Are you worried that your drinking habits sabotage your weight loss efforts? Let’s hear the truth about alcohol, fat and weight loss.
Alcohol Can’t Be Stored As Fat
There is something wonderful about alcohol and from a weight loss perspective it’s not the euphoria or mellowing.
No, your body will never store it as fat. You could drink alcohol endlessly (or at least until your liver gives out) and it’ll never directly end up on your belly, thighs or buttocks.
So why don’t we all drink alcohol to lose weight?
Alcohol’s Indirect Route
Because your body can’t convert the energy in alcohol to fat, but alcohol still contains energy that has to be used. Your body tries to get rid of it as fast as possible and stops generating energy from all other sources (carbs, fat and protein).
Let’s look at it with a practical example. Let’s say you are a 190 lbs man and you faithfully eat the 1,900 kcal / day you need to lose 2 lbs per week. Now you drink a glass of wine, which contains 18 g of alcohol. One gram alcohol is worth 7 kcal and the glass therefore has 125 kcal.
Your body stops all energy production from fat etc., burns those 125, at the same time saving 125 it would have burned from fat.
It’s Still In Vs. Out
If you read my linked explanation of the in-vs-out principle, you know what this means: although the calories from alcohol can’t be stored, they have to be accounted for, because they keep your body from burning fat and indirectly contribute to a calorie surplus.
Here is a list of alcoholic beverages and how many calories they come with:
|Calories Per 5 Fl. Oz. (150 ml)
|Vodka, gin, rum, whiskey (100 proof)
|Vodka, gin, rum, whiskey (80 proof)
One shot or jigger of vodka, gin etc. is about 1.5 fl. oz. or 50 ml.
When The Alcohol Isn’t Burned
Now I’ll contradict what I said above: there are circumstances under which the body won’t burn all calories from alcohol.
Remember I said that the body tries to get rid of the alcohol as fast as possible? It really means it. To your body, it’s a toxin and it will convert it as long as you drink slowly enough for your liver to keep up – which is where the turning into energy thing happens for alcohol.
But when you drink at a rate faster than the liver can work, the excess alcohol is excreted via your urine. Drink a little and most of the calories in alcohol will be digested, drink heavily and a lot of the calories will be lost.
I don’t know if that would be a good idea for weight loss. If you are an habitual binge drinker, you have other things to worry about than weight.
Alcohol As A Food
The calories from alcohol are empty calories, meaning they don’t give your body anything useful beside pure energy. And I’m saying this as a citizen of Germany, where some people believe that beer is “liquid food.”
In reality the amount of useful nutrients in alcoholic beverages is rather limited and all you heard about “red wine is good for your heart” stands on shaky feet.
It Won’t Make You Fat Per Se
The occasional glass of wine or beer or a shot is no problem. As long as you count the calories in it, it won’t make you fat. But when you are on a diet, you should still limit your alcohol consumption, because its empty calories won’t give your body nutrients to work with.
Picture courtesy of Jeff Wilcox.