Alcohol and weight

Losing excess weight can improve your health and wellbeing. To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your body uses. Calories are found in both food and drinks. Alcohol is a high-calorie liquid, which is why reducing how much alcohol you drink can help you lose weight. 

How alcohol affects your weight loss

Alcohol is high in calories. One gram of alcohol contains seven calories, compared to 1g of protein or carbohydrate, which contains four calories. One gram of fat contains nine calories, making alcohol almost as calorific as fat.

The calories in alcoholic drinks are often called “empty calories”. This is because although alcoholic drinks provide substantial calories, they usually provide your body with few nutrients.

Calories in alcohol

On average, a pint of beer contains about the same number of calories as a Mars bar, while the calories in a standard glass of wine are about equivalent to those found in three Jaffa Cakes.

A standard bottle of alcopop contains about the same number of calories as two chocolate digestive biscuits, while the calories in 50 ml of cream liqueur are about equivalent to those found in one Wagon Wheel biscuit.

Double measures (50 ml) of fortified wine and gin are roughly equivalent to 10 jelly babies and one Milky Bar, respectively.

Low-calorie alcoholic drinks

To help reduce the number of calories you consume through alcohol, it can be helpful to switch from high-calorie alcoholic drinks to lower calorie alcoholic drinks. Cocktails (mixes of different types of alcohol) are particularly high in calories. 

It is important to avoid the temptation of drinking greater volumes when consuming lower calorie alcoholic drinks as this will negate the effects of choosing lower calories alternatives. Single units of the following alcoholic drinks tend to contain fewer calories than wine or beer, however they tend to contain more units of alcohol (ie are stronger then beer or wine): 

  • Brandy
  • Gin
  • Tequila
  • Vodka
  • Whiskey

Alcohol and weight gain

The calories in many alcoholic drinks (eg beer, cider, wine and spirits) come from natural starch and sugar, which are fermented or distilled to produce alcohol. 

Drinking less alcohol can, therefore, help reduce your calorie intake and also improve your health. NHS guidelines state that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This should be spread out over the week — binge drinking can harm your health in the short and long term. 

To reduce your alcohol intake, you can try alternating between consuming an alcoholic drink and water. This will also help you stay hydrated as alcohol is a diuretic, which means it dehydrates your body. 

If you’re drinking white wine, you can add soda water to your drink to make it last longer. 

Avoid drinking in rounds and instead drink at your own pace, taking small sips, to avoid drinking more than you usually would. Having a friend join you in cutting down on alcohol can make this easier. 

It is also a good idea to have a healthy meal before drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can irritate your gut. If you’re snacking while drinking, try to choose healthier options. 

Other ways drinking impacts weight loss

Drinking alcohol adds calories to your diet in two ways. First, through the calories found in alcohol itself and second, through the tendency for people to snack while drinking and/or choose less healthy meals after drinking. Drinking less alcohol makes it more likely that you’ll choose healthier snacks and meals.

Alcohol and weight FAQs

How much does alcohol add to weight?

If you drink regularly and/or in large amounts, you are more likely to put on weight as alcohol contains a lot of calories. The number of calories per gram of alcohol (seven calories) is closer to that in 1g of fat (nine calories) than in 1g of carbohydrate (four calories) or protein (four calories). 

Will I lose weight if I stop drinking?

If you stop drinking alcohol but your diet otherwise remains the same, your overall calorie intake will reduce as alcohol contains a lot of calories. If you consequently consume fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. 

How do you get rid of alcohol weight gain?

Cutting back on how much alcohol you drink will help you lose excess weight as alcohol contains a lot of calories and when drinking alcohol, people are more likely to snack and make unhealthy food choices. Regular exercise and following a healthy diet are also important for losing excess weight. 

Why does alcohol cause immediate weight gain?

Drinking lots of alcohol can quickly cause weight gain as alcohol contains a lot of calories. For comparison, 1g of fat contains nine calories and 1g of alcohol contains seven. In contrast, 1g of protein or carbohydrate contains just four calories.  

Does alcohol change your body shape?

Alcohol contains a lot of calories. If you drink a lot of alcohol, you are therefore more likely to put on weight. Drinking alcohol is linked to an increase in visceral fat, which refers to fat that accumulates in your abdominal area. 

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.