Can You Drink Alcohol In a Calorie Deficit?


In general, you can drink alcohol in a calorie deficit. Moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t impact calorie deficit, and as long as you are in a negative energy balance, you will burn fat. However, excessive alcohol consumption can slow down the progress and lead to fat storage.

In this article, I will help you clarify what does it mean moderate consumption and how much alcohol you can get away with on your calorie deficit.

Can I Drink Alcohol While Trying To Lose Weight?

You can drink alcohol while trying to lose weight. Recreational alcohol consumption within 30 g of ethanol per day for men and 15 g of ethanol per day for women is considered acceptable and is not associated with weight gain, but with improved longevity and better quality of life.

So having a glass of wine with your meal is really beneficial. There are multiple studies showing off that red wine has a laundry list of health-promoting antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Which is true.

But most often one glass turn into bottle.

And at this point all the benefits goes out of the window.

Because from health promoting antioxidants, now we have fatty nightmare. More on that later.

Does Alcohol Stop Fat Burning?

As a whole, alcohol does stop fat burning. Alcohol is eliminated from the body through several metabolic processes, which result in the inhibition of fat oxidation. In the end, ethanol converts into acetyl-CoA, which can generate ATP and therefore, suppress fat from being oxidized.

That is the biggest misconception people have about alcohol.

Alcohol doesn’t make you fat.

Alcohol suppress your fat from being oxidized.

Which is even worse.

Because it means you can be working hard to lose weight all week.

And one weekend can set you back. That’s why people ask.

I’m in a calorie deficit.

But I cannot lose weight.

How Long Does Alcohol Stop Fat Burning?

On average, alcohol stop fat burning for 24-48 hours, depending on the consumption. The metabolic capacity to remove alcohol is about 170 to 240 g per day for a 70 kg person. The factors that influence the elimination rate of alcohol include sex, age, food presence, and physical activity.

Here are some of the factors that will influence how long it takes for the alcohol to be eliminated.

  • Sex

On average, women, eliminate alcohol faster than men.

Since women have less lean body mass than men, the elimination of ethanol per unit of lean body mass is higher (source).

The faster rate of elimination also suggests a faster rate of absorption.

This means that women will have higher alcohol concentration in blood, compared to men.

  • Age

It’s not a secret that you can drink more alcohol when you’re in your 20s, comparing to when you’re in your 50s.

As we age, the decline in alcohol tolerance, absorption rate, and elimination is caused by the volume of total body water (source).

This means the identical dose of alcohol consumed by a young dude (even with the same size as the older guy), will produce a lower blood alcohol concentration, comparing to the older guy.

  • Food intake

Alcohol will be metabolized faster in a fed state, compared to the fasted state.

Levels of ADH enzymes that break down the ethanol are much higher after you eat, therefore, it will increase the alcohol elimination rate.

Have you even heart the saying “don’t drink on the empty stomach?”

Why You Shouldn’t Drink On An Empty Stomach?

In general, you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach because the presence of food in the stomach lowers gastric emptying, and therefore, reduces the absorption of alcohol. Ethanol ingested on an empty stomach is immediately absorbed and passed into the small intestines.

Reduced stomach emptying means it will take much longer for alcohol to be eliminated from the body when is taken on the empty stomach.

So the saying “Don’t drink on an empty stomach” means you will not only get more drunk, but you will compromise your fat burning for longer.

Can I Drink Beer and Still Lose Weight?

In general, you can drink beer and still lose weight. Frequent light to moderate alcohol intake does not seem to be associated with weight gain. However, heavy daily beer drinking is more likely to influence body metabolism and promote excess body weight.

In other words, it’s all about the amount.

If you enjoy a cold beer after a productive week of work, kudos to you.

But if you have to rely on the beer to “relax” every night, bear in mind it will come with consequences.

Because more often than not, people drink daily to de-stress.

Which can be replaced by a number of other de-stressing methods. More on that later.

Will Drinking Once a Week Make Me Fat?

In general, drinking once a week can make you fat. Drinking one to two alcoholic beverages once a week for 12 months can add an extra 1 to 2 kg of body fat. Depending on your age, lean body mass, physical activity, the type of alcohol, and the amount you consume.

A study done in Canada documented people’s binge drinking habits (source).

On average, five drinks per occasion is considered binge drinking.

Here’s what they’ve estimated.

  • Once per month

For people who binge drink (5 drinks per session) once per month, the total calorie intake from alcohol in one year is around 6000 and 13 200 calories.

Which is equivalent to 0.78 – 1.71 kg of fat.

  • Twice per week

For people who binge drink (5 drinks per session) twice per week, the total calories in one year would range from 52 000 to 114 400 calories.

Which is equivalent to 6.74 – 14.83 kg of fat.

Here is the bottom line.

It can add up really quickly.

Because what is 5 drinks?

Nothing.

I used to do 5 drinks to get started.

No problem.

But that was the time of my life where I had a lot of weight problems too.

I would train like The Rock.

I would run like Goggins.

But I was still fat.

Will 2 Beers A Night Make Me Fat?

On average, 2 beers a night can make you fat because you can gain 18 kg of fat within one year. Two beers per night equal around 400 calories and consuming extra 400 calories across 12 months that’s equivalent to 146,000 calories. 146,000 calories equal 18 kg of fat.

That’s over 700 beers in one year!

So having two beers per night may seem like no big deal.

This is true if you have it on occasion.

But drinking 2 beers every night in a one-year time can set you up for 18 kg of fat.

That is huge.

Of course, you may exercise more to burn this off.

But burning off 400 calories per day on the treadmill or elliptical, every day, for 365 days is not realistic.

So if you’re planning to cut, it’s much, much more realistic to reduce beer intake, rather than adding tons of cardio.

Will One Night of Drinking Affect My Weight Loss?

On average, one night of binge drinking per week can add an extra 11 kg of body fat in 12 months, which can affect your weight loss. Heavy alcohol drinking can influence optimum long-term weight loss, therefore, reducing alcohol consumption may improve your results.

The problem with one night is that it creates a compounding effect on the rest of your work (source).

Because what usually happens after one night drinking?

You eat what you want:

  • You don’t care about calories
  • You don’t care about water
  • You don’t care about working out

If you have drinking night more often, then you can see how quickly it all add up.

It’s not gonna help with a calorie deficit.

But id doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy yourself and live in a celibate.

The best way out is to try intermittent fasting the day after you drink.

You reduce your food intake, maybe even to one meal a day, and it will reduce the “damage” of the night of drinking.

Will One Night of Drinking Ruin My Muscle Gains?

In general, one night of drinking can slow down your muscle gains, but it won’t ruin it. Alcohol consumption inhibits muscle protein synthesis, inhibits fat oxidation, and increases your appetite. So one night of drinking won’t make many changes, but more frequent drinking can affect your muscle gains.

It all comes down to your priorities.

On the one side, you want to keep your gains.

On the other side, you don’t wanna be this guy or gal who doesn’t drink because you’re on diet.

It happens to me.

I was backpacking in south-east Asia. At the same time, I was experimenting with yoga and a plant-based diet.

This means I was very specific about my food intake and didn’t want to drink alcohol.

But on many occasions, I was with groups of friends, and because of my irrational “rules”, I couldn’t really enjoy myself.

I was this guy who always complained about what to eat.

I felt like idiot.

Because I had on opportunity to try some local food and drinks with my new friends. Instead, I was this weird guy.

Big mistake.

Will I Lose Belly Fat if I Stop Drinking Alcohol?

In general, abstaining from alcohol can improve fat oxidation and lead to a decrease in belly fat. Short-term abstinence from alcoholic beverages can significantly improve insulin resistance, lower body weight, lower BMI, and reduce blood pressure.

Recreational alcohol consumption is associated with improved longevity, lowered risks for total mortality, coronary artery disease, and diabetes (source).

However, heavy drinking is associated with excess weight, hypertension, insulin resistance and lower mortality rate.

So.

Having a “sober October” or “dry January” every now and then can not only reduce belly fat but can also improve other health markers.

Also, alcohol is typically used as a stress relief.

And it works.

But only short term.

Instead you could try:

Conclusion

I’m not here to tell anyone how to live their live. I believe life is to be lived to some extend. I’m just the exercise physiologist trying to describe consequences.

You can drink and lose weight.

But drinking every day can give you more frustration from not losing weight.

Keep that in mind

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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