Can You Drink Alcohol While Dieting?

We’re about to head into the festive season which means a lot more parties, celebrations and catch ups with friends and family. And a big part of these social events is ALCOHOL. Instead of thinking that you can’t make progress over this time, or that you have to avoid alcohol completely, we’re here to tell you how you can still enjoy it while staying on track with your goals!

ALCOHOL & FAT LOSS

When most people embark on a fat loss journey, they immediately think that they need to cut out alcohol because it will prevent them from losing weight. While consuming alcohol can have an impact on fat loss, it is mostly due to the fact that it causes people to consume excess calories (often mindlessly!).

If you intend to lose fat, you must be in a calorie deficit, meaning that you must be burning more calories than you are consuming. When it comes to alcohol, many people do not realise that alcohol is actually a macronutrient itself, however, it isn’t commonly recognised as one due to its lack of nutritional content and satiety. It contains 7 calories per gram and should be tracked accordingly as a part of your calorie intake. Like food, if alcohol is not accounted for in your calorie intake, the extra calories consumed from the alcohol can reduce or blow out your calorie deficit, and this will most certainly affect your progress!

It’s not just the alcohol content that provides calories, there are other things that you need to consider when it comes to drinking alcohol. The mixers you choose to drink with the alcohol can significantly add to the total calorie content e.g. soft drinks. It’s also important to consider the dietary choices that are made when consuming alcohol. Cheese platters, chips, pizza, are all very calorie dense foods by themselves so when paired with alcohol, you can expect to consume A LOT of calories!

SO HOW DO I TRACK ALCOHOL?

When tracking alcohol, it is best to “take” these calories from your carbohydrates, rather than protein or fat, as carbohydrates are a “non-essential” macronutrient. Most entries for popular alcoholic beverages can be found listed in MyFitnessPal. It is important to check that they “add up” correctly however. To do this take the total caloric amount and divide it by 4. This will give you the correct amount of carbs.

Alternatively, if you do choose to have a few drinks you can aim to just hit your calorie intake for that day instead of your specific macronutrients. Ideally, this should only be done occasionally.

OUR TIPS TO ENJOYING ALCOHOL WHILE STAYING ON TRACK

If you are planning to consume alcohol, then follow these tips to help avoid it affecting your progress.

1. PLAN AHEAD

Set yourself an alcohol budget and make sure you stick to it!

If you know you are going out with friends and you are likely to drink alcohol, plan for what you think will drink, and how many calories you should keep aside from your daily calorie intake so it does not affect your progress. For example, you might set your alcohol budget at 210 calories, which equates to 3 x vodka, lime & sodas.

2. TRACK YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE

Take some time to educate yourself on the amount of calories contained in different alcoholic beverages. You will be able to find almost all alcoholic beverages in a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal.

As we mentioned earlier, alcohol is it’s own macronutrient. MyFitnessPal does not track alcohol as a macronutrient so most entries will provide you with the amount of calories a beverage contains and track it as carbohydrates. If an entry only has a total calorie amount and no macronutrient data then just aim for your calorie and protein targets for that day.

3. ALTERNATE BETWEEN AN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE AND WATER

Alcohol has a diuretic effect – it acts on the kidneys to make you pass more fluid than you take in – which is why you feel like you need to go to the toilet so often when you drink! As a result, it is easy to become dehydrated. By drinking a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage, you will ensure you stay hydrated. It can also help with reducing the amount of alcohol you drink!

4. AVOID HIGHER CALORIE MIXED DRINKS

Cocktails are often the worst culprits here (we know, we’re sorry!). You may be surprised to know just how many calories are in ONE particular alcoholic beverage – often more calories than 1-2 meals worth of food! Here are some popular cocktails and how much calories they contain:

  • 230ml Margarita – 280 calories
  • 150ml Espresso Martini – 285 calories
  • 230ml Piña Colada – 300 calories
  • 120ml Mai Tai – 309 calories
  • 270ml Long Island Iced Tea – 430 calories

If you are trying to lose fat and your calories are low then it is best to avoid these high calorie cocktails and mixed drinks and choose lower calorie options instead. Here are some of the lowest calorie alcohol options:

  • 30ml spirits (vodka, rum, gin, whiskey), with a sugar free mixer  – 66 calories
  • 100ml red or white wine (13% alcohol) – 75 calories
  • 100ml champagne or sparkling wine (12-13% alcohol) – 75 calories
  • 375ml light beer (2.7% alcohol) – 94 calories
  • 285ml cider (5% alcohol) – 121 calories
5. SIP SLOWLY

Take the time to enjoy your alcoholic beverage. As a result, the drink will last longer and you will consume less over time!

TAKE-AWAY MESSAGE

There’s no reason why you can’t still enjoy alcohol in moderation and stay on track with your goals!

The key is to always plan ahead where possible. If you find that you do go over your calorie target for the day because of impromptu drinks or exceeding the budget you have set for yourself, you can always “borrow” some calories from the next day, or next few days! If you do go way over, just forget about it and move on!


If you need help with accountability over the festive season, we are still taking on clients for our Coaching Program! Click here for more details!

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