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Does cutting alcohol equal weight loss? (Yes! Here’s how.)


14 minute read

Cutting alcohol out of your daily life may indeed lead to weight loss, along with other health benefits. Extra benefits to your health may include reducing cancer risk, lowering blood pressure, getting better sleep, and strengthening your immune system.

Do you lose weight by cutting drinking? Yes, you can lose weight by drinking. Not only can boozy drinks be a high source of calories in your diet, but reducing your drinking means you are more prone to exercise and reduce your junk food cravings.

In the short-term, you’ll find your stomach lining becomes less inflamed, reducing symptoms of binge drinking like acid reflux. After laying off the sauce for 20+ days, you should see other benefits start to manifest, like weight loss.

In the United States, current Dietary Guidelines recommend that alcohol should only be consumed in moderation. That means 1 drink a day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Anything beyond that can be considered drinking in excess.

Not to judge! You drink what you want. But for the purposes of this article, let’s call drinking more than the Dietary Guidelines recommend “excessive drinking”.

If you drink in excess, abstaining from alcohol is likely to help shed a few pounds and maybe a couple of inches off your waistline.

This article is your go-to guide for losing weight while giving up alcohol. 

And don’t forget — Surely’s unique, non-alcoholic rosé is here to help you on your alcohol-free journey.

Do you lose weight when you cut alcohol?

You can lose weight when you cut alcohol, especially if you tend to binge on a semi-regular basis. Cutting out alcohol means cutting calories, as well as improved overall health and wellness — both leading towards a healthy body weight.

Experts will tell you: When you indulge in alcohol, your ability to make smart dietary choices gets weaker and weaker. If you drink a can of beer, you’re more likely to eat a high-calorie plate of nachos.

How much weight can you lose by cutting alcohol? When cutting alcohol, how much weight you lose depends on your daily calorie intake, how often you exercise, and how much you drank before. In general, you’re not going to drop massive amounts of weight when you stop drinking… but you will likely notice some weight loss.

Can you lose weight by not drinking alcohol? You can lose weight by not drinking alcohol. This is not true for everyone, but it will probably be true for anyone who drinks more than 1-2 drinks every day.

8 Reasons Giving Up Alcohol Helps You Lose Weight

Let’s count the reasons that giving up alcohol helps you lose weight:

  1. Calorie reduction

  2. Better sleep

  3. Less sugar

  4. Reduced food cravings

  5. Improved digestion

  6. Better metabolism

  7. Exercise

  8. Sense of accomplishment

It’s not just a 1:1 cause and effect. If you stop drinking, your overall wellness improves, leading to healthier body weight.

1. Calorie Reduction

Reducing calories is the most obvious way that no alcohol leads to weight loss.

Depending on the variety, the brand, and the amount of alcohol, alcoholic beverages may contain a lot of calories:

  • Can of beer — 154 calories

  • Glass of wine — 123 calories

  • Shot of whiskey — 105 calories

  • Gin & tonic — 170 calories

  • Sangria — 215 calories

  • Margarita — 200 calories

  • Mojito — 242 calories

  • Manhattan — 187 calories

  • Mimosa — 160 calories

  • Moscow Mule — 182 calories

And whoever drinks one mimosa at brunch? Pssh. Imagine how quickly these calories add up when someone is at a bar or a party!

Alcohol is typically full of empty calories. You’ve heard of empty calories, right? That just means they have no nutritional value, but still add to your calorie count.

Whereas you may see ice cream or a slice of pizza as an indulgence that you’re careful about, you may not see glasses of wine or bottles of beer the same way, even if they may contain similar calorie counts (and grams of sugar).

Ultimately, walking away from a daily drink (or more) of alcohol means you are avoiding hundreds of calories, which can quickly lead to weight loss. 

Just don’t replace those calories with sugary sodas and juices. Get a water filter for your home. Only order water at restaurants. Water is zero calories. You’ll thank me later.

Alcohol Weight Loss Benefits - Calorie Reduction

2. Better Sleep

One of the clearest health benefits of cutting out alcohol is improved sleep. Bonus: higher-quality sleep may lead to weight loss!

Although a nightcap can help you fall asleep at first, it reduces REM (random eye movements) sleep, which is what you really want during slumber.

Alcohol use before bed may increase alpha wave patterns, which is bad if you’re looking for high-quality, restorative sleep.

How does sleep affect weight? Sleep deprivation or low-quality sleep affects your weight by increasing stress hormones that make it more difficult to burn fat. We want to reduce stress, making it easier to burn fat.

Also, some experts hypothesize that low-quality sleep leads to hormonal changes that increase appetite. Cutting back on alcohol can improve your sleep and therefore decrease your appetite.

3. Less Sugar

Many cocktails are rife with added sugar. But did you know that there is already sugar in red wine and champagne? (It’s from the grapes.) Consuming less sugar is sure to promote healthy weight loss.

As if it wasn’t obvious, here’s a study positively correlating sugar intake and body weight.

Plenty of people in lab coats have compiled evidence that eating too many added sugars trigger inflammation in your body. That inflammation can trigger weight gain, and even make it harder to lose weight.

Taking added sugars (and refined carbs) out of your diet can definitely help with inflammation and weight loss. Goodbye, sugary mixed drinks. 🍹

Another sugar-related benefit of quitting alcohol is reduced insulin resistance, which may lead to weight loss.

Insulin resistance is when your cells have a harder time taking sugar from your blood to use for energy. This can lead to type 2 diabetes. 1 in 3 Americans has some form of insulin resistance.

A few years back, researchers observed 102 people taking part in Dry January. Their insulin resistance went down, which is great for losing fat.

When you’re insulin resistant, your blood sugar levels are higher and you store a lot more fat than normal. When you stop drinking, you’re less insulin resistant, and therefore store less fat. At the very least, this stops weight gain. At best, this promotes weight loss.

4. Reduced Food Cravings

Drinking makes you crave junk food. If you cut out alcohol, your cravings for unhealthy junk food should go down, leading to weight loss.

Excessive alcohol can lower blood sugar, which may lead to craving extra sugar and carbs.

Drinking alcohol often leads to shorter, lower quality sleep, which studies suggest result in additional calorie intake. One study observed 30 minutes of sleep deficit led to people eating 83 additional calories per day.

Research published in Appetite shows that drinking one drink seems to stimulate food cravings for high-calorie foods. So it makes sense that quitting alcohol can reduce those cravings.

As mentioned earlier, alcohol messes with your sleep quality. Low-quality sleep can actually screw up the hormones that regulate hunger, fat storage, and that feeling of fullness. Getting rid of alcohol normalizes these appetite hormones.

5. Improved Digestion

Your digestive system treats alcohol as a toxin, which makes sense — alcohol is a known human carcinogen. Your digestive system works very hard to remove alcohol. 

When you don’t drink, your digestive system has an easier time doing its other important jobs, which may contribute to weight loss.

When alcohol is consumed, it is burned as a fuel source before anything else. That means alcohol is used for energy before glucose from carbohydrates, leaving that glucose to be stored as fat. Giving up drinking prevents those excess fat stores.

Alcohol screws with your digestive function. It may trigger stress on the stomach and intestines, decreasing digestive secretions. This reduces how many nutrients your body breaks down and absorbs. 

If you quit drinking, you can improve the metabolism of these organs (which play a large role in weight management).

Removing alcohol from your diet can also reduce your risk of developing acid reflux or stomach inflammation.

Note: Heavy binge drinking can lead to weight loss due to malnutrition, which is obviously bad. Let’s try to be healthy about losing weight, k?

6. Better Metabolism

When you give up alcohol, your metabolism improves. When your metabolism works more efficiently, weight loss may follow.

You may have heard something like, “Wow! You have the metabolism of an 18-year-old!” Well, alcohol definitely ages your metabolism.

One way alcohol affects our metabolism is that alcohol is burned for energy before glucose from carbs. This makes it more likely that glucose is stored as fat for later use.

Alcohol also affects testosterone levels in both men and women. This can impair your ability to burn fat. When you give up alcohol, it is easier to get rid of fat.

Low testosterone levels in men may be a sign of metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by high cholesterol and high body mass index.

Heavy drinkers and long-term drinkers experience slower metabolisms. But it’s not too late to give up alcohol, restore your metabolism, and lose excess weight.

7. Exercise

Exercise is a vital part of losing weight. Alcohol makes it harder to exercise for several reasons:

  • Alcohol is a depressant. It literally slows you down. Your endurance and aerobic capacity plummet, so exercise after drinking is pretty inefficient. Exercise is more efficient when you don’t drink!

  • Muscle gain is inhibited when drinking. Weight loss and muscle gain are different, yes, but it’s worth noting that quitting alcohol can promote muscle gain.

  • When you are drinking, you are not exercising. That’s a little oversimplified, but if you don’t drink, you have more free time to exercise.

  • Feeling hungover discourages exercise because your energy is sapped and you don’t want to aggravate your hangover. No alcohol means no hangovers, increasing the likelihood of exercising.

  • A 2017 study concludes, “Heavy alcohol consumption significantly reduces sleep quality, and significantly increases daytime sleepiness the following day.” Daytime sleepiness is the enemy of motivation to exercise.

Exercise doesn’t have to be scary. It’s easy. Start with walking around the neighborhood, or parking in the back of the parking lot at work or the store. Regular exercise is the cornerstone of overall wellness.

Also, exercise is an excellent way to take your mind off alcohol, especially if you’re having trouble with alcohol cravings.

8. Sense of Accomplishment

If you swear off drinking, and keep to it, you feel a sense of accomplishment. This can go a long way.

When you get a mental health boost from your accomplishments, you are more likely to exercise, reduce stress levels, and go out of your way to buy healthier foods — all of which contribute to weight loss.

Because losing weight and giving up alcohol are both journeys, it makes sense that succeeding at one can encourage you to succeed at the other.

Sharing your sense of accomplishment can be encouraging, too — just don’t be annoying about it. 😉 Encouragement is the death of stress. And while sharing your success, you may find a support group who can help you on both these important journeys.

Alcohol is only part of the equation.

There are other things you can do to support the weight loss that happens when you give up alcohol:

  • Eat healthy foods. Avoid refined carbs, trans fat, and empty calories. Make smart food choices like whole fruits and veggies, high-quality meats, and fiber-rich seeds. Portion control is your friend.

  • Drink plenty of water. 🚰 Keep up your hydration to avoid headaches that feel like next-day hangovers.

  • Don’t replace alcohol with indulgent, high-calorie foods. Avoid sugary sodas and juices.

  • Let yourself get 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep.
  • Exercise! It’s so easy. And it’s vital. You don’t need a gym membership. You don’t need to stress about it. Think of exercise as a stress reliever.

Tips for Successfully Ditching Alcohol

  • Replace alcoholic drinks with alcohol-free, no sugar added substitutes, like Surely’s alcohol-removed rosé. There are great alcohol alternatives out there, including delicious mocktails.

  • Prepare yourself for activities that usually include alcohol. Instead of cracking open a beer on football night, just drink water in a Solo cup while you watch the game. Instead of mimosas at brunch, opt for sparkling water — it’s still 0 calories, but looks fancy. 💅

  • Look for new activities to replace drinking. Meditation, going to the gym, and new hobbies are all great alternatives to sitting down with a drink. There are apps to connect you with other sober and sober curious people, so you can get together and help each other forget about alcohol.

  • Write down a plan for your alcohol-free life. What will you do when you feel an urge to drink? Do you have anyone to call for support, and their phone numbers? What are alcohol alternatives you want to try?

  • Establish a strong circle of support. Ditching the drink is easier with friends and allies on your side. You could even look into resources like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), a registered dietitian, or a recovery coach.

  • Be okay with not losing 30 pounds in a month. It’s safe and healthy to lose up to 2 pounds every week, according to various experts.

  • Don’t give up. So many people give up their New Year’s resolutions within the first month. But you don’t have to!

What happens after 4 days of not drinking? After 4 days of not drinking, you should be getting better sleep. And you should be thanking yourself for avoiding hangovers. However, if you’re a very heavy drinker, you may still be experiencing withdrawal symptoms at day 4.

What happens after 30 days of not drinking? If you are interested in Dry January or Sober September, you’ll be glad to know what happens after 30 days of not drinking: improved overall health, higher quality sleep, better liver health, lower risk of heart disease, and probably some weight loss.

Sources

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  5. Mehta, G., Macdonald, S., Maurice, J., Al-Khatib, S., Piao, S., Rosselli, M., ... & Moore, K. (2015). Short Term Abstinence from Alcohol Improves Insulin Resistance and Fatty Liver Phenotype in Moderate Drinkers: 113. Hepatology, 62. Abstract: https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hep.28184

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