How Much Weight Can You Lose By Giving Up Alcohol?

If you’re serious about losing weight and keeping it off, consider giving up alcohol. Drinking can contribute to weight gain in several ways that may not be obvious to you. Learn how much weight you can lose by ditching that extra glass of wine or beer with your meals.

How does alcohol cause weight gain?

Contrary to what many people believe, alcohol contains many calories that can derail your weight loss efforts. The following table shows how many calories are in some common alcoholic drinks¹.

Calorie count of common alcoholic beverages per serving size

It’s not only the calories in the alcohol itself that contribute to weight gain. Many spirits are mixed with sugary drinks that ramp up the calorie count dramatically. The soda or extra servings of sugar added to your cocktail can add on an extra 150 to 180 kCal².

Other mechanisms also come into play.

Alcohol has been shown to stimulate appetite³. Studies have consistently shown increased food intake following alcohol consumption. Put simply, if you have a drink before dinner, you’re more likely to eat more during meals³.

Not only does alcohol stimulate appetite, but it also interacts with the hormones that signal how full you are (satiety hormones)³ ⁴. Drinking alcohol with a meal can lead you to overeat as you don’t recognize when you are full³.

Studies have also reported that people do not compensate for the calories in alcohol by decreasing non-alcoholic food energy intake. Except in alcoholics, the calories from alcohol are added to the total food energy intake, increasing total daily calorie counts and leading to weight gain⁵ ⁶.

How much weight can you lose if you give up alcohol?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. Weight loss boils down to a simple equation: The calories you take in must be fewer than the calories you expend. This creates a calorie deficit, which requires your body to use fat reserves for energy.

Reducing your calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 kCal a day can lead to a one- to two-pound weight loss per week⁷.

How much weight you lose when you give up alcohol will depend on how much you are currently drinking. If you habitually drink three beers a day, then just replacing your beers with water or another calorie-free drink will be almost all you need to do to create a 500 kCal deficit.

However, if you usually only drink one whiskey a day (with a value of 97 kCal), for example, you may need to make other dietary changes or increase your exercise to create enough of a calorie deficit to lose weight.

How quickly you lose weight after giving up alcohol will also depend on a number of factors, again including what your starting point is. The more alcohol you regularly drink, the quicker and more noticeable the effect of stopping it will be. 

How to keep the weight off once you’ve given up alcohol

Once you’ve given up alcohol and lost weight, how can you make sure that you don’t regain that weight?

One of the surest ways to keep the pounds off is to continue saying no to alcohol. If you are reluctant to give it up completely, try the following tactics to reduce the impact of alcohol on your weight:

  • Reserve drinking alcohol for special occasions or weekends only; don’t make it part of your daily routine. 

  • Choose low-calorie alcohol options, such as light beer or wine.

  • Lose the sweet mixers and drink your spirits with ice or soda water instead.

Getting into a consistent exercise program has also been shown to help prevent weight regain⁸, so make sure to add some vigorous activities to your daily routine. 

Other benefits of giving up alcohol

Alcohol doesn’t only affect your brain in the short-term (slurred speech, memory loss, staggering gait, and many of the other signs and symptoms of being drunk), but it can also cause long-term damage to your brain. In fact, alcohol has been implicated in contributing to early-onset and other types of dementia⁹.

Fortunately, giving up alcohol leads to brain regeneration after just two weeks of abstinence. Studies show that brain volume continues to recover up to three months after giving up alcoholic drinks¹⁰ ¹¹.

Alcohol has also been shown to cause poor quality, disrupted sleep. Even though a drink or two may initially lead to drowsiness, the quality of your sleep is negatively affected by chronic and excessive drinking.

Giving up alcohol does improve the overall quality of your sleep and your daytime concentration and wakefulness¹². As a bonus, getting better quality sleep will help prevent weight gain¹³.

A study shows that short-term abstinence from alcohol improves cardiovascular health, decreases blood pressure and weight, and improves insulin sensitivity. Abstaining from alcohol also leads to a decrease in cancer-related growth factors¹⁴. Additionally, limiting alcohol use may prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies¹⁵.

The lowdown

Cutting out alcohol from your daily routine helps in weight loss. The more you are currently drinking habitually, the greater the weight loss is likely to be when you stop.

Combining abstinence with a healthy diet and exercise program increases the weight loss benefits of quitting alcohol.

Aside from weight loss, giving up alcohol has numerous other health benefits as well. It can lead to better sleep, improved brain function and heart health, and decreased risk of dementia and cancer.



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