Alcohol and losing weight

I am genuinely baffled by this. In an effort to lose a little weight, I’ve been trying to drink less; however, I’ve found that when I do overindulge, I actually lose weight. For example, last night I drank a bottle of white wine and a vodka tonic over the course of about 6 hours (and ate about as much as I usually do.) This morning, I was down 3 lbs from yesterday. How is this possible? Could dehydration be a factor?


Dehydration. Pure and simple. Alcohol contains calories, so if you consume enough, you will experience a net gain in weight.

On the calorie/carb scale, booze tends to run beer>wine>liquour.
Do you normally drink beer?
I gave up beer recently in an effort to reduce my carb intake and I drink only wine now, and I’ve dropped a few lbs.

But alcohol dehydrates you, doesn’t it?

That’s what I meant. Alcohol has a strong diuretic effect, and the weight you lose is basically fluid loss over the short term. If I drink a couple of shots of vodka, I’m pretty much guaranteed to eliminate well more than a few shots of fluid on my next bathroom break. But alcohol contains, IIRC, 7 calories per gram, so if you consume enough to exceed your body’s metabolic rate, you will gain weight.

I used to weigh myself every morning, and I found that if I had been drinking enough the night before to have a dry throat in the morning, I would weigh a pound or two below my normal weight. Every time. Next day or so, those pounds would come back (presumably with a little imperceptible extra for the calories in the beer I had drunk). It’s dehydration.

I rarely drink beer. Wine and vodka mixed drinks are my choices.

It isn’t always generally realised that any gains (or losses) in weight due to excess calories (or insufficient calories) are *dwarfed *by the short term effects of water passing into or out of the body. That’s why saying things like “my diet isn’t working; I’ve put on 2lbs since yesterday” is silly.

To know whether your diet is working, you need to take your average weight over a number of days and compare it with your average weight over the same number of days a week ago. This gives you the overall trend, without the daily random fluctuations that tell you nothing about how much fat you’re carrying and simply reflect how much water you’ve drunk recently.

I experience the same thing. For example, today I am down 2.something pounds. That’s despite eating more than I should last night for dinner, including potato chips and other salty food, and some watermelon at 1:00 a.m. (ah, post-alcohol thirst.)

There was vodka after work.

When dieting, I am weary of alcohol for a number of reasons. Beyond the immediate caloric issues (see below) which are certainly significant, there is also the tendency for one to lose one’s inhibitions whilst inebriated (thus give into the temptation to eat unhealthy food later that night).

Getting back to your proposed new fad-diet of drinking an entire bottle of wine and somehow convincing yourself that the action in and of itself could possibly help you burn fat, forget about it! That bottle of white wine is easily equivalent to a hamburger. Any seemingly ‘positive’ fluctuations you noticed on your scale the following day could be due to a number of factors (including the diuretic effect mentioned already or simply your bodies metabolism thrown off kilter from the booze, but I guarantee it will absorb extra calories following day).

Temporarily giving up booze is really hard but if you do want to lose weight I would strongly suggest you do try cut out the alcohol, its just empty unfulfilling calories that will likely lead to even more snacking.


Look at the literature on moderate drinking and diabetes. It’s been discussed here in the past. Alcohol lowers insulin resistance, so for people with blood sugar metabolism problems, a small amount of alcohol with a meal decreases the endogenous insulin needed. Insulin is very effective at storing calories as fat, so it’s helpful to keep the insulin level relatively flat. Note that not drinking at all is a risk factor for developing diabetes.

IANAD, don’t start drinking if you don’t already drink, talk wth your doctor about drinking on your medical regimen, etc., etc.