Q:I love wine. I am trying to lose weight and keep hearing that alcohol will get in the way. If I account for it in my calories, shouldn’t I be able to have it and still lose weight. If not, why?


Alcohol can definitely get in the way of weight loss.  Keeping your alcohol consumption to a minimum is the best idea when you are trying to lose weight.  Here is a breakdown of how alcohol can get in the way even if it is within your caloric budget.

  • Alcohol increases insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance leads to WEIGHT GAIN and INCREASED CARBOHYDRATE CRAVINGS, and TYPE 2 DIABETES.  When you are insulin resistant, you gain weight much more easily than someone who is not, especially in the abdominal area.  Belly fat is a red flag that insulin resistance has started.  It is estimated that about 60% of Americans are in the beginning stages of insulin resistance.
  • Alcohol upsets your ghrelin levels.  Ghrelin is a key hormone in hunger and satisfaction signals.  If you find that you are more hungry the day after you drink (or while you are drinking), know that alcohol has upset your ghrelin levels.  Yes, alcohol makes you hungrier, especially late in the day.
  • ALCOHOL INHIBITS FAT BURNING.  This is the point that sticks out most clearly in those who want to lose weight.  Alcohol directly INHIBITS lipolysis (fat burning).  Your body will process alcohol first before carbs, fat, or protein. This also means that any fat you eat while you are drinking can be directly stored as fat.
  • Alcohol decreases your inhibitions – While everyone knows this, it bears repeating that you will be more likely to make poor food choices while you are drinking than if you were not.

It is really not only the amount of carbs in alcohol that inhibit weight loss.  It is the way that your body metabolizes the alcohol, not matter what the carb content.

If you really want to drink alcohol while you are trying to lose weight, do it as infrequently as possible.  One night of moderate drinking can unravel an entire week of clean eating, but not just because of the calories, but because of the alcohol itself.

Knowing your body is key to knowing what you can handle.  If you choose to eliminate alcohol during the weight loss process and add it back after, do this very slowly so you can assess your body’s changes.