How To Drink + Not Gain Weight

by Chelsea Futterman

Let’s be honest, you just can’t beat a fresh margarita on a hot Summer day or a bold glass of Bordeaux by the fireplace around the holidays. Alcohol consumption is a way of life for most people. I like to be realistic with my clients, if they enjoy drinking, giving up alcohol may not be in the books for them long term. I most definitely recommend cutting down if they are drinking more than 1-2 nights per week in order to lose weight, but you can certainly maintain your status quo and enjoy a few tasty beverages at the same time. 

First things first, let’s talk about what alcohol does to your body. Your body treats alcohol as a toxin. Alcohol has no nutritional value, so your body does not use it as it would a carb, fat or protein. When you consume alcohol your body stops all other metabolic processes (i.e. metabolizing and burning food for fuel) in order to rid your body of the toxin. That means food is more likely to be stored as fat when you are drinking alcohol, even if you are drinking a vodka soda because your body is busy “cleansing” itself. With that being said, you CAN consume alcohol in moderation and still lose weight, you just have to be smart about it. Here are the essential steps you should take if you want to drink and still see results:

TRACK IT. Although alcohol is not a carb, protein or fat it still have calories. So, you most definitely want to track it in order to stay within your weight loss or fat loss macros. You must decide to track alcohol as a carb or fat because it is technically neither. You can choose how you do it – I like to divide my alcohol evenly into carbs and fat. Since there are 4 calories in 1g of carbs and 9 calories in 1g of fat, if you drink a 120 calorie glass of red wine (this is a 5oz pour because who has 4oz anymore?!) that would be roughly 7g of fat and 15g carbs. Half of the calories go to carbs 60 calories/4 calories per gram of carbs = 15 carbs and half of the calories go to fat 60 calories/9 calories per gram of fat = 6.7g fat. Have I lost you yet? Just create a food in MyFitnessPal so you can easily reuse this that way you don’t have to do the math every time you can just adjust serving sizes. For your reference, there are roughly 69 calories in 1oz. of clear liquor (vodka, tequila, gin), so that would equate to 8g carbs and 4g fat.

EAT CLEAN. Stay away from high fat, high carb foods when you are drinking. Eating lean protein and vegetables is ideal! Remember when I said your body stalls all metabolic processes as it is trying to detox your body of alcohol? Well, when you eat pizza and french fries when drinking your body is more likely to store this food as fat. 

CHOOSE YOUR POISON WISELY. Stay away from sugary drinks (and yes, tonic water has sugar, just as much as a coke). My go-to is tequila with a lot of fresh lime juice & topo chico with a salted rim (tastes like a not sweet margarita). Refreshing, delicious and only 64 calories. Vodka with soda water is a classic low calorie drink, but if you are like me and HATE the taste of vodka, try adding a splash of your favorite fruit juice or olive juice if you love salt like me. One splash is enough to kill the vodka flavor without adding a ton of extra calories. Beer and wine are the worst when it comes to drinking because one drink is anywhere from 100-170 calories, whereas tequila, vodka, gin and whiskey are only 60-70 calories for one drink.

HYDRATE. This goes without saying, but make sure to chug some water before drinking, while drinking, after drinking, all the time! This will help ward off headaches, dehydration and water retention the next day, all of which can negatively affect your workouts. Whenever I have a drink, I take activated charcoal which is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions. In layman’s terms, it helps rid the body of unwanted substances like toxins. Sometimes even one drink can have me feeling slow with a fuzzy head the next day, but when I take 2 activated charcoal pills before bed I wake up feeling like a million bucks!