Alcohol on a Diet

So does drinking alcohol on a diet work?

Yes, it can work – provided you include the calories in each standard drink as part of your overall calorie intake.

A standard drink of alcohol has approximately 100 calories per standard drink. A standard drink of wine = 5 ounces, regular beer = 12 ounces and 80-proof hard liquor (gin, vodka, bourbon or scotch) = 1.5 ounces. So if you enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, you’ll need to add approximately 200 additional calories to your calorie count for that day.

Mixed drinks, like Cosmopolitans or Martinis or other cocktails served at bars and restaurants, have closer to two standard drinks per cocktail – thus contain 200 calories for the alcohol, alone. Other cocktails, like Long Island Iced Teas, for example, could contain a whopping 400 calories – thus four standard drinks. In this last example, it’s the four standard drinks/cocktail that is of equal concern. You see, the NIAAA, defines “normal” or “moderate” drinking as:

no more than 7 standard drinks per week, with no more than 3 of the 7 on any one day, for women

no more than 14 standard drinks per week, with no more than 4 of the 14 on any one day, for men.

Thus, it’s quite possible to add an additional 700 calories/week to your “diet,” if you are a moderate drinker.

Over 52 weeks, that’s 36,400 calories (52 weeks x 700 calories/week = 36,400). At this rate, you’ll gain about 10 pounds a year. Yes, 10 pounds! (10 pounds, 4 ounces to be exact.)


One pound = 3500 calories. Thus, if you eat or drink 3500 more calories than your body burns, you’ll gain a pound. By the same token, cut out 3500 calories (or exercise more in order to burn more calories), you’ll lose a pound.

But there is so much more to this idea of diet, alcohol, health and calories than gaining weight. So I’d like to direct you to an excellent article, Thinner You: Alcohol and Weight Lossby Liz Noelcke. [Two of the subtitles are:  “Alcohol is Metabolized Differently” and “Alcohol Lowers Your Inhibitions Which is Detrimental to Your Diet Plans.”]

Bottom line…if you are on a diet – you might want to consider cutting out the alcohol.

Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Author | Speaker | Consultant | Founder at
Lisa is the author of hundreds of articles and 11 books, including "If You Loved Me, You'd Stop!," "Addiction Recovery: What Helps, What Doesn't," and "Secondhand Drinking: the Phenomenon That Affects Millions." She is a national keynote speaker with over 25 years speaking experience, consultant, and founder of She has spent more than 13 years studying 21st century brain research in order to write, speak, and consult on substance use disorders prevention, intervention and treatment; mental disorders; addiction (aka substance use disorders) as a brain disease; adolescent addiction treatment vs adult addiction treatment; effective treatment for co-occurring disorders (having both a substance use and mental disorder); secondhand drinking | drugging; help for the family; and related subjects. In 2015, she founded SHD Prevention, providing training and consulting to companies, public agencies, unions, nonprofits and other entities to address the workplace impacts of employee secondhand drinking and alcohol misuse.

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