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How to Lose Weight Gained From Alcohol (Lose the Belly, Not Beer)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 24 January 2022

Did you drink and feast a little too much for your birthday so you’re wondering how to lose weight gained from alcohol? Trying to avoid a lifelong beer gut or just ready for a change? Worry not because shedding pounds from excessive drinking isn’t too hard to get rid of… you don’t even need to quit alcohol altogether!

Just trust the process and stay dedicated.

Whether you’ve had a few weekends of partying or a lifetime of drinking, you might want to get back in shape for those fun nights out. Read on to find out how you can lose weight while drinking and some lifestyle tips to shed that alcohol-induced fat! 

How Can I Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight?

Just because you’re figuring out how to lose weight gained from alcohol doesn’t mean you have to put yourself under house arrest! Try to develop these healthy habits to  lose weight and still have fun.

  • Alternate Drinks with Seltzer

Finally given up soda or willing to sacrifice it here and there for that dream body? Give seltzer a try for that fizzy feeling and to engage in “social drinking” without actually drinking. 

What’s that you say? Still want to feel a bit of a buzz? You can alternate seltzer or water between drinks or even use seltzer instead of soda on some of your favorite drinks. Not only will it keep you hydrated and prevent bloating, but it’ll also stop you from getting too drunk and in turn, help you stop eating junk food or sugary food while wasted. 

  • Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach

When you drink while hungry, you get drunk much faster, and it’s much more likely that you’ll give in to cravings for unhealthy, greasy, salty food. Have a filling meal before going out to drink to mitigate the effects of alcohol and not be tempted to eat junk food.

  • Have Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks

See if you can find a low-calorie drink instead of a sugary cocktail or calorie-dense alcohol. Clear liquors generally have fewer calories than darker ones, but here are some of the best options for low-calorie beverages include:

  1. Red wine (105 calories per 5 oz)
  2. Light beer (100 Calories per 12 oz)
  3. Dry vermouth (105 calories per 3 oz)
  4. Champagne (85 calories per 4 oz)
  5. Tequila over ice with lime and soda (100 calories per 5 oz)
  6. Drink in Moderation

Keep up a healthy social life, even if it involves going to bars and partying, but try to drink in moderation or put a limit on yourself like 3 drinks for the entire night. It can also be beneficial to socialize while limiting alcohol and work on saying no once you’re past your personal limit. 

Many may try to peer pressure you into drinking more, but it’s okay to pass up on a drink here and there especially if you’ve already had a few and have a solid buzz.  

 

7 Ways to Lose Weight Gained from Drinking Alcohol

Losing weight doesn’t have to ruin a night out on the town, your next house party, or your post-work beers. To truly make progress, it’s all about experimenting and making minor changes. With changed here and there you’ll learn how to lose weight gained from alcohol and keep living life on your terms, just a bit thinner than before. 

1. Track Calories

The first step to losing weight is eating less or counting your calories. By using an online calculator, you can determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and then subtract 500 calories from this number. Try your best to keep within this calorie limit on most days but it’s not the end of the world if you go over or don’t count your calories for a day..

You can start tracking calories by downloading an app like MyFitnessPal or keeping a physical food journal, jotting down everything you eat. Most people grossly underestimate their diet, reporting 40% fewer calories than they’ve consumed, so tracking every food and beverage you can remember is the best way to lose weight consistently [9].

A woman is tracking her calories on my fitness pal while eating a healthy meal and sipping on wine.

2. Cut Down Portion Sizes

Yes, you can still go out to eat while losing weight, but you should try to be mindful of portion sizes. Most restaurants serve huge portions of food – much more than you need to feel full – and you tend to eat it all since it takes a few minutes to start feeling satiated.

If you go out, try eating just half the plate instead of the whole thing. Better yet, eat at home and serve yourself on smaller plates – it’ll trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more and help you cut down calories.

You can also try using the plate method of portion control – non-starchy vegetables on half your plate, and protein and carbs on each remaining quarter, and you have a pretty balanced meal.

3. Eat Filling Food

Protein – At breakfast and dinner, try to consume adequate protein with eggs, dairy, lean meat like chicken breasts, fish like salmon and tuna, or plant-based protein like soybean and tofu. Protein positively affects the satiety hormone leptin while suppressing the hunger hormone ghrelin, so you feel full faster and stay full for longer.

People who up their protein intake to just 30% consume 441 calories less on average, so having a breakfast rich in protein will help you control cravings throughout the day [10]. A protein-heavy dinner will prevent late-night cravings, too, so you can avoid unnecessary snacking.

Fiber – Next, try to include whole-grain carbs like brown rice or whole-grain bread into your meals and supplement with a couple of fruits or vegetables to get enough fiber. Fiber turns into a gel-like substance in the stomach, slowing down digestion and keeping you full for longer [11].

Besides, fiber helps get rid of the bloating caused by alcohol since it makes you go #2 easier!

Healthy fats – Have you heard of the Mediterranean diet or how much you weight you can lose on keto? Both are abundant with healthy fats since they keep you full for longer. People who eat just two tablespoons of coconut oil a day lose belly fat quicker than those who have soybean oil, reinforcing the benefits of these fats [12].

Don’t just eat your entire day’s calories in fat, though – balance out your protein-rich meals with whole-grain carbs and healthy fats like olive oil or avocados.

4. Drink Fewer Sodas With Your Shots

Soft drinks are incredibly high in sugar and very calorie-dense, plus they dehydrate you just like alcohol does, exacerbating alcohol bloating. So if you’re drinking, try to have a shot of Crown rather than a Crown & coke. 

If you drink sodas while sober, try switching to diet sodas at first, and gradually change to water since diet drinks activate the same areas of the brain that regular, sugar-filled drinks do and cause cravings [13]. 

5. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting means eating within a specific time of the day and fasting during the rest. The most prevalent method is the 16:8 method, where you eat within 8 hours and fast for 16.

Fasting alone can cut down on calories, and if you set fasting times to when you usually drink, you might be able to discourage yourself from drinking during those hours. Or if you want to forbid day drinking, your eating and window could be in the evening. 

In a study, another technique where you fast every second day reduced body fat by an average of 12 pounds within 3-12 weeks, so feel free to try it out and see if it works for you [14].

6. Move More

Any movement will help you lose weight. Start small by upping your daily step count – the average American only walks 3,000-4,000 steps a day, which is way less than the recommended 10,000 [15]! Just download a pedometer app and try to get 500-1,000 steps extra each day until you reach 10,000.

Not only will this help repair heart health damaged by alcohol, but you’ll also develop stamina for other exercises. You can take a couple of short walks throughout the day, gradually increasing their duration to reach this goal, or just walk around your house.

Other than that, any cardio exercises will help you lose weight, including walking, running, dancing, jumping rope, sports, etc. Move more in the ways you enjoy – effort is key in determining how to lose weight gained from alcohol.

7. Go for HIIT to Burn Fat

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is perfect for burning fat fast. It combines short intervals of high-intensity exercise with rest periods, so you push yourself during the exercise interval and catch your breath during rest.

In one study, men who did HIIT workouts for 20 minutes a day three days a week lost 4.4 pounds and 17% belly fat without any changes to their diet [16]. They can also burn up to 30% more calories than moderate-intensity exercise [17].

HIIT workouts tend to be short but intense, making them the perfect option if you don’t have much time for exercise. Don’t try HIIT if you have a heart condition, though, as intense activity can put a lot of strain on the heart.

No matter which form of exercise you do, you don’t need to stop having fun to lose weight.

Motivation to Drink Less

Limes, vodka and soda water sitting in a glass.

While researchers aren’t sure about the effects of moderate drinking, excessive alcohol consumption hinders weight loss and makes you put on more weight. It also increases disease risk, messes up your metabolism, and makes you crave more food, leading to weight gain.

To combat these effects, though, you should know just why alcohol makes you gain weight and messes up your metabolism, hindering weight loss.

Empty Calories: From a nutritional standpoint, alcohol has absolutely no value. Sure, it gives you a buzz but there’s quite literally no protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients and it decreases vital hormones that can improve sleep, labido, energy levels, decrease appetite etc. 

More Cravings: Alcohol is a bunch of empty calories. Unlike macros like proteins, fats, and even carbs, it provides no nutrition and doesn’t benefit your body in any way. It prevents your body from burning fat, too, because your body needs to metabolize and burn off the alcohol first.

When you consume alcohol, your body starts using it as the primary fuel source, leaving fat stores untouched. Dietician Vanessa Risetto says that alcohol has “selfish” calories since they demand that your body burn them off first [1].

Besides, most alcohol is very calorie-dense, with a 12-ounce can of beer clocking in at 155 calories. So, even following the basic principle of calories in < calories out, alcohol hinders weight loss and people who drink just half a shot of alcohol eat up to 11% more than those who don’t, craving more high-fat, high-calorie food [2].

Poor Quality Sleep: Though one shot too many might knock you out for the night, alcohol encourages low-frequency electric patterns in the brain, also known as alpha waves. These waves prevent you from falling into REM sleep – the restful state where you wake up feeling refreshed.

This poor quality sleep decreases satiety hormone levels (leptin) while encouraging the hunger hormone (ghrelin). This added insulin spikes and slowed metabolism make you give in to late-night cravings and overeat [3][4].

Hormone Imbalance: Besides affecting the hunger hormones, too much alcohol also messes with your sex hormones – especially testosterone [5]. Lack of this hormone can result in higher cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and BMI.

It can even interfere with your sleep, slowing down your metabolism and making you gain weight. Apart from that, it also prevents your body from adequately metabolizing hormones, causing a reduced sex drive and lower self-confidence.

Worse Mental Health: We all have our embarrassing alcohol-induced moments, but too much alcohol can worsen your mental health in the long run. Alcohol is a depressant, so long-term, heavy alcohol use can reduce the number of neurotransmitters in your brain, leading to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. 

While you might feel better when you drink, you’ll feel worse when you don’t, starting a toxic cycle of dependence [6].

Binge eating and lack of exercise also have clear links with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, since you become too demotivated and have too little energy to do anything but lie in bed, leading to weight gain.

Bad Digestion: Drinking might feel fun for a couple of hours, but alcohol can put stress on your stomach and intestines and interfere with the smooth movement of food through the digestive tract, causing indigestion.

Too much alcohol can interfere with the enzymes and other fluids secreted by the digestive system, which are vital for nutrient absorption, affecting the amount of macro and micronutrients absorbed into the body and the benefits you gain from them [7].

Dehydrating Your Body: Ever felt the need to run to the restroom every hour after a night of drinking? Alcohol is a diuretic that suppresses the hormone vasopressin, which is responsible for our ability to hold our bladders. So it makes you expel fluids from your body more often, and you wake the following day completely dehydrated.

This dehydration can not only make your belly bloat since your body will retain more water the next day to cancel out the loss, but it’ll also lead to dry skin, which can go on to cause dandruff, eczema, rosacea, etc.

Researchers have also found a close link between excessive alcohol consumption and skin conditions, so skip the alcohol for a flatter tummy and clearer skin [8]!

Obesity Worsens Alcohol’s Side Effects

We all know that alcohol doesn’t do much for your health – in fact, too much alcohol is actively harmful. So while going out from time to time and having a drink with friends isn’t totally out of the question, be sure to limit and track your alcohol intake when possible.

Though you might be able to drink more if you weigh more, being obese increases the likelihood of multiple severe conditions, like:

  • Stroke – According to the American Heart Association, regular heavy drinking raises blood pressure and may cause an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), leading to a higher likelihood of strokes.
  • Heart disease – Excessive alcohol consumption raises triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the body, accelerating heart disease. Drinking more booze is also closely associated with eating more fat, making you gain weight and putting strain on your heart.
  • Kidney disease – Since alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to filter out toxins, regular heavy alcohol use increases the risk of kidney disease.
  • Fatty liver syndrome – Excessive alcohol consumption can cause fat to accumulate in your liver, damaging it and negatively affecting the way your body metabolizes nutrients. In extreme cases, it can be fatal.
  • Type 2 diabetes – Since alcohol makes you gain weight, eat unhealthy food, and disrupts your sleep to cause insulin spikes, it dramatically increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Joint issues – Alcohol dehydrates your body, including the cartilage between your joints, which can lead to arthritis. It also makes you gain weight, significantly upping the pressure on your joints.
  • Multiple types of cancer – According to the National Cancer Institute, alcohol ups the risk of mouth, liver, breast, colon, and rectum cancer.

These facts are not here to scare you. Instead, they’re here to show you just how obesity and alcohol can take a toll. It’s not easy to drink less or figure out how to lose 70+ pounds, but it is worth it in the end.

Starting Your Weight Loss Journey

You don’t need to give up on weight loss, fun nights out or cracking open some cold ones after work quite yet – just be careful with portions and take care to avoid giving in to cravings.

If you strive to eat healthier and move more in general, a couple of nights of drinking every month won’t hurt your weight loss efforts. So, stay consistent with your diet, begin exercising, enjoy yourself occasionally, and you’ll discover the secret on how to lose weight gained from alcohol!

References

[1] Rissetto, V. (2021, July 22). If I Quit Drinking Alcohol, Will I Lose Weight? | Food Network Healthy Eats: Recipes, Ideas, and Food News. Food Network. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/if-i-quit-drinking-will-i-lose-weight

[2] Schrieks, I. C., Stafleu, A., Griffioen-Roose, S., de Graaf, C., Witkamp, R. F., Boerrigter-Rijneveld, R., & Hendriks, H. F. (2015). Moderate alcohol consumption stimulates food intake and food reward of savoury foods. Appetite, 89, 77–83. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25636235/

[3] Killick, R., Banks, S., & Liu, P. Y. (2012). Implications of sleep restriction and recovery on metabolic outcomes. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 97(11), 3876–3890. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5393445/

[4] Wright, K. P., Jr, Drake, A. L., Frey, D. J., Fleshner, M., Desouza, C. A., Gronfier, C., & Czeisler, C. A. (2015). Influence of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment on cortisol, inflammatory markers, and cytokine balance. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 47, 24–34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5401766/

[5] Emanuele, M. A., & Emanuele, N. V. (1998). Alcohol’s Effects on Male Reproduction. Alcohol Health & Research World, 22(3), 195-201. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-3/195.pdf

[6] Mental Health Foundation. (2021, November 10). Alcohol and mental health. Mental Health Foundation. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/a/alcohol-and-mental-health

[7] Bode, C., & Bode, J. C. (1997). Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders. Alcohol Health & Research World, 21(1), 76-83. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-1/76.pdf

[8] Higgins, E., & du Vivier, A. (1999). Alcohol intake and other skin disorders. Clinics in dermatology, 17(4), 437–441. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10497729/

[9] Lang, S. S. (2006, November 1). It’s the size of the meal, not the size of the person, that determines how people underestimate calories, Cornell study finds | Cornell Chronicle. Cornell Chronicle. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2006/11/bigger-meal-more-we-underestimate-its-calories

[10] Weigle, D. S., Breen, P. A., Matthys, C. C., Callahan, H. S., Meeuws, K. E., Burden, V. R., & Purnell, J. Q. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(1), 41–48. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16002798/

[11] Burton-Freeman B. (2000). Dietary fiber and energy regulation. The Journal of nutrition, 130(2S Suppl), 272S–275S. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10721886/

[12] Razquin, C., Martinez, J. A., Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., Mitjavila, M. T., Estruch, R., & Marti, A. (2009). A 3 years follow-up of a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil is associated with high plasma antioxidant capacity and reduced body weight gain. European journal of clinical nutrition, 63(12), 1387–1393. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19707219/

[13] Shmerling, R. H. (2021, March 22). Zero weight loss from zero calorie drinks? Say it ain’t so. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/zero-weight-loss-from-zero-calorie-drinks-say-it-aint-so-2021032222204

[14] Tinsley, G. M., & La Bounty, P. M. (2015). Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutrition reviews, 73(10), 661–674. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26374764/

[15] Rieck, T. (2020, March 23). 10000 steps a day: Too low? Too high? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/10000-steps/art-20317391 

[16] Heydari, M., Freund, J., & Boutcher, S. H. (2012). The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. Journal of obesity, 2012, 480467. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22720138/

[17] Falcone, P. H., Tai, C. Y., Carson, L. R., Joy, J. M., Mosman, M. M., McCann, T. R., Crona, K. P., Kim, M. P., & Moon, J. R. (2015). Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 29(3), 779–785. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25162652/

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.