Is your weekend sabotaging your weight loss efforts?

Blog Post

The Cooper Institute
The Cooper Team
Fit Tips
July 5, 2012

Do you find yourself exercising on a consistent basis and working really hard to watch the calories you are eating but aren’t losing the weight you think you should? Well look to your weekend habits and you may have the answer. Many people do really “great” (their words) during the week but then find themselves overindulging on the weekends. Could this really be enough to sabotage your weight loss efforts? Yes!

A common weekend (over)indulgence for many is alcohol and can be a big culprit in halting weight loss. Alcoholic drinks are often touted as being “full of carbs” and some are, mainly in the form of sugar, but this isn’t the main contributor when it comes to calories. Alcohol itself contains 7 calories per gram and is the second highest calorie containing substance we consume behind fat (which has 9 calories per gram). This is almost double the amount of calories found in 1 gram of carbohydrate (4 calories per gram). A standard drink has 14 grams of alcohol or approximately 98 calories. Add in the calories from the other components found in an alcoholic beverage and this number ranges from somewhat higher to “holy mackerel” higher. So do you account for these calories when trying to create a calorie deficit? Many don’t but if you do, you probably underestimate their contribution. Let’s look at the calories of some common drinks. These are just estimates. Depending on how the drink is prepared or the variation, the calories may differ. For instance, a glass of red wine has approximately 5 to 10 more calories than a glass of white.

So since we are on the topic of wine, a 5-ounce glass of wine has approximately 100 calories. Not bad but…… is your glass only 5 ounces full? Picture a 1-cup measuring cup which is equivalent to 8 ounces. Now picture what your glass of wine most often looks like. How do they compare? It wouldn’t be surprising to me if you are thinking your glass of wine is typically more than 5 ounces. But let’s say it is 5 ounces and you have 4 glasses of wine that would be 400 extra calories right there.  If your 4 glasses of wine really were closer to let’s say 8 ounces each, you are looking at about 160 calories per glass for a total of 640 calories. We will look at what this means for your weight loss efforts in just a moment.

Let’s look at beer next. Twelve ounces of light beer gives you about 110 calories while a regular about 140. Let’s say you have 5 beers over the course of watching the game. That could net you approximately 700 calories.

Now onto spirits. One and a half ounces of spirits, the amount in a shot glass, has about 70-150 calories depending on the type of spirit. And of course you then have to add in the calories for what you mix it with. Here are some examples:

  • 6 oz. Rum and Coke – 125 Calories (1 oz. Rum, 5 oz. Coke)
  • 6 oz. Vodka and Soda – 65 Calories (1 oz. Vodka, 5 oz. Soda Water)
  • 10 oz. Bloody Mary – 180 Calories (2 oz. Vodka,8 oz. tomato juice, Dash of Tabasco and pepper)
  • 7.5 oz. Gin and Tonic – 156 Calories (1.5 oz. Gin, 6 oz. Tonic)
  • 4 oz. Cosmopolitan – 213 Calories (1.5 oz. Vodka, 0.75 oz. Triple sec, 0.75 oz. Cranberry Juice, 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 10 oz. Margarita – 550 Calories (4 oz. Tequila, 4 oz. Margarita/Sour Mix, 2 oz. Triple Sec, Lime Juice, 1 tsp. Sugar)
  • 9 oz. Mai Tai – 620 Calories (3 oz. Light Rum, 2 oz. Dark Rum, 1 oz. Crème de Almond, 1 oz. Triple Sec, 1 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix, 1 oz. Pineapple Juice)
  • 12 oz. Piña Colada – 586 Calories (3 oz. Rum, 3 oz. Coconut Cream, 6 oz. Pineapple Juice)
  • 6 oz. Mud Slide – 556 Calories (1.5 oz. Vodka, 1.5 oz. Kahlua, 1.5 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream, 1.5 oz. Half-and-Half)
  • 10 oz. Long Island Ice Tea – 543 Calories (1.5 oz. Vodka, 1.5 oz Rum, 1.5 oz. Tequila, 1.5 oz. Gin, 1.5 oz. Triple Sec, 2 oz. Sweet and Sour, 0.5 oz. Cola)

I think you can see that these calories can add up quickly. And of course consuming excess alcohol tends to loosen your inhibition which often leads to making eating choices without thinking.

So let’s look at what this could mean for your weight loss efforts. During the week you have created a 3500 calorie deficit by decreasing your calories by 400 and burning 300 calories through exercise. This would theoretically lead to a pound of weight loss. Friday night you go out with your friends and have 1 Cosmo and 3 (8-ounce) glasses of wine. Not too bad and you don’t have anything extra to eat so no additional calories there. Total: 693. Saturday you are out by the pool, it is hot and a Margarita sure sounds refreshing. Before you know it you have had 2 for a total of 1100 calories! Saturday night you are back out with friends. You first go to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and then out to a bar afterwards. You have a couple of light beers while waiting for your table and of course chips and queso. Between that and then the enchilada platter you order for your meal you are over your food calories by about 800 calories. Across the night have about 8 light beers. Grand total: 880 calories. Sunday is your day of rest (and recovery).

Total for the weekend: 693 + 1100 + 800 + 880 = 3473 calories!!

So all the effort you put into creating a calorie deficit during the week was completely wiped out by your weekend choices. You can imagine what the calorie totals would be for someone who has even more drinks than this and/or consumes additional food calories.

Take home message: If you choose to consume alcohol, do so wisely and be sure to factor it into your calorie consumption. Consuming alcohol, if you choose, can be part of a healthy eating and weight loss plan—when done in moderation and if the calories are accounted for. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend up to one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men—and no you can’t save them all for a Saturday night. Remember one drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of spirits.

It can be hard to change your weekend habits especially since so much of it is can be part of your social environment. It will probably take some work and trial and error but you should try to set a goal to scale back on your weekend calories. Maybe cut back on the number of drinks you allow yourself or only go out one night and make different plans for the other night. Doing so might finally allow you to see the payoff from all of your hard work during the week.


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