Body Weight and Alcohol: Can You Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight?

Alcoholic person measuring body weight

According to the American Psychiatric Association, substance abuse is the excessive use of substances, such as drugs and alcohol, that causes a person to struggle from clinical impairments, as well as the dramatic loss of professional, social, and academic skills. Substance abuse has the power to significantly alter an individual’s diet. In the majority of cases, substance abuse holds the potential to lead to poor nutrition and irregular eating patterns. 

As a result, previously healthy adults and adolescents might begin to experience remarkable health problems shortly after the substance abuse begins. This also includes the relationship between body weight and alcohol, which is often a part of the lives of individuals who suffer from alcoholism. Whether there is a positive association between body weight and alcohol has been more likely to be found in men than women. 

Does Alcohol Use Make It Harder Or Easier To Lose Weight? 

Drinking alcohol can definitely make it harder to lose weight. There are several reasons that this occurs and it includes the following:

  1. Often, alcohol is empty “calories”.
  2. Alcohol can affect one’s organs.
  3. It can contribute to excess belly fat.
  4. Alcohol affects one’s judgement, which is problematic when it comes to eating choices.
  5. The relationship between alcohol and sex hormones can be negative.
  6. Alcohol can negatively affect a person’s sleep.
  7. Alcohol impacts nutrient intake and digestion.

Substance Abuse and Metabolism

Metabolism refers to the way an individual’s body breaks down food and instead uses it for energy and nutrients. The cells throughout a person’s body must receive a sufficient amount of nutrients, including growth, sugar in the form of glucose for energy, and repair from damage. When an individual experiences poor nutrition and diet, which occurs often secondarily to substance abuse, it can lead to many other issues such as:

  • Different types of diseases
  • Organ damage
  • Brain damage

The body is not able to store alcohol, so once it is thoroughly consumed, it is broken down to quickly facilitate exertion from an individual’s body. Alcohol does not contain nutrients, but it does contain “empty calories”, which often make individuals feel like they are full, especially when large amounts of alcohol are consumed.

Large quantities of alcohol can damage a person’s intestinal tract. This, in turn, decreases the body’s ability to utilize and absorb minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients from the food that is eaten. 

The Role of Amino Acids

In particular, amino acids are a crucial source of nutrients that are contained in foods that are considered protein-rich. They are distributed throughout the body to boost cell growth, repair, and energy production. When there are high levels of alcohol in a person’s body, the liver and intestines can be assigned precious cellular resources all aimed at the removal of alcohol. 

During the above-mentioned step, nutrients such as amino acids are prevented from being utilized by the body properly. In a healthy body, there is an assortment of amino acids and various other nutrients that are needed to avoid organ disease and damage. When there is excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption, it interferes with the entire process. 

When high levels of alcohol are showcased in the blood, the digestion process might also slow down. The digestion system is known for normally stimulating the release of the following: 

  • Amino acids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Sugar 

Digestion systems stimulate the above-mentioned foods so that they can be used by cells for proper development, growth, and repair. 

Drug Abuse and Weight

When an individual engages in taking illegal, prescription, and recreational drugs inappropriately, it can lead to substance use disorders. A drug is defined as being a chemical substance that alters the activity of a person’s brain as well as processes in their body. Often, drugs affect individuals differently. But the dangerous side effects that most drugs cause can lead to irreversible health issues, damage, and in a few cases, death. 

What Are The Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Body Weight?

Alcohol abuse has many effects on body weight. Not only does it disrupt the body’s ability to properly extract nutrients from food and be able to transport them to different areas of the body. It can also cause intestinal damage. Once the intestines become irritated, the digestive processes either slow down or stop. After this occurs, the following symptoms can develop:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Intestinal damage
  • Constipation

The above-mentioned symptoms can cause individuals to eat less and that is when the question comes in, “can you drink alcohol and still lose weight?” Once an individual begins eating less, there are adequate amounts of nutrients that are not consumed. 

As a person’s weight begins to drop, poor nutrition can begin to cause several health issues that include:

  • Certain types of cancer (ex: liver)
  • Stroke and heart attack
  • Increased risk of death
  • High blood pressure
  • Eating disorders
  • High cholesterol 
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tooth decay
  • Depression
  • Seizures

Illicit, prescription, and recreational medication all influence numerous mental processes. There are particular drugs that have the ability to cause temporary cognitive impairments after simply taking one single dose. If this process occurs to an individual, it may lead the person to begin to lose weight, forget to properly eat, and develop dangerously low blood sugar. 

Individuals who start engaging in drug abuse, it might cause permanent impairments in brain activity eventually and physical changes that lead to poor health and dramatic weight loss. That is one of the biggest associations between body weight and alcohol.


Opiates are prescribed by a physician to treat certain painful conditions such as cancer. The opiates typically prescribed are Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Morphine, and Methadone. Methadone is prescribed for individuals who are addicted to Heroin in order to assist them in overcoming their opiate addiction or dependence

Addiction normally develops when high doses of opiates are consumed by an individual for an extended period of time. In turn, this causes changes in the person’s brain that can result in compulsive cravings. These cravings can induce drug-seeking behavior regardless of any negative effects addiction has on an individual’s life and health. 

Due to opiates being commonly prescribed to treat pain, the use has the ability to rapidly translate to misuse instead due to the popular sense of euphoria that individuals tend to experience after engaging in this drug. The feeling of euphoria normally leads to addiction and opiate dependence in many individuals. 

The narcotics analgesics in the opiate class can cause side effects in varying degrees that include:

  • Constipation 
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea

Side effects such as the ones mentioned above can lead to the following associated with the connection between body weight and alcohol:

  • A decrease in appetite
  • Slowed digestion 
  • Weight loss

Additionally, opiate dependence and addiction can result in dramatic weight loss when individuals begin engaging in drug-seeking behavior more often than properly eating. 


Heroin is a specific dangerous opiate that is considered to be highly addictive. It is typically purchased on the street instead of an individual purchasing abused prescription opioids. This drug is similar to many other drugs in its class due to the fact that individuals will most likely undergo altered eating habits, weight loss, and display erratic drug-seeking behavior. 

When an individual experiences a brief period of euphoria while engaging in heroin use, it is typically followed by drowsiness and confusion. As a person engages in subsequent repeated cycles of drowsiness or euphoria or prolonged use, it typically results in the development of forgetting to eat altogether or irregular eating habits. Long-term opiate abuse can lead to extensive organ disease and damage, which is commonly associated with weight loss. 


Marijuana is a recreational drug that is among the most popular drugs used by adolescents. When an individual engages in excessive marijuana, it can alter a person’s mental processes such as thinking and memory. Many individuals experience short-term memory issues that can become permanent if a prolonged period of drug abuse begins. 

Once this process occurs, memory issues might result in weight loss and dietary changes. However, there are a number of individuals who engage in marijuana who might undergo a personal increase in appetite which is normally referred to as “munchies”. When this occurs, it might cause weight gain and overeating. 

Hand and eye coordination, reasoning problems, and concentration might also develop to marijuana use and it can be challenging for individuals to maintain a healthy weight. These long-term issues might emerge from marijuana use which can include organ damage and depression, especially when marijuana is mixed with alcohol. These types of health issues are associated with an individual’s experiencing fluctuations in weight.

Alcohol Abuse on the Liver

When an individual consumes alcohol on an empty stomach, it is an extremely harmful habit. This habit can result in a person’s blood sugar dropping to dangerously low levels. As time goes on, alcohol abuse has the potential to lead to type 2 diabetes and glucose intolerance due to the liver fixating too much energy on exerting and producing the toxins that alcohol produces. 

Alcohol abuse can also lead to many fluctuations in an individual’s weight due to the effect it has on a person’s brain. If the stomach is empty when alcohol is being consumed, alcohol in turn can quickly leave the stomach and reach the brain. This process slows down when there is food in a person’s stomach. If a large quantity of alcohol is consumed, it can still reach the following more quickly than the nutrients contained in the actual food can:

  • The bloodstream
  • Liver
  • Brain

The liver takes nearly two hours to process the alcohol contained in an alcoholic beverage such as a glass of beer or wine. If a person consumes an excessive amount of alcohol, it can slow throughout the body until the actual liver can process it. In the interim, the brain, heart, and kidneys receive high toxin levels released from alcohol consumption. 

Alcohol Abuse on the Brain

Subsequently, alcohol affects the brain by causing speech, vision, reasoning problems, and judgment. These types of side effects might have the ability to cause individuals to eat less, eat foods they normally wouldn’t, overeat, or forget to eat. When a person forgets to eat properly, it can quickly result in weight loss and that is one of the associations between body weight and alcohol. 

So when an individual asks the question, “Can you still drink alcohol and still lose weight?” 

The answer is yes. When a person forgets to eat properly, it can also result in overeating which can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other conditions such as heart disease. 

Type 2 diabetes that develops as a result of body weight and alcohol can be because of a person not consuming enough food which leads to glucose intolerance and low blood sugar levels. The body’s intolerance to sugar or glucose levels develops because the liver avoids utilizing glucose to process the high continuous amount of alcohol that a person consumes. 

Alcohol abuse that leads to type 2 diabetes and obesity is the result of constant high blood sugar levels. When you overeat, it means carbohydrates and fats are being consumed at a faster rate than the body can break them down and excrete the waste. In turn, this leads to high levels of sugar or glucose in the blood that the liver can’t process immediately because it’s already trying to remove any excess alcohol. 

As a result, uncontrolled sugar levels in combination with obesity can cause type 2 diabetes eventually. Generally, alcohol abuse can lead to threatening fluctuations in an individual’s weight that might cause disorders such as diabetes and irreversible organ damage eventually. 

Why Should People Avoid Drinking When They’re Trying To Achieve Healthy Body Weight? 

An individual should avoid drinking if they are trying to achieve healthy body weight because alcohol has the ability to cause weight gain in four ways. 

  1. It stops the body from burning fat. 
  2. Alcohol use can lead to poor food choices. 
  3. Drinking alcohol can make you feel hungry. 
  4. Alcohol is high in calories.

Whether or not an individual will gain weight from alcohol depends on the following:

  • What you drink
  • How much you drink
  • How often you drink
  • What you eat when you drink
  • Your unique lifestyle and body

Sobriety Awaits at Lifetime Recovery Today

If you or someone you know is struggling with body weight and alcohol, we can help you combat the disease that is addiction. We are a substance abuse mental health treatment center and we are able to provide a wide range of clinically intensive treatment services in a structured, caring, and safe environment. Contact us today to begin your journey to recovery. 

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