If you\u2019re wondering whether drinking alcohol can affect weight loss, consider this: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcoholic beverages contain calories but not nutrients. That is why calories from alcoholic beverages are often called \u201cempty calories.\u201d These calories don\u2019t properly fuel your body and can hinder weight loss.\nIf you\u2019re trying to lose weight and eat in a health-conscious manner, it\u2019s good to start by cutting sources of empty calories, like alcohol.\nVisit our website for more information on non-surgical bariatric weight loss and bariatric surgery options or to schedule an appointment.\nIn 2015, Current Obesity Reports published a comprehensive review of research on weight loss and alcohol. The authors found that light to moderate alcohol intake (two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women) was not associated with obesity.\nBinge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting) and heavy drinking (more than four drinks per day for men, and more than three for women) were another story. These behaviors were associated with weight gain and obesity risk. The review also noted that alcohol and weight gain were strongly linked in certain populations, like adolescents and older adults.\nSo how does alcohol affect weight? While moderate alcohol consumption won\u2019t cause weight gain, heavy drinking likely can. People who want to lose weight should calculate how many calories alcoholic beverages add to their diet.\nWhy Can Alcohol Cause Weight Gain?\nAccording to a New York Times article on alcohol and weight loss, alcohol is a toxic substance that isn\u2019t stored in the body in the same way as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.\nWhen alcohol calories are used for fuel, it decreases the body\u2019s use of other sources of calories. People who drink must eat less or exercise more to maintain their weight. That means some people may need to choose between weight loss and alcohol.\nWhat Is the Average Calorie Count in an Alcoholic Beverage?\nAccording to the NIH\u2019s alcohol calorie calculator:\n\nOne 12-ounce beer usually contains 153 calories.\nA 12-ounce light beer contains around 100 calories.\nDistilled spirits, like gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, or tequila, contain about 97 calories per 1.5-ounce shot.\nLiqueurs have 165 calories per 1.5-ounce shot.\nWines have around 120 calories per 5-ounce glass.\n\nAdding a mixer like orange juice to your alcoholic drink will add more calories than the number noted above.\nIf you\u2019re trying to lose weight, here\u2019s how the calories in alcohol stack up against some foods. A medium apple has about 70 calories, a banana has about 105 calories, and a large egg has about 102 calories. Do the math and you\u2019ll see that drinking one beer is equivalent to eating about two apples, a glass of wine has a few more calories than a banana, and an egg has about the same calorie count as a shot of gin. But the difference is that an apple, a banana, or an egg provide your body with important nutrients, while alcohol does not.\nCan I Lose Weight by Cutting Back on Alcohol?\nThe NIH recommends losing weight slowly, aiming to drop one-half to two pounds per week. To lose about one pound per week, you\u2019ll likely need to consume 500 fewer calories per day than your body typically burns \u2014 meaning that alcohol and weight loss are tough to combine. Ultimately, the best way to achieve a sustainable calorie deficit is to exercise more and eat (and drink) a bit less. Instead of the empty calories you get from alcohol, filling up on nutrient dense foods can help keep your weight in check.\nFor diet and nutrition information and counseling, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at Nutrition Services at UPMC.