Alcohol is a common sight in many types of gatherings. Interestingly enough its origins have always remained unclear, at least where drinking alcohol is concerned. However, several historians speculate that it has been around as early as the Neolithic period as evidenced by beer jugs that date back to that era. It is further presumed that its inception was purely accidental.
Regardless of how it began, libations to this day continue to be enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Statistics show that over 2 Billion people worldwide enjoy some type of alcohol or another.
Unfortunately, the consumption of alcohol can lead to several health-related issues and in some instances even death. While worse case scenarios are the product of excessive amounts of booze, regular intake on the other hand can lead to weight gain.
Ideally, it is best to steer clear of liquor altogether, but if you are unable to avoid it completely you can always turn to alcohol-free options, as well as low-calorie alternatives. Before we get into what these choices are, it’s essential to understand why alcohol makes you fat in the first place.
Why does alcohol make you gain weight?
You can follow the healthiest diet but still end up halting your progress, worse – adding on more weight than you had already lost. And this is all thanks to enjoying a couple of drinks every weekend. But why does this happen, you ask?
Well, in order for the human body to function, it needs to burn up energy from the fat reserves in the system. This same fat-burning process of the reserves is exactly what you need to achieve when you are attempting to shed weight. However, when you take in alcohol during this weight loss attempt, it is the alcohol that gets used up and not your reserved fat. Since booze is a form of energy that happens to be more accessible, the fat that should be burned takes a back seat. Simply put, the more you drink, the more the body taps into alcohol in the system as fuel, and the more stored fat gets ignored.
Unlike food and other beverages, alcohol is a source of empty calories. But don’t start celebrating just yet. What we mean when we say “empty calories” is that it does add up to your calorie count and yet it has no real nutritional value. Additionally, every time you take a sip of bubbly or a chug from that nice cold pint, you mess up your appetite.
Excessive drinking causes the blood sugar to dip, and in turn, leads you to feel hunger and even experience cravings for fatty and unhealthy food. And since alcohol lowers your inhibitions you are more likely to cave in and throw caution to the wind when satisfying your so-called hunger.
How many calories does alcohol contain?
There are three main macronutrients that dietary calories are composed of: carbs, fats, and proteins. As discussed previously, alcohol does not contain any essential nutrients. Nonetheless, like the other macros, alcohol does contain calories that get added to your diet.
Studies from Harvard Medical School suggest that for every gram of alcohol, you get an equivalent of 7 calories. That’s nearly the same amount you get from fat where the ratio is 9 calories to a gram. And in a chart comparing macronutrients, this is what you get per gram.
Now you might think that the numbers don’t seem that bad. According to the Mayo Clinic, the standard alcoholic beverage generally contains 14 grams of alcohol per serving. Thus, when we multiply that number with Harvard’s data, we get a total of 98 calories for the average glass of prohibitions. To illustrate, here’s a simple table comparing the usual kinds of alcohol many would reach for when enjoying a drink.
Hard liquor (80 proof spirits)
1.5 fluid ounces / one shot
12 fluid ounces
5 fluid ounces
Bear in mind that these serving sizes could still very much vary. Case in point, if you’re filling your own wine glass, it is more than likely you are filling it up past the 5oz mark. Most glasses are 8oz, thus you can easily be consuming more calories than you bargained for. With this data in mind, it’s easy to see how alcohol consumption can drastically affect any weight loss goals.
15 of the best low-calorie alcohols for weight loss
There’s no such thing as alcohol that can help you lose weight. On the other hand, there are alcoholic drinks you can order without having to deal with an avalanche of calories. These are great for individuals who are trying to watch their weight.
Goes by its more popular name: Rum & Coke, this highball cocktail consists of, you guessed it – rum and cola. In order to make this a friendlier drink, switch out your regular cola with a sugar-free or diet cola.
Skip the sugar syrup, go crazy on the mint and the lime juice instead so you can stay at 100 calories and not the usual 168 that you can get from the regular version.
This two-ingredient drink has been a party staple for many decades. It’s a simple combo that’s refreshing and light. Ask for this because seltzer has zero calories in it. You get to enjoy some liquor while staying within a calorie deficit diet. Don’t forget the squeeze of lemon and a wedge of lime to complete this low-calorie drink.
Rum with black tea (unsweetened)
Not a huge fan of cola? That’s okay, you can instead reach for some hot unsweetened black tea. The British call it a hot toddy and swear by the medicinal properties. Known to help relieve congestion and soothe sore throat especially during the winter months. Try out this recipe yourself but leave out the sweetener to bring down the calorie count so you can keep those weight loss goals in check.
Channel your inner Bond with this classic drink. Combine gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters, and two olives. With virtually no carbs or sugar, each serving will only set you back some 200 calories.
Tequila with a splash of lime
It’s just like a vodka tonic but take out the vodka and in its place use tequila. You can add a splash of lime, lemon, or even some club soda to give it some added flavor minus the sugary calories found in other alcoholic beverages.
Made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a couple of citrus bitters, the manhattan is the perfect dessert drink with only 187 calories to its name.
Your average glass of red wine has 120 to 130 calories. Though there is no scientific difference between a glass of red versus a glass of white, studies have shown that pinot noir has bigger cardiovascular benefits.
Who says you can’t still enjoy a good brewski while working a diet and rigorous workout schedule? As opposed to a can of regular beer (12 fluid oz), light beer only has 104 calories. That’s close to a 50 calorie difference, which is great if beer is your favorite poison.
In case you didn’t know, keeping your alcohol closet to its purest will ensure you ingest as few calories as possible. Liquor and spirits with very little added to them are more manageable for your midsection. Traditionally made with lime juice and grapefruit, a Paloma is pretty much a margarita clone minus a few extra calories. Always go for freshly squeezed fruit over pre-packaged juices.
Baileys & coffee
Give your mornings a nice jolt by putting together an Irish favorite with much fewer added calories. Take a cup of decaffeinated coffee and add a 1.5oz shot of Baileys and get your day started. We know it can be addicting so try not to make this concoction a daily habit.
Mint cucumber vodka
Even tv personality and businesswoman, Martha Stewart can’t say no to a good mint cucumber vodka cocktail. You can’t blame her, this amazing beverage is the epitome of refreshing. With only a total of 110 calories per 8oz serving, you should definitely order this the next time you are out.
Bloody Mary Lite
Admittedly, Bloody Marys aren’t the friendliest to people who are trying to lose weight. With 200 – 400 calories per serving this tasty drink can fatten you up in a blink of an eye. To make it healthy, forgo the premixed versions since it is easy to put together a Bloody Mary mix on your own. Get your tomato and vodka fix for as little as 134 calories when you go the DIY route.
Scotch on the rocks
A wise person once said, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” This person wasn’t wrong. When trying to cut down on the fat brought about by liquor, the best way is to just drink it on the rocks. Basically a straight pour of the house scotch over some ice cubes. Scotch has no fats, no salt, and hardly any sugar in it, making it an ideal spirit choice for weight watchers. We’d call 80 calories per 35ml of 50% scotch is an absolute win!
It’s not so much naked as it is sugar-free. Any margarita fan knows that a serving includes tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and agave syrup. The classic margarita has a calorie count hovering at 200 – 230, and a frozen one clocks 500 calories. Removing the sugar cuts this margarita on the rocks down to 153 calories.
Is it possible to drink alcohol and still lose some weight?
You do not need to be a heavy drinker, regular intake of more than a serving can add calories resulting in a fuller figure. It’s no secret after all that alcohol has always been counted as one of the worst foods that cause you to put on weight. If you want to keep the weight down here are a few simple things you can work into your lifestyle.
#1 ALWAYS practice moderation
Everything in life is best done in moderation. This particularly holds true when it comes to enjoying your favorite food or drink. With that in mind, make it a habit to plan ahead so that you can already set a drinking limit. Doing so ensures you do not feel limited or left out when those around you are enjoying themselves.
#2 Keep hydrated
Drinking lots of H2O not only guarantees you don’t get a hangover, but it also keeps you full thus avoiding the possibility of going for another glass of liquor. More importantly, it can help train you to feel more comfortable sipping on regular water while those around you are consuming alcohol.
#3 Stick to your diet
Just because you’ve broken protocol by enjoying some cocktails, it shouldn’t stop you from keeping with your health regimen. Continue with your healthy food choices because skipping meals simply to compensate for the empty calories in alcohol is a bad idea. Keep in mind that these calories contain no nutrients.
Eat a full meal that contains lots of healthy fats and lean proteins before indulging in some booze. When you do this, you are essentially helping your bloodstream slow down the absorption. It also prevents you from wanting to snack after partying.
#4 Maintain an active lifestyle
It should go without saying that staying active should be part of our day-to-day life. Even more so when drinking alcohol and spirits are involved. Stick to your exercise regimen, you are least likely to overindulge when you know you are signed up for early morning yoga or you have plans to go for a run with a buddy.
#5 Opt for a healthier drink
We don’t mean ask the bartender to whip you up a green smoothie. Instead, be more mindful of your selection. It is generally best to steer clear of anything with creams, sugar, or soda in it. Your best bet is to go for a light beer, clear spirits like a vodka tonic, or even a simple glass of wine will do.
Maybe in your teens all the way to your twenties, you can be beer ponging all night or doing body shots during your holiday in Cancun and not see much of a side effect on your waistline or your judgemental bathroom scale. Sadly for a lot of folks, once the clock hits 30 the story changes.
We aren’t saying it happens to everyone, but, a good chunk of adults have noticed how aging has made it more difficult to maintain a healthy and fit body. Especially without putting the hard work in.
For people who have never had a drop in their lives, avoiding any type of alcohol is a piece of cake. For the rest of the population, it’s almost next to impossible. If you fall under this category, then the enjoyable and sustainable way to go about this is to simply drink in moderation.