Yes, You Can Still Drink Alcohol and Lose Weight

How boozy beverages are tracked and how to stay on plan when drinking.
Published August 17, 2022

You want to lose weight, but you also want to have a drink with friends once in a while. You think the two are mutually exclusive, but guess what? They’re not! It is entirely possible to drink alcohol occasionally and still lose weight – the key is to do it in moderation and ensure you’ve got lots of healthy habits going alongside it to continue to reach your goals.

“Drinking alcoholic beverages has been an important part of human ritual for thousands of years, long before obesity became a health issue,” says Dr. William Li, physician, scientist, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, and author of Eat To Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself.

“The key is moderation. Regular high consumption of alcohol not only delivers excessive calories to your body, but it also causes toxic effects in your brain, your liver and gut microbiome. These toxic effects disturb many aspects of your metabolism, alter insulin sensitivity, and pile on even more challenges than you might already have to losing weight.”

When alcohol is consumed in moderation, however, Li says these consequences do not have to happen.

“If you do choose to drink alcohol while trying to lose weight, just remember to account for the calories from the booze, and drink sparingly,” he says, to make your drinking part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Li also recommends eating plenty of plant-based foods because they help slow down the absorption of alcohol in the blood.

“Regular exercise is also key to a balanced lifestyle, as is managing stress, which disturbs your metabolism and hence your weight loss efforts,” Li adds, noting that excess alcohol alters our brain chemistry in a way that makes us feel more anxious and increases stress levels.

Li also points out that because of its bioactive chemicals that can benefit our health, red wine (in moderation) is seen as better than white wine or beer, which is better than hard liquor.

Points and tracking on WW

As for how alcohol is tracked on WeightWatchers, our science-backed methods takes the weight of the can or bottle, multiplies it by the alcohol percentage, then takes that value and multiplies it by the standard weight of ethanol. Long story short, the alcohol weight is then factored into the Points algorithm. Because the calories in alcohol are thought of as empty calories, (meaning they offer no nutritional value), alcohol will always have a Points value

For some quick Points math, most liquor is Pointed at 3 Points per 1.5 ounces. Standard glasses of wine and beer are usually around 4 or 5 Points. Points can fluctuate if a wine is particularly high in sugar or a beer has a higher abv. WW’s On Point Wines are just 3 Points for a 5-ounce serving. Choosing low-calorie and low-Point mixers such as club soda and tonic water, or lower still, seltzer and sparkling water, are easy ways to keep your drink Points low.

You can also lean on your Weekly Points on a night out, and pre-tracking your drinks before you even get to the venue is a great way to stay on course and avoid surprises.

Tips for success

  • Do track your booze: It’s easy to skip tracking a glass of wine or a beer here and there, but if you skip tracking, you’re losing the whole picture of not just your food consumption but your habits as a whole.
  • Plan a drink limit before you leave: Set yourself a limit of a couple drinks and nurse them throughout the night.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach: Have a snack before you go to reduce your likelihood of binging on unhealthy party food options and to help yourself stick to your drink limit.
  • If you do get hungry while out on the town, opt for protein and fibre: Look for things like veggies and hummus, shrimp cocktail or fruit and cheese platters before opting for fried foods.
  • Choose low-calorie drinks: Look for things like a vodka soda, red wine or a light beer rather than cocktails with lots of mixers and extras like margaritas and daiquiris.
  • Don’t use happy hour as your stress reliever: Though we often think alcohol helps us de-stress, it doesn’t, and there are much healthier alternatives to find our calm, like nature walks, talking with a friend, arts and crafts, or rock climbing.