Yes, You Can Still Drink Alcohol and Lose Weight

If you choose to have a boozy beverage, here’s how to track it—and tips to stay on plan.
Published August 17, 2022 | Updated September 6, 2023

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 on WeightWatchers® – 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.

How drinking may impact weight loss

“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.

What does moderation look like? New guidelines from Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health recommend consuming no more than two standard drinks per week to limit the risk associated with drinking. Here’s what a standard drink looks like: one 12-ounce bottle of 5 percent alcohol (like beer, cider, or hard seltzer), one 5-ounce glass of 12 percent alcohol wine, and one 1.5-ounce shot glass of 40 percent hard liquor.

Does alcohol have Points®?

Yes. Our science-backed method 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. But keep in mind, Points can fluctuate if a wine is particularly high in sugar or a beer has a higher alcohol by volume (ABV).

5 ways to stay on track while drinking

1. Have a plan.

Decide how many drinks you want to have before friends come over or you leave to meet them somewhere. This can help you avoid in-the-moment pressures.

And if you’re the type of person who always looks up the dinner menu before you get to the restaurant, try it with your drinks too. Then, pre-track what you can to see how it impacts your Points Budget, including weeklies.

2. Pre-game with a snack.

Having a snack before you go out can help you avoid munching on higher-Points party food that you wouldn’t have eaten otherwise—and to help you stick to your drink limit. Li recommends eating plenty of plant-based foods because they help slow down the absorption of alcohol in the blood.

3. Eat filling foods while you’re out.

If you do get hungry while out on the town, choose a snack that has protein and fibre. Research shows the combo helps keep you stay fuller, longer. Look for things like veggies and hummus, shrimp cocktail, or fruit and cheese platters.

4. Choose lower-Points drinks and mixers.

Certain drinks can be especially high in Points thanks to sugary mixers and ice cream-like extras (looking at you, margaritas and frozen cocktails!). And while alcohol will always have a Points value, what you mix it with doesn’t have to. Look for low- or no-Points add-ins like club soda and tonic water or seltzer and sparkling water. If you want a little extra sweetness, add a splash of fresh fruit juice, citrus, or herbs.

Not into mixed drinks? Opt for light beer or stock your bar cart with WW On Point Wines. We lowered the Points, sugar, and alcohol in each of the three blends. Choose from Crisp White, Rosé, or Smooth Red. Each one is just 3 Points for a 5-ounce serving.

5. Track your bevs.

It’s easy to skip tracking a glass of wine or a beer here and there. But if you opt out entirely, you’re losing the whole picture of your food consumption and your habits as a whole.

Remember, tracking isn’t a test you have to ace—tracking regularly is more important than tracking perfectly, even if you have to guesstimate pours or choose a similar beer brand.

The bottom line

If you’re not already a moderate drinker, this is not a recommendation to start. Alcohol is not a health drink—no matter what you might read about red wine—but if you’re wondering whether you can drink and still reach your goals, the answer is yes.

One thing to keep in mind: While we often think alcohol helps us destress after a long day or week, it can actually do the opposite. Excess alcohol alters our brain chemistry in a way that makes us feel more anxious and increases stress levels, Li explains. “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.

So instead of reaching for another pour (and veering from your plans) find other ways to find calm: Maybe it’s trading happy hour for an after-work walk with a friend, losing the “sip” part of a paint-and-sip night, or trying a new activity like rock climbing.