How To Drink Without Gaining Weight

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What’s up everyone, hopefully you’re doing awesome, as am I.

I’ve got a hot hot topic for you today and one that I hear from pretty much every client that I work with.

This question actually came up from one of my nutrition and lifestyle clients. Here is what Katherine asked me via e-mail:

I am curious how you handle things like social events that have come up during this process for yourself. Tomorrow night we were invited to join some friends for dinner where there will be wine. We could eat dinner at home before we go so that we can at least control the food that we intake but I would like to be able to enjoy a glass of wine with our friends. How would you recommend handling this?

I really liked this question and thought that it would be wise to share my insight on this topic with the rest of our readers since I can guarantee, you are or have wondered about this in the past.

Which is, how to incorporate drinking into a healthy lifestyle or nutrition program?

Before I can answer that question, I must first address how we define “drinking”.

Now for me drinking usually looks something like this:

Out to dinner with a couple of girlfriends having a glass of wine or a dirty martini.

Although questionable, this picture is the best one that I could find to help depict my usual drinking patterns.

(Questionable in the sense that 1) Is that a whole fish sitting in the middle of the table? and 2) What in the world is the chic on the right wearing?)

That is what I consider drinking, as opposed to this:

This would be considered “binge” drinking and in my opinion, won’t get you very far.

Regardless, drinking for me typically means a couple of drinks, 1 – 2 times a month.

Now I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m no saint or savior.

I’m far from it to be quite frank with you.

But, have I binged and drank excessively?


Have I had my late nights where I’ve ended up eating crab rangoons and lo mein in China town at 4 a.m.?


But it is extremely rare.

And usually makes for some funny stories.

If you are currently on, or considering starting a nutrition and lifestyle program to lose weight or body fat, the topic of drinking is inevitably going to arise.

No matter your circumstance, you are going to run into some social event or gathering that will involve alcohol.

The question is, what to do so that you do not completely derail your progress on your program.

Before I share with you my ideas on this topic, let’s just get one thing clear about alcohol:

Alcoholic drinks are empty calories.

Meaning, besides from a buzz and possibly a night of regret, you’re not getting much, nutrition-wise, from drinking alcohol.

Now yes, red wine has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease due to the antioxidant properties found in the polyphenols and resveratrol, however, this is not to say that drinking 1-2 full glasses of wine each night is going to fend off a heart attack.

I find that people take this a little too far and are more than liberal in their definition of a “glass of wine”.

I did some research and found this graph from the NIH (National Institute of Health) that breaks down what a true serving of alcohol really is.

Since we are on the topic of wine, 1 serving is considered only 5 ounces.

I can almost guarantee when we pour a glass for ourselves, we’re putting in about 7-8 ounces.

So when you think, “I only had 2 glasses of wine”, it’s probably more like 3 or 4.

I’m not saying that you have to completely eliminate alcohol, and that you can never have a good time with your friends and family.

I’m not making alcohol an evil to avoid.

It’s not a sin.

In fact, I strongly feel that having a healthy respect and relationship with alcohol is part of a healthy lifestyle.

When working with nutrition and lifestyle clients, I’ve used various approaches to addressing the issue of alcohol depending on where the client is physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.

  • I’ve used the cold-turkey approach where I’ve recommend absolutely no alcohol for a given period of time.
  • I’ve used the gradual approach where I’ve recommended slowly cutting down each week.
  • And I’ve used the no-approach, approach, where I didn’t even have to address the topic.

Since my honest advice for this would be very dependent on the client (which is a huge pillar in my coaching approach), it is a little tough to say whether or not you should drink if you are looking to lose weight.

However, there are a few things that I recommend to all of my nutrition coaching clients in regards to drinking and fat loss.

And this is what I want to share with you today.

Here are 9 tips to help you enjoy your wine without gaining weight:

1. Just don’t drink.

You’re probably confused because a few lines earlier I said I wasn’t going to tell you that you can never drink. But, it is an option. You don’t have to drink. Again, don’t forget, alcohol is empty calories. Meaning, you’re consuming calories that aren’t going to build you up. If you are on a nutrition program, and you are determined, committed, and serious about giving it your all, abstaining from drinking will just make your results that much better.

2. Avoid beer and sugary drinks.

If drinking is on the agenda, you might as well pick something that’s going to be better for you. If you’re on a nutrition program, I would completely avoid beer and all drinks that involve mixes and added sugar. Since I recommend avoiding gluten to many of my clients (especially to those who suffer from digestive complaints) beer is completely out of the picture. Drinks like margaritas, pina coladas and anything involving soda are only going to add more empty calories.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the caloric values of some popular drinks to give you an idea:

3. Do not skip any meals on days that you are going to drink.

I don’t have any scientific proof that eating throughout they day will help you process alcohol any better, but I can tell you from experience that my worst hangovers have come from days where I did not eat enough. Whether or not food actually “absorbs” the alcohol better, I do not know for sure, but I do know that skipping meals throughout the day just to save up your calories for drinking is a recipe for disaster.

4. Eat a protein rich meal right before you go out.

Since ethanol, a metabolic byproduct of alcohol, can cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, it’s best to eat a protein rich meal right before you consume alcohol. This will ensure that your blood sugar levels are adequate which will help counterbalance the hypoglycemic effect of the alcohol.

5. Have a some-what healthy snack waiting for you when you get home.

Drinking not only hits you once with the alcohol, but twice after when you’re starving and craving pizza or a steak and cheese sub. I know this feeling, and have totally pigged out on an entire large steak and cheese sub by myself after a night out, only to have the worst stomach cramps the next day. One thing that you can do to prevent a total free-for all is to be prepared and have something at home waiting for you.

6. Stay hydrated throughout the day, drink plenty of water while you are drinking and right before you go to bed. 

Since alcohol is a natural diuretic, it’s wise to drink plenty of water before, during and after you drink. (Alcohol actually dehydrates the body by blocking the release of an anti-diuretic hormone, vasopressin, which is secreted from the posterior pituitary gland.) Alcohol consumption increases the amount of urine your liver produces, which in turn means you’ll lose more water and be susceptible to dehydration. Not only are you losing water when you pee, but you’re also losing important electrolytes such as sodium, chloride and potassium, which can give you headaches, fatigue, and food cravings.

7. Experiment with a a mini-fast the next day.

Intermittent fasting has quickly become one of the hottest topics in the fitness industry and one that seems very promising, not only for fat loss, but for lifespan extension as well. If you are going to drink, it is safe to assume that you are probably going to be consuming more calories that day. Having periodic spikes in your caloric intake is a proven way to boost fat burning hormones like leptin and growth hormone, which can actually aide in your fat loss efforts. When I drink, I will typically follow the next day with a 12-16 hour fast. This not only will create a caloric deficit from the previous day boosting my hormone levels, but will also give my digestive system a chance to breathe.

8. Limit your alcohol intake to 1-2 servings a week if weight loss and fat loss is your goal.

If you have decided that 100% abstinence from alcohol is just not going to work for you, limit yourself to no more than 2 servings of alcohol a week. If you’re goals are fat loss, this is imperative.

9. Coconut water as the cure for a hangover?

Word on the street is that coconut water is the new cure for the hangover. I can’t actually say if it’s worked or not, since I’ve never actually tried it. But since alcohol consumption can dehydrate you and deplete you of important electrolytes, its a safe assumption to think that coconut water (which is filled with potassium) can help replenish what’s lost. Just some food for thought, and something to experiment with.

Drinking alcohol can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle.

Yes, moderation is key.

If however, you are super determined and want the best results on your nutrition program, it is never a bad idea to abstain from alcohol entirely.

This may seem daunting to some while completely do-able to others.

The key here is to figure out what is going to work for you.

Maybe you take the cold-turkey approach (best for weight loss) or you take the gradual approach (cutting down slowly, which will slow your fat loss rate.)

However you slice it, it is possible to drink without gaining weight, it’s just a matter of how bad you want to lose it.

I hope that this post helped you, and gave you some tools for the upcoming weekend.

However, before you go:

What’s your favorite “healthy” alcoholic drink? And for fun, what’s your craziest hangover story? I’d love to hear these in the comment section.

Talk soon,


References for calories in drinks:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Estimated Caloric Content of Alcoholic Beverages

References for alcohol induced diuresis:

Journal of Clinical Investigation: Studies on Alcohol Diuresis

References for intermittent fasting:

Fight Aging: Twelve Longevity Enhancements Methods Demonstrated in Mice

Augmented growth hormone (GH) secretory burst frequency and amplitude mediate enhanced GH secretion during a two-day fast in normal men.

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