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Alcohol and Health

Will I Lose Weight If I Stop Drinking: Delving Into the Science

June 4, 2023
8 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 4, 2023
8 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 4, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 4, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
June 4, 2023
8 min read

For anyone struggling with extra weight, this is one of the best perks of setting alcohol aside: many people who choose to go alcohol-free lose weight. So are the rumors true? The short answer is yes! But like all things health-related, it's more complex than that.

The effect of alcohol on the waistline is something that intrigues not only the weight-conscious individuals but also the curious minds looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Let’s explore it further!

Unraveling the Science

Why does alcohol make us gain weight in the first place? There are several reasons.

  • Calories.The fact is, alcohol packs quite a punch when it comes to calories, coming in second after fat with a whopping seven calories per gram. That's almost double the calories in a gram of carbs or protein! This makes an average glass of wine more calorie-dense than you might have realized.
  • But it's not just the direct calories that matter. Recent studies have shown that alcohol can lower our inhibitions, causing us to overeat —especially when it comes to foods high in fat and sugar. Have you ever noticed that the idea of a late-night pizza or greasy burger becomes far more appealing after a few drinks? Yup, that's the alcohol talking!
  • And let’s not forget the dreadful hangovers that can torpedo our well-intentioned workout plans and make us crave energy-dense comfort food to help us recover from the havoc wreaked by alcohol.
  • Metabolism. According to a study published in the journal Obesity in 2023, alcohol can also mess up our metabolism. How? As it turns out, the body treats alcohol as a toxin and prioritizes metabolizing it over other nutrients. That means while the liver is busy breaking down the booze, the metabolism of fats, carbs, and proteins takes a backseat, increasing the chance of these being stored as fat.
  • Water. Finally, there’s water weight — the dreaded nemesis of anyone trying to maintain a trim figure. While many of us have experienced the diuretic effect of alcohol — hello, frequent bathroom trips during a night out! — it might surprise you to know that alcohol can actually contribute to water retention.
  • When we consume alcohol, it inhibits the production of a hormone called vasopressin, which helps our kidneys reabsorb water. Without this hormone, the water gets sent right to our bladder, leading to the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Dehydration can, paradoxically, lead our body to hold on to more water to prevent itself from becoming dehydrated. Thus, in response to alcohol, our body may retain water, resulting in bloating and puffiness.
  • Moreover, research suggests that alcohol can lead to hormonal imbalances, which, in turn, can lead to increased water retention. For example, alcohol can influence cortisol levels, leading to more water retention and exacerbating the bloating and weight gain.

Slimming Down

So, if we cut out these extra calories and curb our appetites by reducing our alcohol consumption, will the pounds start to melt off? Possibly.

Weight loss happens when you consume fewer calories than your body burns for energy. So naturally, when you cut a calorie-dense item from your diet, you are likely to see the results reflected in a slimmer waistline.

A 2022 study in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice examined people who quit drinking for one month. The participants lost an average of 1.1 kilograms — about 2.4 pounds. While this isn't a massive amount of weight, it does suggest that cutting out alcohol could help in your weight loss journey.

More to the Story

However, it's crucial to remember that weight loss isn't just about calories in versus calories out. Factors such as sleep, stress, exercise, and overall dietary habits also play a significant role.

Luckily, leaving alcohol behind can actually help with all three.

  1. Diet. Alcohol can affect our bodies in other ways that indirectly lead to weight gain. Alcohol can increase your appetite and change your metabolism, causing you to eat more than you might otherwise. This effect is due to alcohol's ability to lower your inhibitions, making that second slice of pizza or that late-night snack seem like a fantastic idea.
  2. Exercise. You might also find that without the occasional hangover, your motivation to exercise increases. Plus, being active is a proven way to burn those extra calories and support your overall health!
  3. Sleep. Choosing to cut down on alcohol can bring about several other health benefits. A research paper published in British Journal of Sports Medicine demonstrated that reduced alcohol consumption leads to better sleep patterns, improved liver function, increased energy levels, better focus, and even improved skin health.

A New You

So, can you lose weight if you stop drinking? Science suggests that you can, although it's just one piece of the puzzle. The best advice we can glean from the research is that leading a balanced lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep is the key to weight loss and overall health.

Take the Path to Better Health With Reframe

Are you ready to say goodbye to alcohol and the extra weight that comes with it? The Reframe app is ready to guide you on this journey. Using the app's features and techniques, you can reorient your thinking in a way that leads to lasting change.

There are many excellent benefits you will enjoy when you sign up. Our #1 ranked app presents daily educational content about the science of alcohol and its impact on your mind and body. You will receive daily tasks, including journal prompts, guided meditations, and inspiring quotes to assist you throughout your day. Additionally, you'll gain access to a global community of understanding, empathetic individuals who are eager to share their experiences and guidance via our 24/7 Forum chat. If you want additional support, we have licensed coaches available for one-on-one sessions and daily check-ins through Zoom.

The in-app Toolkit from Reframe is a rich repository of resources put together to assist you in any everyday challenges you might encounter, offering strategies for managing cravings without the need for extreme self-restraint. You can explore the Reframe app for free for the first 7 days, so don't hesitate to give it a go! We have faith in our ability to support your transformation and would be thrilled to accompany you on this journey. See you in the app!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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