This article was written by Max and published by Faith in Recovery.
The correlation between alcohol and body weight has sparked curiosity and concern among many people. For some, it seems counterintuitive that consuming alcohol, which is considered to have empty calories, could lead to shedding pounds. However, if you’re wondering, “Why do I lose weight when I drink alcohol?” then there are several factors at play that can help explain. From the impact on metabolism and appetite to changes in dietary practices and fluid retention, we’re exploring the mechanisms behind this phenomenon to shed light on the complex relationship between alcohol and losing weight.
Alcohol and Metabolism
The common belief is that alcohol does slow metabolism, but is this true? If so, what’s the relationship between alcohol and weight loss?
When we consume alcohol, our bodies will metabolize it before metabolizing other things, such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Unlike these nutrients – which can be stored for later use – alcohol is considered a toxin in the body, and the body prioritizes eliminating it as quickly as possible.
The liver plays a central role in metabolizing alcohol. It produces enzymes that break down the substance in acetaldehyde and acetate, which is further broken down into carbon dioxide and water. This process takes precedence over other metabolic activities, which can temporarily slow down the breakdown of other nutrients.
Additionally, alcohol contains what are known as “empty calories,” approximately 7 per gram. This means that when people consume alcohol, they’re adding extra calories to their diet that don’t actually satiate any cravings or hunger. This can contribute to weight gain if the extra calories aren’t offset by reducing calorie intake in other areas of the individual’s diet or by exercise.
Alcohol can also influence hunger and appetite regulation. It may lead to increased appetite, leading to overeating, or making poor dietary choices, especially when drinking in social situations. What’s more, excessive drinking can impair judgment and decision-making, resulting in a lack of concern for dietary habits and caloric intake.
Finally, certain alcoholic beverages contain more carbohydrates, empty calories, and sugar, particularly beer and sweet cocktails. This can also contribute to increased caloric intake and ultimately reduced metabolism and weight gain.
Does Alcohol Make You Lose Weight?
Some individuals may experience weight loss after drinking alcohol due to factors including:
- Reduced appetite: Alcohol can sometimes act as an appetite suppressant, causing the drinker to want to eat less. Drinks that tend to have a lot of calories and carbs, such as beer, may also make individuals feel fuller.
- Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urine production. This can lead to a loss of fluids, which is why some people lose weight when drinking alcohol. However, this form of weight loss is temporary, as fluid loss does not equate to fat loss.
- Increased physical activity: Some people may become more active or engage in physical activities after consuming alcohol, which can lead to weight loss.
Even so, regular or excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on metabolism, weight management, and overall health. Especially if the favored drink is a fruity cocktail or carb-loaded beer, the risk of weight-related problems increases. Individuals with health problems concerning their weight, including those who might have undergone weight loss procedures such as gastric bypass surgery, need to be especially mindful of alcohol’s impact on weight.
Long-term alcohol abuse can also have an impact on various aspects of health, including liver function, cardiovascular health, and mental well-being. Physical dependence and addiction are also common risk factors of heavy and chronic drinking.
Have a Drinking Problem?
Ultimately, while alcohol does make you lose weight in some cases, it’s usually either water weight loss or temporary weight loss. Additionally, alcohol does more harm to one’s health than good.
As a Christ-based rehab that’s witnessed the impact of long-term alcohol use first-hand, we strongly encourage anyone who finds themselves dependent on alcohol to get help. If you or someone you care about has a drinking problem, our facility offers alcohol addiction treatment that incorporates detox and aftercare support to ensure clients have support in every stage of their recovery.