Alcohol diet fat loss

I’m often asked by clients, “How can I drink and not screw up my diet?”

Good question.

I never say no to alcohol with my clients diets as it’s not realistic. Often, the all or nothing mindset sets people up for failure, because once they have one beer, they decide, “Oh well, I’ve already screwed up so I may as well have 10.” Which combined with the ‘drunken munchies’, means game over.

Beer, shots, margaritas; they can all be ok. Following a few rules could save you.

But, first…

Things you need to understand:

  1. Consuming more calories than we need makes us fat. Under normal circumstances, it’s the fat that we eat that is stored.
  2. The fat in the foods we eat will only be stored when we go over calorie needs for the day.
  3. It’s tough for the body to convert excess protein intake to fat, and only with regular overfeeding does the body convert excess carbohydrate intake into fat. However, they both contribute to energy balance for the day, so indirectly they cause fat gain my causing us to store the fat we consume.
  4. Alcohol does not have any fat, but it has an energy value, and that is usually combined with carbs (either from fruit as with wine, hops/wheat/barley as with beer, or sugar from carbonated drink mixers).
  5. Alcohol calories take priority as fuel in the body over other fuel sources (like your love handles). This is because the by-product of alcohol metabolism, acetate, is toxic. So when you drink, fat burning stops until you burn those calories off.
  6. Drinking can easily push us over our calorie budget for the day. This causes some, or all of the dietary fat we ate on this day to be stored as body-fat, depending on how much over your maintenance calories you drank.
  7. 1g of alcohol contains 7 kcal, 1g of fat contains 9 kcal.

Three questions to check that you have understood these points:

Question 1: Your food intake for the day is 1000 kcal under your calorie needs for the day. You eat 50 g of fat on this day. You have three drinks, totaling 500 kcal. Do you gain or lose fat on this day?

Answer: You are still in a 500 calorie deficit, so you lose fat. Around 55g of it (500/9).

Question 2: Your food intake for the day is exactly at maintenance calorie needs. You have eaten 100 g of fat on this day. You then consume drinks totaling 500 kcal. Do you gain or lose fat on this day?

Answer: You are over calorie needs by 500 kcal. You store around 55 g of the 100 g of fat you have consumed on this day (500/9), the rest is burned.

Question 3: Your food intake for the day puts you in a 500 kcal deficit. However, you then go out binge drinking with the boys and consume 2000 kcal worth of drinks. Do you gain or lose fat on this day?

Answer: Your net calorie intake puts you in a 1500 kcal surplus. All fat consumed on this day up to a value of 1500 kcal (~166 g), will be stored. If you kept fat intake low on this day, only that amount of fat will be stored.

All good? Don’t worry if not just yet, let’s have a look at how we put this into practice.

How To Drink And Not Screw Up Your Diet

Drinking In Moderation

The key is to adjust for the calorie content of the alcohol you are drinking. You can look that up here. You then need to reduce your food intake by that amount to maintain the calorie balance for the day.

The best way to do this is to reduce your fat and carb intake.

Example: You drink three beers

Carbs and Protein contain ~4 kcal/g, Fat contains 9 kcal/g.

If the calorie total for those three beers (that’ll be carbs and alcohol) comes to 600 kcal, consider taking out 75g of carbs (300 kcal) and ~33g of fat (~297 kcal).

  • Alcohol gives us energy, but with none of the benefits associated with the other macros. Thus, frequent binge drinking isn’t going to be sustainable.
  • You’re likely not going to want to adjust the protein macro, given it’s muscle sparing properties.

What are the downsides of doing this often?

When you are dieting, recovery can become an issue. When using alcohol calories (instead of say, carbs) to make up your calorie budget you’re stealing from the band-aid drawer so to speak. In moderation it’s not so much of an issue.

When you are bulking, you’ll gain more fat that you otherwise would have.

Once A Week Hard Drinking/Binge Drinking

Note: I’m not suggesting anyone ‘drink’ their calories on a regular basis. I’m just saying, you don’t have to let worries about your diet spoil your social life.

Counting calories isn’t very fun when you’re in the middle of a party, and if you’re drinking a lot, you’ll be over your calorie allowance for the day easily.

So, on days that you know you are going to really drink, take advantage of the fact that your body has trouble storing anything but dietary fat in the short term when we go over our calorie balance for the day.

  1. Keep your fat intake very low on this day.
  2. Eat your protein for the day to preserve muscle mass (lean sources such a chicken, egg whites, casein protein) and restrict carbs to veggies.
  3. Drink shots, dry red wines (they are lower carb), and zero-calorie mixers (I like Coke Zero and Jack) in whatever quantities you want, and don’t feel guilty.

If you follow those few rules and keep it to one a week you won’t ruin your diet or hard-earned body.


I hope you found this helpful. Questions welcomed in the comments. – Andy

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About the Author

Andy Morgan

I'm an online nutritional coach and trainer. After seeing one too many people get ripped off by supplement and training industry lies I decided to try and do something about it. The site you see here is the result of a lot of Starbucks-fuelled, two-fingered typing. It's had a lot of love poured into it, and I hope you find the guides to the diet and training methods I use on this site useful. When I'm not helping clients you'll likely find me crashing down a mountain on a snowboard, riding a motorbike, or staring at watches I can't afford.

155 Comments on “The Alcohol Guide”

  1. Mark

    These comments are largely around excessive drinking. How detrimental is working in 1-2 ounces of scotch (~120 cals) a few times per week in non training days and during reverse diet?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Mark, thanks for the question. You’ve read the article, right? Can you be more specific?
      If you read this a while back and are coming back to it freshly now, I updated it a couple of days back very heavily to make the explanations a lot easier to understand. Anyway, let me know.

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  3. mike

    By worse effects I mean the way that beer halts the fat burning process. Does casein protein help prevent that in any way? I’ve just heard rumors that casein protein can kind of counteract those effects or at least help continue the fat burning process with out it coming to a complete halt.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Thanks for clarifying Mike.

      Calorie balance determines whether weight is gained or lost at the end of the day. A calorie deficit is required to burn off fat. Adding casein to your diet when drinking will just be to add calories to the calorie balance for the day.

      Alcohol is a poison. Your body will work to burn off those calories first, always. There is no way of getting around that.

      I think this article series will be really helpful for you:
      How To Set Up Your Diet: The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance for Fat Loss & Muscle Growth

  4. mike

    Hey Andy, would drinking some casein protein before drinking a bunch of beers help take away the worst effects of the beer?

  5. Frank Espinoza Carreón

    Hi Andrew, here is something i forgot to ask you. Let’s say tonight I have a party, so I eat my meals throughout the day, and in the night, before I leave (9:00 p.m.) I eat 50 gr of protein along with some carbs and fat as my last meal. And while in the night, I drink some beers and glasses of wine until 3:00 – 4:00 am. And I wake up 9:00 a.m. Is it necessary that I have a scope of protein at 3:00 a.m. again? (Prior to bed?). Can I fast from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 pm as regular? Or do I have to have a breakfast instead? I have the fear that as I didn’t stop drinking until 3:00 a.m., the fast can’t establish itself correctly so I could lose muscle the next day.

    Yours sincerely
    Frank Espinoza

  6. Vincent


    If you are following the 3500kcal per week deficit, would you have to adjust accordingly if you know you are going to binge drink on a Saturday?



  7. Matt J

    Hi Andy,

    I was wondering about your thoughts on how crazy party guys keep in shape. We’ve all seen them on TV shows like Jersey Shore, Ex on the Beach, Ibiza Weekender, etc (don’t worry, I’ve only seen these shows advertized! ;-)) These guys are ripped, despite crazy partying, late nights, crap food and breaking all the rules.

    I know the obvious answer is, “Well we don’t see everything that happens once the cameras off.” But we all know people like this in our lives. I’m not regularly going out and partying hardcore anymore myself, but was curious when seeing guys on these kind of shows and how they keep in shape.

    I imagine people might jump to the steroid conclusion, as we all know steroids are pretty rife in those kind of sub-cultures. Still, they must be working out well and eating decently when the cameras are off and the beers are put away, right?


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  9. FlexibleDieter

    Science based information, amazing page! glad theres people who wants to spread the good stuff!
    Cheers from the Dominican Republic!

  10. Simon

    Excellent article Andy, I’m a Geordie and we are probably just as bad as Scots if not worse haha! I’ve had good results with leangains in the past. I’m going to start the morning protocol as I train at around 5.30am with BCAAs either side of the workout. My eating window is around 12-8pm. I have my macros for training and non training days. I’m a weekend warrior drinking wise. I’m just struggling with where exactly to pinch the calories from, do I need to adjust only on the day I drink or could I lower other days to suit? It sounds to me like I’m best off eating only protein on a Saturday to cater for Saturday nights. Also, with me training early am and my eating window starting at 12.00, does this class as a higher carb training day…or should I eat more carbs the day before to stock up for the early morning workout? Does this make sense? One answer from you could save me a few weeks of wasting my time. Cheers.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Dieting into great shape while still getting hammered over the weekends, consistently every weekend is difficult, as you can wipe out an entire week’s deficit very easily by doing that. Sacrificing carbs or fats is only a short term solution, as it will lead to recovery issues. It is what it is, you probably want to curtail things for now.

  11. bob

    Hello :)
    I have a couple of questions on behalf of a friend.

    1) at a festival – say, 4 nights of crazy high drinking – will it put you back all your progress over the past few months?
    2) if you just didnt eat for the 3 /4 days and only drank alcohol would you avoid gaining weight
    [Lastly, your opinions on drugs and weight loss?]

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Bob.
      1. Depends on how much progress your friend made over the last few months. You can gain a lot of water, but there are physical limits to the actual amount of fat one can gain in a few days. And if you’re drinking hard, you will simply not have the stomach for it.
      2. Probably. You’d lose muscle though. Not a practical suggestion.
      3. Stupid. If you don’t lose it in a sustainable way, you won’t maintain it.

      I’d highly encourage your ‘friend’ to stop thinking in extremes/ black & white. A little reading is all that is required to clear up the confusion here. Between this post and the post, The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance – #2 Macros, Fibre & Alcohol, I have anyone covered that wants to put the effort in.

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  13. Jase

    Hi Andy,

    Just a quick question on drinking on training days.
    As per the rules I would keep fat low and eat my my protein for the day. I’ve also seen on Martins site that he says to keep carbs from veggies and trace amounts in protein sources only. My question is, is getting the carbs from non starch veggies going to be enough for recovery? And would it be OK to include some fruits on these days? Possibly banana just post workout, but then keep rest of the days meals low carb?

    Cheers Mate,


    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jase, I believe you’ve missed the point. Within the context of Martin’s article (i.e. referring to a heavy drinking situation, where calorie intake from alcohol will be large) the job you’re trying to do on this day is to minimise fat storage, minimise risk of muscle catabolism, yet still drink your face off. You compromise recovery on this one day.

      You want to keep your calorie intake for the day as low as possible. Protein intake is essential, veggies (leafy ones have very low calorie density) and are thus a good choice for satiety, and that is important so that you don’t find yourself at the kebab shop at 2am.

  14. Alain

    Why will all far be stored with beer as opposed to other beverages? is there no way to change this?

  15. Cody

    Andy, great stuff here.

    Question: Is it alright to eat lean protein while drinking? Say there is an event in which there is drinking is done early in the day(making it difficult to eat all the day’s protein before). As long as its something lean like chicken breast or casein, eating during/after drinking(while intoxicated) should not be a problem, right?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Right Cory. Refer to the nutritional hierarchy of importance pyramid. Timing is there in 4th.
      Did someone tell you that you can’t/shouldn’t eat after having had a drink?

      1. Cody

        You did mention that alcohol is our body’s priority fuel over fat and glycogen, but I was not sure if that also applied to protein as well.

        If not, then great. I don’t have to fear food(as long as its lean protein) while drinking.


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  18. Walky

    Hi Andy,

    Amazing article, thank you for the clarity.

    Please let me know if I’m intruding here with this information but another thing I wanted to point out (and this may be dependent on where in the world you are) for everyone is that if folks can find a beer with no carbohydrates (there is one in Australia) then it could simply be considered amongst the ‘better’ choices to make if you prefer a beer (like myself) over a spirit or dry wine. Obviously the overall caloric intake still has to be considered in a surplus but no carbs is still no carbs if you like a beer and I’m sure if Australia manufactures one, the rest of the world would be doing something very similar. Just a thought for carbohydrate conscious individuals on a training day calorie surplus.

    Love the site Andy, one of my favourite references buddy and truly appreciate the time you’ve spent putting it together for us.

    1. Andy Morgan

      No carb beer eh? Thanks for the suggestion Walky. Actually taste like beer should though?

      1. Walky

        To be honest mate it gets poor reviews across the board from most local enthusiasts but I enjoy all kinds of beer and this one is no exception (it’s no Asahi or Sapporo though!).

        Perhaps it’s just me being grateful that I can enjoy a beer without having to calculate the carbohydrate macros and only account for alcoholic calories. Sometimes I’ve found it’s just a mental hurdle with carbohydrates despite calorie deficits being undoubtedly effective, add to that the metabolic pathways with alcohol and fat storage being less efficient than carbohydrate metabolism.

        Cheers again Andy, love your site mate.

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  20. Mitch

    #5 says: “Drinking can push you over your calorie budget for the day. This causes some, or all of the dietary fat you ate for this day to be stored as body-fat, depending on how much over your maintenance calories you drank.”

    On the “depending on how much over maintenance” you drank: Let’s say the only thing you ingested on a drinking day was 4 tablespoons of olive oil or ~56 grams of fat (476 Calories). Then you drank a bottle of wine ~650 calories. So your total caloric intake was 1,126 calories in that day. Let’s further assume your maintenance level is 1,800 calories. How much, if any, of that would be stored as fat? It seems to me, none. This make sense?

    1. Andy Morgan

      None, you would lose fat because you are under maintenance. You missed the key word OVER in my point 5.

  21. Richard Gibbs

    Hey Andy, just saw a mistake wasn’t sure whether to read you or email you to let you know but since you updated the page

    “When I checked the mirror last night, I could have sworn my abs look harder than the week before (see above picture taken yesterday), and no it wasn’t due to dehydration.”

    There is no picture above and there was before I think?

    Feel free to delete comment after :p

  22. Alex

    My protein macros on rest days is 160g. Would the safest thing to do be to eat ONLY this protein amount (along with veggies for fibre) and leave it at that — zero carbs, zero fats — and assume the alcohol will up the calorie count for the day?

    Basically, since these rest/drinking days are a waste for fat-loss, there’s no point eating macros other than protein and alcohol, right?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Alex, everything I have to say on the topic is said above in the article or linked to bud. You’re asking me to give a black and white answer when the real one is gray.

  23. Łukasz WilkLucas

    What would you eat during party/drinking? I mean is eating some veggies or proteins ok? Or better screw it all and just drink? :)

    1. Andy Morgan

      Try and keep to your feeding window regarding food if you can within the rules states above. If that falls into the period that you are drinking then so be it.

  24. tehlolcat

    What about drinking in moderation? I can in terms of calories squeeze in a glass or two of red wine on rest days, knowing rougly how much that reduce my deficient for the day (not much). But you wrote “Any amount of alcohol will blunt lipolysis (fat burning).” So being tipsy is just as bad for lipolysis as being drunk as a M.F? Might as well have two-tree glasses while I’m at it, in case I already screwed up my fatburn that day…?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Put in simpler terms: The amount of alcohol you drink in calories, will reduce the fat burned for the day by that number of calories when in a deficit.

      1. 1111

        I know this is an old thread, but could you provide a source for the negative relationship between alcohol consumption and fat burning? Not saying it’s inaccurate, but I do like to back up claims to friends and colleagues with reputable sources :)

        1. Andy Morgan

          Alcohol is considered a poison by the body. When you drink it, the body prioritizes metabolization of it over everything else (switches to using this for a fuel over the body fat). It’s in this way that fat burning is affected. I don’t have a specific study reference for this, it’ll be in every nutrition textbook though. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism – Gropper, Smith, Groff is the one I have to hand. Very good, exceptionally dry though.

          In future please use your name when commenting.

          1. Brad

            Ah, great, I just needed the mechanism, so I could look it up and satisfy my curiosity. Thanks for providing that! My mistake on the pseudonym thing; bit of a privacy nut here, but I’ll conform to the guidelines since this is a very useful resource.

            Thanks again for all your hard work.

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  26. joe

    I’m trying to gain more muscle mass and beer slows the metabolism and I eat like a pig after. I gain muscle and a lil fat. How do I get a six pack again and stay ripped all still eating and drinking to maintain my mass?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Not quite sure I understand the question Joe. Everything I have to say on alcohol is above. Everything I have to say about dieting is written in the ~100 articles on the site. Maintenance is just finding a calorie balance when you have dieted into the position you want to be in.
      Beer does not slow the metabolism.

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