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Is alcohol preventing you from losing weight?

Written by Kevin, Nutritionist (M.Sc. Medical Science)

With a whopping seven calories per gram, alcohol contains almost the same amount of calories as pure fat! What's more, alcoholic drinks are full of 'empty calories', meaning they are energy-dense and provide the body with minimal nutritional value. The majority of alcoholic beverages also contain negligible amounts of protein and are mostly comprised of significantly high amounts of fast-releasing carbohydrates (sugar) which can negatively impact blood sugar levels and increase feelings of hunger. All this excess sugar... a key ingredient in weight gain.

Alcohol is primarily recognised by the body as a toxin and once consumed; the body channels all of its energy into expelling it. To do this, important processes taking place in our body, such as fat burning, are interrupted. In summary, drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy, which in turn can lead to fat storage and weight gain.

Notwithstanding weight gain, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and certain cancers. It also inhibits the absorption and usage of vital nutrients such as Vitamin B1, B2, Folic acid and Zinc. Furthermore, the overconsumption of alcohol is also linked to impaired sleep quality, poor decision making with food, dehydration and lethargy.

Consuming alcohol in moderation and adhering to the Chief Medical Officers guidelines of 14 units per week (or less!) is paramount in achieving any weight loss goal.

Follow these top tips the next time you consume alcohol!

  • Try not to exceed 14 units of alcohol per week (this applies to both men and women).
  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
  • Choose single measure light spirits (gin, vodka), as these are lower in calories.
  • Reduce your intake of high calorific cocktails, cider, beer, fortified wines, sherries and liqueurs.
  • Choose a small glass of wine (125-175ml) instead of a large (250ml).
  • Avoid mixing with sweetened fizzy drinks and tonics; opt for soda water or 'light/slimline' options.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Food helps slow down the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol. Before you start drinking, opt for a high-protein, vegetable-rich meal and healthy fats.
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