If you’re looking for the best alcohol for weight loss, there are many more options than you’d think. Do you want to drink and lose weight? It’s achievable and simpler than you’d think.
Most want to lose weight but don’t want to quit drinking. However, trying to stick to your diet and weight loss plan can be tricky for alcohol.
There’s a grey area of acceptability with alcohol during the weight loss journey. But the good news is that you can still lose weight and not have to give up alcohol.
This blog post will discuss how to pick the best choices for alcoholic drinks and how you can enjoy your favorite alcoholic beverages while still losing weight.
So, whether you’re a beer lover, a wine enthusiast, or a mixed drink fan, read on to drink still and lose weight!
Which Alcohol Is Best for Fat Loss
So most of us already know that alcohol isn’t always the best choice as part of your weight loss diet plan. But not really for the reasons you’d think.
When it comes to the calories in alcohol, it has 7 cal per gram. That’s high compared to carbs and fats, which only contain 4 g per fat. And almost as high as fat itself which has 9 cal per gram.
But your body does not process the calories from alcohol the same way it processes calories from proteins, carbs, and fats. It is quickly shuttled to your liver, where it is prioritized to be burned off because your body cannot store these calories (1).
And as it prioritizes burning the calories and alcohol, your body will not be burning other calories for your fat stores. So if your goal is weight loss, then alcohol consumption will slow the process because your body has the first burn off the alcohol before it can move onto your fat stores.
This can prevent you from burning off belly fat and improving your body composition since alcohol stops that burning process. Protein synthesis is slowed down, which is required for building muscle (2).
Growth hormone also shuts off when drinking alcohol (3). Non-optimal hormone levels due to alcohol are also counterproductive for improving body composition and fat loss. It’ll slow your metabolism and make it harder for your body to burn fat stores (4).
But the alcohol itself usually isn’t the problem if you’re trying to lose weight fast. Usually, alcohol is consumed with carbs, sugars, and other high-calorie-dense foods (5). So as your body is busy trying to burn off the alcohol, it’ll then store all those starchy, sugary, and high-calorie foods as fat.
Yet this is still good news, and you can use it to your advantage if you still want to drink alcohol and lose weight.
Here’s how to do it.
How to Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight
If you’re looking to drink alcohol while still losing weight, then you need to be mindful of the calorie content in drinks. Most alcoholic beverages are already high in calories, and when combined with foods high in calories, they can quickly offset your weight loss goals.
So step one is to focus on drinking the alcohol itself and not all the other junk that can come with it. Alcohol itself, even in beer, has a minimal effect on insulin secretion and resistance (6).
Insulin can promote body fat storage by putting your body into a fat-storing mode. This is why consuming starches, sugars, and other carb-rich foods isn’t a great idea if you’re trying for weight loss (7).
Drinking hard liquor without mixers will be wise instead of having a few beers. Drinking neat alcohol from hard liquors will keep carbs, sugars, and other high-calorie junk from entering your body.
Then you’ll be able to quickly burn off the calories from the alcohol and prevent the storage of the additional calories that you would typically consume in sugary and carb-rich alcoholic beverages.
Hard liquor might contain no carbs, but it’s also more calorie-dense. So be sure to limit your consumption to only 1 to 2 drinks and not go crazy like Frank The Tank.
On the other hand, you can get a faster buzz from drinking one shot of hard liquor than drinking three light beers while sparing yourself the carbs.
If getting a buzz from alcohol is your goal, then drinking two straight shots of vodka will be more beneficial for weight loss than drinking 5 to 6 beers. However, even if the calories are similar, you’ll still be sparing yourself from the carbs in beer that will promote body fat storage.
Which Is the Healthiest Alcohol to Drink
Here I’ll go through the most popular choices of alcoholic drinks and break down whether they’re a wise choice or not for weight loss. Keep in mind that alcohol consumption should always be in moderation. No matter what the alcoholic drink is, any heavy drinking will result in weight and belly fat gains.
We’ve all heard the reports and stories that drinking 1 to 2 glasses of red wine per night can be a good thing. And it turns out the rumors are true as long as you’re drinking the right kinds of wine.
First of all, make sure you pick a dry varietal of wine that contains less sugar. The sweeter the wine, the more sugar it will have. You should always stay away from dessert wines because they are rich in sugar.
Studies have found that moderate consumption of red wine does not raise insulin sensitivity (8). This is an excellent sign as it will keep you from weight gain as long as you’re picking the right kinds of wine.
Dry wines have the lowest sugar content since the yeast has converted all sugar into alcohol.
Red wine choices that are of the dry varietal include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
And white wine choices that are of the dry varietal include:
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Grigio
- Chenin Blanc
- Spanish Albarino
Cheaper, more mass-produced wines are more likely to contain hidden sugars. These wine producers sneakily add artificial acids to counterbalance the sweetness of the sugars. So just because it’s a dry varietal doesn’t always mean it’ll be low in sugar.
It’s best to go with a wine produced by a smaller high-quality winery that isn’t mass-producing wine on the cheap. Up to 2 glasses per day of wine are not associated with weight gain.
One Harvard study even found that women who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol had less weight gain than those who didn’t drink (9).
In the battle of beer vs. wine, the beer will come out the loser when it comes to fattening. This is because beer contains starchy carbs that will increase your insulin secretion resulting in the storage of belly fat. This is why the dreaded beer belly has become such a well-known thing.
Beer is also loaded with gluten which can break down the lining of your gut (10). Your gut health is highly associated with both weight loss and weight gain.
So if you have a gluten intolerance, then beer isn’t the best choice unless you can find a gluten-free version. Just be sure to check that the gluten-free beer doesn’t also contain a lot of sugars which many do.
If you don’t want to give up your beer, then a light beer will be your best choice. One that’s low in calories and has low carbs. Fortunately, more and more beer manufacturers are releasing low-carb and low-calorie light beers.
Craft beer and IPAs are usually the worst choices. This is because they’re higher in alcohol and higher in starchy carbs. But more craft beers are making lighter versions that will be a much better choice.
It’ll be harder to be successful with weight loss by constantly drinking beer, even if it’s light beer. This is because your body will be working hard to process the alcohol, but it’ll also be storing those carbs as belly fat.
And it’s hard only to drink a couple of light beers since it’ll be harder to get a buzz… for many, the next thing you know, the whole six-pack is gone!
Vodka is one of my favorite choices for alcoholic drinks. You can easily mix vodka with club soda and lime juice to make a vodka soda. This is one of my easiest go-to alcoholic drinks when I go out.
You won’t have any sugary mixers in this drink, and keep your calorie intake to a minimum. If you prefer a vodka tonic, make sure the tonic is a sugar-free diet.
Whiskey and other oak barrel alcoholic drinks are also wise choices when drunk meat or without sugar sweeteners. Like other spirits, whiskey contains no sugar and no carbs making it a better option when drinking alcohol.
Whiskey also contains ellagic acid, which lowers the risk of obesity and fights free radicals (11). Like with all spirits and hard liquors, make sure you limit the amount and frequency you drink as they are very calorie-dense.
Rum is another hard liquor spirit that on its own contains zero sugars, but it’s usually mixed with sugar. So if drinking a Mai Tai is your favorite choice, you’ll be out of luck.
Many mixed drinks contained a lot of added sugar in the form of fruit juice, making it the worst choice possible. In addition, both alcohol and fruit sugar are processed in your liver. Therefore, these sugary cocktails will make your liver work longer and harder to clear them out of your system.
If rum and coke is your drink of choice, make sure you have them make it with a diet coke. You’ll spare yourself the sugar but still keep the calories low. Artificial sweeteners might not be ideal, but they’ll be the best choice for weight loss.
The last hard liquor spirit we’ll cover is tequila, and it also fits the bill for being a smart choice for your weight loss goals. Tequila on its own doesn’t contain any sugars or carbs but, like other spirits, is calorie-dense.
So limiting yourself to a tequila shot or two is necessary to stay on your diet. Which I know can be challenging when vacationing in Mexico once those tequila shots start making the rounds.
Unfortunately, this means margaritas that contain many sugars mixed with tequila will not make the cut. But you can make a “skinny margarita” that has low or zero sugars, which will be a much better choice. Just make sure you don’t use agave nectar as a sweetener, which may be low in glucose by quite high in fructose sugars (12).
Check out the Norcal Margarita, one of the best alcoholic drinks made by Paleo expert Robb Wolf. Here’s the simple recipe:
- 2 shots of gold tequila
- juice of 1 lime
- splash of soda water
Sparkling Wines / Bubbles
Most sparkling wines, bubbles, and champagne contain higher sugars. How much sugar you’ll find in your glass of sparkling wine will depend on the producer and style.
If you are going to drink sparkling wine, find one that contains no added sugars. For example, Brut zero sparkling wines usually only have a minimal amount of sugars. But keep in mind that even dry sparkling wines can contain 30+ grams of sugar.
Best Keto Alcohol for Weight Loss
If you’re on the keto diet, then picking the lowest alcohol and sugar and a little carb will be necessary.
With the list above, you’ll find that hard liquors and spirits will be your best choice when drunk neat. This is because they contain zero carbs and zero sugars, making them an easy choice when you’re trying to lose weight and still drink alcohol.
If you mix the hard liquor, then be sure to stay away from sugary ones and fruit juices. Many mixers you’ll find today are loaded with sugars and fruit juices which will quickly turn your alcohol beverage into a non-keto fat-storing beverage.
Low-calorie and low-carb mixers include:
- club soda
- diet tonic water
- diet soda
Then if hard liquor isn’t your choice, go for a dry varietal red or white wine or maybe a light gluten-free beer.
I also recommend adding lime juice to your alcohol to enhance the flavor, and it’ll blunt an insulin release. My go-to is a shot of vodka with club soda and a squeeze of half a lime.
The CO2 bubbles from the club soda can also act as a non-polar solvent. This will deliver the alcohol to your system faster, providing a quicker buzz as it extracts the alcohol from the drink.
Best Time to Drink Alcohol for Weight Loss
The best thing time is to drink earlier instead of later. The farther away you can get your booze in before your bedtime, the better off you’ll be.
This will give your liver enough time to process the alcohol properly and clear it out of your system. This will allow you to sleep better, as alcohol can prevent you from achieving deep REM sleep (13).
Many who do not achieve proper deep sleep also tend to have higher weight and body fat than those getting enough sleep (14).
It may be best to start drinking on an empty stomach earlier in the evening (think happy hour). It will let you get your buzz quicker and allow you enough time to process the alcohol.
Afterward, eat a meal with protein and fats, but stay away from the carbs. The more protein, the better you’ll be at losing weight. This is because protein has a higher thermogenic effect resulting in more fat burning (15).
Just be careful when drinking alcohol to make wise choices with the foods you’re eating. Most people make poor food choices once they have a few drinks. This is why many people gain weight from alcohol.
It’s not the alcohol itself but the poor food choices you make with the alcohol. Alcohol does contain empty calories, but you should be OK with losing weight as long as you have smart drinking habits. You just have to have some self-discipline with the other choices when drinking alcohol.
The Last Word
Suppose you’re doing everything else right, like saying in the calorie deficit, having physical activity, and making low-calorie options throughout the rest of the day. In that case, there’s no reason why you can’t have some alcohol at night. Just make sure you’re picking the lowest calorie alcohol when you drink.
Keep in mind that consuming low to moderate amounts of alcohol is critical if you’re trying to lose weight. If you can limit yourself when consuming alcohol, you probably shouldn’t be drinking at all. Even though there are health benefits to drinking alcohol, heavy drinking will negate all that.
Heavy drinking is associated with weight gain, increases belly fat, negatively impacts your cardiovascular health, and a higher risk of cancer. But if you’re able to have only a glass of wine or two per night, you should still be able to lose weight when doing everything else right.
Just stay away from sugary cocktails like Long Island Iced Tea. And don’t make a late-night call to Pizza Hut for an extra-large pizza.
So now that you know the best alcoholic drinks when trying to drop some pounds make sure you use them next time and avoid the sugary cocktails and the high-carb craft beer.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.