Is alcohol bad for losing weight?

Is alcohol really that bad for weight loss? Sadly, the answer is yes. And there is more than one reason. The effects of alcohol on weight loss range from consuming more calories than normal to changes in sleep patterns to metabolism.


5 Reasons alcohol is bad for weight loss

TL;DR: Alcohol is bad for weight loss. The effects of alcohol on weight loss range from consuming more calories than normal to changes in sleep patterns to metabolism. 

 You probably don’t need a reminder, but we are racing towards the end of the year. The silly season is just around the corner. It is time for socialising with friends, family and colleagues. We will be raising a toast and bidding farewell to another long year full of challenges and uncertainties.

 Whether you started on your weight loss journey in January or have only just gotten going, you don’t want to let yourself down and overindulge during the holiday season. You have been focused and disciplined up until now. The last thing you want is to undo all of your hard work by reaching for too many cocktails. 

Is alcohol really that bad for weight loss? Sadly, the answer is yes. And there is more than one reason. The effects of alcohol on weight loss range from consuming more calories than normal to changes in sleep patterns to metabolism. Here are 5 of the most important reasons alcohol interferes with your weight loss efforts.


#1 Alcoholic beverages contain lots of empty calories

Your favourite drink contains plenty of calories, but no nutrition1. In other words it provides you with fuel but no fiber, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids or phytonutrients that keep your body functioning optimally.

To put it into perspective: 1 slice of bread contains approximately 66 calories.

  • 1 can of beer gives you 154 calories which is the equivalent of two and a third slices of bread
  • 1 glass of red wine will provide 125 calories which is the equivalent of almost two slices of bread
  • 1 tot of vodka - the one everyone thinks is okay on a weight loss program - will give you 97 calories, one and a half slices of bread. And that is before you’ve added the orange juice or lemonade.
  • A gin and tonic gives you a whopping 170 calories - two and a half slices of bread. You can cut the calorie content to 110 calories if you use sugar-free tonic.
  • And if you enjoy cocktails, the calorie content sores. The average strawberry daiquiri is packed with 220 calories - three and a third slices of bread

Your average snack provides less of a calorie punch than alcoholic beverages do. When you find yourself reaching for your second, third or fourth drink, stop and ask yourself if the extra calories are worth it.


#2 The alcohol in your drink is extra calories

Because of its high calorie content and negative effects on the body, alcohol is not routinely planned into a weight loss diet. All of those calories you are drinking are pushing you over your recommended daily allowance2. If you only occasionally indulge in a drink or two, it is not something you have to worry about. But if you have two to three drinks everyday on the weekend and even more than that during the festive season, your scale is going to complain.


#3 Alcohol makes it harder to resist tempting food

Alcohol is renowned for making people a little silly. We lose our inhibitions and do things we normally wouldn’t dream of doing. The same applies to your willpower. Over the last few months you have perfected the art of limiting all of the food that tempts you to blow your diet. Add a few glasses of wine into the mix and your ability to turn food down declines3.

 To top that off, your blood sugar drops and you get hungry. So you become more likely to dig into the snacks or stop for a burger on your way home.


#4 Alcohol is used for energy first

Not only does your beer increase your calorie intake, but the energy provided by alcohol is metabolised and used for energy first4. That means that everything you normally eat is going to be stored.

 Alcohol also changes the way your body metabolises and stores carbohydrates and fats which makes it much harder to lose weight.


#5 Your nightcap interferes with sleep

You may fall asleep more easily after a drink or two in the evening, but alcohol affects the quality of your sleep5. Poor quality sleep disrupts the hormones that control hunger and metabolism. Changes in insulin, leptin and ghrelin make you eat more. Calories will be stored as fat, rather than burned for energy.

If you enjoy the odd alcoholic beverage, now is not the time of year to quit. Enjoy your glass of wine, it is part of our social contract. But know that an excess will get in the way of your weight loss efforts. In this case, moderation really is the key. Don’t blow the calorie budget on drinks. Save some for all of the delicious foods that come around just once a year. 



  1. Scott S, Muir C, Stead M, Fitzgerald N, Kaner E, Bradley J, et al. Exploring the links between unhealthy eating behaviour and heavy alcohol use in the social, emotional and cultural lives of young adults (aged 18–25): A qualitative research study. Appetite [Internet]. 2020 Jan [cited 2021 Nov 26];104449. Available from:
  2. Battista K, Leatherdale ST. Estimating how extra calories from alcohol consumption are likely an overlooked contributor to youth obesity. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada [Internet]. 2017 Jun [cited 2021 Nov 26];(6):194–200. Available from:
  3. Kwok A, Dordevic AL, Paton G, Page MJ, Truby H. Effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition [Internet]. 2019 Jan 29 [cited 2021 Nov 26];(5):481–95. Available from:
  4. Jiang L, Gulanski BI, De Feyter HM, Weinzimer SA, Pittman B, Guidone E, et al. Increased brain uptake and oxidation of acetate in heavy drinkers. Journal of Clinical Investigation [Internet]. 2013 Mar 8 [cited 2021 Nov 26];(4):1605–14. Available from:
  5. Britton A, Fat LN, Neligan A. The association between alcohol consumption and sleep disorders among older people in the general population. Scientific Reports [Internet]. 2020 Mar 24 [cited 2021 Nov 26];(1). Available from:

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