A Message from the RDs: Alcohol and Weight Loss


Many of my clients come to the club on a consistent basis.  They lift weights, do cardio, go to group exercise classes, even work with personal trainers.  These same clients have also incorporated healthier foods and portions sizes into their diets.  Interestingly enough, many of these same clients are not seeing the results, particularly in weight loss, that they feel they should.  Well, when taking a closer look, the problem often lies on the weekends and the overindulgence of alcohol. Could this alone be enough to sabotage their efforts for weight loss?  The answer is a definitive yes!

Don’t sabotage all that hard work to get healthy. I’ll show you how alcohol can undermine your weight loss efforts, and then give you a plan for surviving the New Year.

What Does Alcohol Do?

1. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions.

We’ve all been there.  We tend to stray from our usual healthy eating habits after we have had too much to drink.  Alcohol diminishes the body’s ability to feel full and the signal to stop eating. This is why after a couple of drinks we are more likely to give into temptation or stop, even when we’ve have had enough. Simply put, when we consume alcohol, we tend to eat too much of the wrong things.

2. Alcohol is full of calories.

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and contain no nutritional value, while carbohydrates and protein only contain 4. When you consider that a 12 ounce beer contains about 140 calories, 4 ounces of wine around 100 calories, and a shot of liquor is about 100 calories, it’s easy to see how fast these empty calories can add up.

3. Alcohol reduces the body’s ability to burn fat.

After we consume alcohol, it is the first fuel to be used when combined with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.

4. Alcohol can hinder a good night’s sleep.

Getting enough sleep is vital to our overall health and weight. Alcohol affects the quality of our sleep by interrupting our REM cycle, which in turn does not allow us to get into a deep sleep and can even cause periodic waking through the night. This, in turn, can affect your food choices and workout the following day.

Plan of Action

Okay, I don’t want to be a total grinch, because drinking in moderation can certainly be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that when drinking alcoholic beverages, men should not exceed 2 drinks per day and women should not exceed more than 1 drink per day. For those who do choose to imbibe, there are some simple strategies that can help prevent over-consumption:

1. Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach:  If you know ahead of time that you will be attending a social gathering, eat regularly throughout the day and continue to eat something at the event.

2. Alternate between alcohol and a glass of water:  This can help slow you down and keep you hydrated.

3. Drink wine, light beer, or spirits on the rocks:  These will give you the most bang for a buck from a calorie and carbohydrate perspective.

As we begin 2016, and you get back to work, normal routines, and even New Year’s resolutions, please consider this:  when contemplating drinking alcohol and how it may affect your waistline, remember to think, before you drink!

Mark LeVine, Registered Dietitian for FFC South Loop, FFC West Loop and FFC Union Station. To schedule a consultation, email Mark at mlevine@ffc.com