Despite all of the low-carb and low-calorie options on the market today, most dieticians will still recommend that anyone attempting to lose weight simply stop drinking altogether. The recommendation doesn’t have as much to do with the number of calories in beer, vodka, or wine as it does with the way your body processes alcohol

Alcohol and Your Metabolism

To understand this theory, you first have to understand the amount of alcohol you are actually consuming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that a single serving of an alcoholic beverage contains approximately 13.7 grams of pure alcohol. A single gram of alcohol is estimated to have approximately 7 calories. In comparison, a gram of fat has approximately 9 calories.

When we’re talking about a single serving, we’re talking about the one-ounce shot your bartender is supposed to be putting in your glass. Drink a super-sized beverage or something that has 2-3 ounces of alcohol and you’re looking to triple the number of alcohol grams in your glass. Plus, you have to worry about the calories in the mixers.

So What’s the Problem?

About 80% of the alcohol you drink makes it to your intestines before it is absorbed, which sends it to your blood stream so that your liver can process it. Your body’s metabolism can only process around 8 or 10 grams of pure alcohol in a single hour. The key here is that alcohol is bumped to the head of the line – ahead of the other foods with protein, fat, and carbs you’ve eaten. While your body is processing alcohol, it essentially ceases the processing of other items you’ve eaten. This halting of the normal “fat burning” process can make it seem like those who drink have a hard time losing weight. Combine that with the excess fats that people who drink heavily usually consume and you’ll definitely see some weight gain.

The trick is to monitor the amount of alcohol you’re drinking regularly. The number of calories in beer or liquor you’re consuming does have an effect on your ability to gain or lose weight, but the number of grams of pure alcohol you’re consuming in comparison to how much time it will take your body to process those grams will.

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