Effects of Alcohol on Dieting

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Updated 02/15/2023

Dieting often requires special attention to the foods and drinks that are used, the amount of each that are used and what time they are used. Alcohol is one thing that can affect people’s diets and affect their weight loss goals. Drinking alcohol while dieting can create some problems, so it is important to understand the impact that alcohol use can have on a diet. While it is true that alcohol can affect your diet, it is impossible to make a blanket statement about the effects that it will have, as this will vary based on the situation and the individual.

Ways Alcohol Can Affect a Diet

Overall, alcohol is likely to hurt your diet more than it will. Alcohol contains what are often referred to as “empty calories,” — calories that do not have any nutritional value. Your body will burn the energy that alcohol provides first, keeping the other energy stored in the fat cells that you are trying to get rid of. Besides the caloric effect of alcohol, it may also have some indirect effects, such as impairing your judgment or self-control while you are dieting, causing you to eat fattening foods that are not part of your diet.

Effects on Moderate Drinkers

Moderate drinkers are usually the most consistently affected by the increased weight alcohol can cause. Moderate drinkers will regularly consume the empty calories of alcohol and will need to have more exercise or lower caloric intake in other areas to maintain weight loss.

Effects on Heavy Drinkers

Some heavy drinkers may be at an increased risk of obesity when compared to moderate drinkers, but those who are truly heavy drinkers may have another dietary problem: malnutrition. Higher proof alcohols have less calories than most other types of alcohol, and those who are heavy drinkers often forego food and good nutrition to afford and to use alcohol. This can lead to poor nutrition and an unhealthy level of weight loss.

Alcohol Use and Diet Pills

Using diet pills with alcohol is not recommended. Alcohol does not mix well with many medications and when mixed with diet pills it may lead to dizziness, depression and impaired judgment. Using diet pills with alcohol may also slow the body’s ability to process alcohol, causing a higher amount of alcohol to be in the bloodstream than would normally be expected with each drink.

While mixing diet pills and alcohol can lead to negative effects, there may be some cases in which this is actually necessary in which the benefits of mixing these two substances outweigh the risk. You should consult with a doctor before taking diet pills and alcohol together and should let your doctor know if you are planning on using alcohol while taking diet pills. Your doctor will be able to assess your unique situation and determine what is best for you.

Guidelines for Drinking Alcohol While Dieting

You should follow the recommended alcohol consumption guidelines, not just while dieting, but in your everyday life. These guidelines include limiting alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women or two a day for men, and only drinking if you are above the legal age. If you are dieting, higher proof alcohol, such as vodka or whiskey, will contain fewer calories and will affect your diet less. It is important to remember that it takes a very small amount of higher proof beverages to get the sa

View Sources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol and Nutrition.” Alcohol Alert, October 1993. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Mahboub, N., et al. “Nutritional status and eating habits of […] a narrative review.” Nutrition Reviews, June 2021. Accessed May 22, 2022.

Saitz, Richard. “Introduction to Alcohol Withdrawal.” Alcohol Health and Research World, 1998. Accessed July 28, 2022.

Cleveland Clinic. “Does What You Eat Affect Your Mood?” January 12, 2021. Accessed July 27, 2022.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Substance use recovery and diet.” MedlinePlus, January 12, 2022. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Salz, Alyssa. “Substance Abuse and Nutrition.” Today’s Dietitian, December 2014. Accessed May 22, 2022.

Harrar, Sari. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Disorders.” Today’s Dietitian, January 2012. Accessed May 22, 2022.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. ‘“9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee Is Good for You.” Accessed May 22, 2022.

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