubricate

Just because your body doesn't store in alcohol calories, that doesn't mean you (and your fat cells) get off slag.

When your body processes those calories from all of these IPAs or another glass of wine, it takes the place of other calories that could to burn – like the double cheeseburger bacon you had at home from the bar. With beer calories taking their place in the metabolic line, burger calories become part of you (and your belly).

In fact, some research will lead you to believe that the problem is not the need for alcohol itself. It's what can come with the drink. You know, like nachos. Or twelve wings. Or a box of Totino's Pizza Rolls if it's 2am. and you're in college.

"Many people who drink alcohol also tend to eat more," says Sabin.

A review posted on Physiology & Behavior supports it. He found that, quite surely, eating before or during a meal tended to increase food intake.

Also, note that even if your body can't store alcohol, it can (and does) store the calories mixed with it – like 83g of sugar on a frozen daisy.

What to do?

1. Consider how much you are consuming right now. For some this can be very eye-opening on its own. You may find that the "beer or two" you have now and when is actually a couple drinks every night and about a dozen at the weekend. Remember that the studies mentioned earlier included light to moderate drinking – that is, one drink per day for women, two for men. Eating more than is undoubtedly not Good. Heavier drink is associated with weight gain and increased waist circumference as well as poor health. Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of premature death in the United States. If your intake exceeds that guideline of one to two drinks a day, then yes, cutting (or evaporating) may help you lose fat.

2. Pay attention what else do it when you drink it. If your casual cocktail with friends is just that – a cocktail – then the calorie load probably isn't that important. But if your drinks seem to come with a pizza café late at night, you may have an issue on your hands. Here again, cutting drinks can help lose fat.

3. Let's say that drinking (and your appetite) is under control, but you still don't lose fat. And let's say your drink per day is a must. If this were the case, you could try and offset the calories by cutting elsewhere. For example, a glass of wine is about 120 calories. A typical beer is about 150 calories (although those heavier microbrews that are so popular nowadays can double that). Cut 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrates elsewhere and notice the changes. "Remember, to get rid of fat you have to create a calorie deficit," Sabin says. "That means they burn more calories than you consume – whether it eats or drinks."

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