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  • Tom Toth

How Much Alcohol is Too Much if You're Trying to Lose Weight?

Updated: May 1, 2019

I'm sure we all know that drinking too much alcohol is not good for us, but how much is too much if you are specifically trying to lose body-fat? Current guidelines are 10 drinks a week and 15 for men, with no more than 3 any given day. But what is a drink? In Canada, a bottle of beer at 5% is one drink, while one pint of beer at 5% alcohol is 1.4 drinks. A small glass of wine at 175ml is also 1 drink, as is a 1 oz. shot of hard liquor like scotch or vodka.

These numbers are quite easy to exceed, because speaking from personal experience, 175 ml of wine is very little wine. Most people who would never consider themselves problem drinkers routinely exceed this amount on a daily basis. While alcohol has many negative side effects (inflammation, disrupted sleep, memory loss etc.), a concern many of us forget about is the extra calories alcohol contains, both itself as a digestible molecule, and the sugar that often accompanies alcoholic beverages. Alcohol equivalent to a bottle of beer or glass of wine contains around 130 calories. At two (small) servings a day, plus a couple of extra drinks on the weekend, you're looking at 2500 calories, which is about 2/3 of a pound of excess fat. In other words, the recommended 1 lb of fat-loss a week is severely undercut by even a moderate drinking habit.

Another thing to consider is how alcohol lowers inhibitions and tends to make people overeat to a much greater extent than they would otherwise. I fervently believe that the scourge of late-night snacking that is sweeping our nation can mostly be attributed to post-dinner drinks that most of us tend to have.

I have recently greatly reduced my alcohol intake to no more than 5 (small) drinks a week, and the biggest difference I've noticed is that I find it much easier to push through my most tired periods. I get up early, and I find that when I would have a pint of beer every night (the stronger, 6-8% stuff, usually), by the next afternoon I was exhausted. With less drinking I also generally tend to eat a lot less, with no urge to snack after dinner. While I enjoyed having something to drink while watching TV before bedtime, I now have a cup of tea, which isn't exactly the same, but it gets the job done.

If you can't make progress in your weight-loss efforts, and drink more than a bit, I recommend perhaps cutting back on the alcohol, and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results!

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