- This weekend at the Emmys, we did a double take when 47-year-old Zach Galifianakis hit the red carpet. The Hangover actor showed up with a slim face and physique, squashing his “funny fat guy” persona. While he has yet to publicly confirm how much weight he’s dropped, the ongoing transformation has been evident.
So, how’d he done it? Galifiankis was already dropping pounds back in 2013. After Conan O’Brien nudged him to reveal his secret during an interview on his show, Galifiankis revealed that cutting out booze played a huge role in his weight loss. “I stopped drinking and I just, kind of, put the weight off,” he said. “I was having a lot of vodka with sausage. Delicious, but bad for you.”
He’s not the only one to credit the diet change to his weight loss success. Celebrities like Jonah Hill and Ed Sheeran say drinking fewer beers helped them drop pounds, too.
But is it really that simple?
Well, it certainly can help: Booze is loaded with empty calories—an average 12-ounce can pack in roughly 150 calories.
So say you drink two beers a day, the recommended limit for men. That’s an extra 300 calories a day, or 2,100 calories a week—the equivalent of nearly a whole extra day’s worth of eating.
What’s more, a lot of guys don’t stick to that limit. In reality, about 23 percent of adult men report binge drinking five times a month, downing eight drinks per binge, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If we’re still talking beer, that’s pounding an extra 1,200 calories each go, or an extra 6,000 calories per month.
Then you need to look at how booze affects your body beyond the calories from the alcohol alone. Where there’s booze, there tends to be junk food, too. Some folks have a pronounced hunger response to alcohol consumption, and getting the munchies in a state of inebriation can be a bad thing when your judgment is on the far side of hazy. So not only are you taking in the extra calories from the booze, but you’re also packing in even more from the junk you’re downing with it.
Plus, research suggests that booze screws with your sleep, and that can be bad news for your waistline. People who average only 3 to 5.5 hours of sleep eat an extra 385 calories the next day compared to people who clock in 7 to 12 hours, according to U.K. research.
Going heavy on the drinks can also zap your metabolism. That’s because your body treats alcohol like a toxin, so it works extra hard to get it out of your system, Angelo Tremblay, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at Laval University in Quebec explained to us in the past. The result? Your body stops burning your stored carbs and devotes its resources to burning off the alcohol instead.
Of course, if you only drink a couple beers on special occasions, or just imbibe sporadically, cutting the alochol isn’t going to have the same effect it would if you drank more frequently. But if you do booze it up on the regular? Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink is certainly an effective way to drop some pounds, especially if you’re just starting to tweak your diet—it’s one of the simplest ways to strip unnecessary calories.
Even if you don’t want to cut booze out for good, whittling down your imbibing to one to two drinks per day max won’t completely derail your progress if you’re making generally healthy eating choices otherwise, says Aragon.
But that won’t always be enough to sustain your weight loss on its own, especially if you hit a weight loss plateau. Galifiankis came back to Conan in 2016, and admitted that booze wasn’t the only thing he eliminated from his diet. “I tend not to eat food advertised on television,” he says. “Fast food you can’t do. You have to eat whole grains, and that kind of stuff. And you have to cut out whipped cream pizzas.”