Alcohol Consumption After Bariatric Surgery

Alcohol Consumption After Bariatric Surgery

Alex Brecher

When can I drink alcohol? How can I do it safely? What are the rules after bariatric surgery?

If you’re a bariatric surgery patient, or if you’re about to become one, you might be wondering about drinking alcohol. Here is what you should know about alcohol consumption after surgery. The BariatricPal Store has Sugar-Free Cocktails that can help keep drinking fun with the option of avoiding alcohol, and without giving you an excess of sugar and carbohydrates.

Changes in Alcohol Metabolism After Bariatric Surgery

If you ever drank alcohol before bariatric surgery, you have some idea of how your body handled it. But that changes after surgery. Before surgery, alcohol that you drank could mix with food in your larger stomach pouch. This slowed down absorption and gave alcohol less potency.

Things are different after surgery. With a smaller pouch or sleeve, such as after gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, alcohol doesn’t have a chance to mix in with a big quantity of food and sit in the stomach for a while. Instead, it goes directly to the small intestine. Absorption can be fast and the effects of alcohol can be powerful - far faster and more powerful than you may be used to. 

You can get drunk or impaired after just a few sips, even if you were more tolerant to alcohol before surgery. It’s not just in your head, either. Your blood alcohol level may be dangerously high, or high enough to give you a DUI, even if you drink only a little bit.

Calories and Carbs in Alcoholic Beverages

Being under the influence of alcohol very quickly is one concern with drinking after weight loss surgery. Another concern is the weight loss aspect. Just like carbohydrates, protein, and fat, alcohol has calories. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, or nearly twice the amount of calories per gram in carbs and protein, and only a bit less than the calories per gram in fat.

These are some approximate calorie counts in some alcoholic beverages.

  • 12-ounce bottle or can of beer: 150 calories.
  • 5-ounce glass of wine: 120 calories.
  • 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, such as whiskey or rum: 100 calories.

These are empty calories. They don’t contain additional essential nutrients. They’re not filling. They’re likely to lead to slower weight loss if you consume them regularly.

Mixed beverages, such as cocktails, don’t just have calories from alcohol. They have calories from sugar, as well. They may be made with fruit juice, sugar-sweetened syrup, or sugary soft drinks. They can have 200 to 400 calories per drink. 

These are some examples.

  • Bloody Mary: 100 calories.
  • Black Russian: 350 calories.
  • Chocolate Martini: 400 calories.
  • Grasshopper: 200 calories.
  • Mai Tai: 350 calories.
  • Mimosa: 80 calories.
  • Mudslide: 200 calories.
  • Pina Colada: 400 calories.

Down a few of those, and you’d be at your daily limit for calories!

Waiting a Year

If you do really want to drink alcohol, it’s best to wait for at least a year after your bariatric surgery before you do so. One reason is that this is a time when you’re establishing new habits. At best, you’ll set some new habits that don’t include regular alcohol consumption. You might choose, for example, to meet your friends at a park or mall instead of a bar.

Another reason to wait for at least a year after your procedure is to lose more weight. That first year is critical for weight loss. For most patients, it’s a period of rapid weight loss. You’ll get close to your goal weight, or even reach it, if things go well. 

Interrupting this momentum with excess calories from alcohol and associated foods that you might also consume with alcohol might set you back. This setback could be difficult to overcome. At best, it’ll take longer for you to reach goal weight.

Sugar-Free Alternatives for Bariatric Surgery Patients

If you do choose to drink alcohol, you’ll be best off in terms of weight loss if you don’t have excessive sugar with your drinks. Still, you don’t have to deprive yourself to avoid excess sugar and carbs when you’re having a night out. 

The BariatricPal Store has a variety of Sugar-Free Mocktails that can help you out. Many of them come in larger packages as well as single-serve sticks that you can slip in a pocket and discreetly take to a party.

BariatricPal Ready-to-Shake Protein Mocktails come in 8-oz bottles with a sugar-free powder already in them. They have 15 grams of protein and no sugar, gluten, or lactose. You can take them anywhere or enjoy them at home. All you have to do is open the bottle, add 8 ounces, close the bottle, and shake it. Your sugar-free cocktail is ready to drink!

BariatricPal Ready-to-Shake Protein Mocktails come in these flavors. 

RSVP Skinnies Cocktail Mixers are ideal for a low-calorie diet. They have no calories or carbs. They’re sweetened with stevia and are all natural. They come in boxes with 6 single-serving sticks. That makes them ideal for taking to a party or other social gathering. 

If you’re planning to drink alcohol, you can add a stick to your liquor and soda mix. If you’d prefer to avoid alcohol, you can just use seltzer water or another calorie-free option instead of liquor.

RSVP Skinnies Cocktail Mixers come in these flavors.

Baja Bob’s Sugar-Free Singles taste terrific and have no sugar or aftertaste. Use one packet to make a drink for yourself, or use all 8 packets in the box to mix up a sugar-free drink for a party. Each single-serving packet has 10 calories.

Baja Bob’s Sugar-Free Singles come in these flavors.

They’re also available in a Variety Pack

Whichever you choose, these Sugar-Free Cocktail Mixes give you the freedom to enjoy the party or gathering without any extra sugar from alcoholic or alcohol-free beverages. 

Concerns Over Alcohol Addiction After Bariatric Surgery

Replacement addictions are always a concern after weight loss surgery. For many bariatric surgery patients, eating was an addiction. It may have been a chemical addiction that caused the brain to depend on excess sugar or carbs. Even if not, it may have been a behavioral or emotional addiction in which eating was a habit or was comforting.

After bariatric surgery, food is off the table as an addiction. The pouch or sleeve just can’t hold enough for constant overeating without discomfort. So what replaces it? Ideally, bariatric surgery patients pick up other hobbies to prevent boredom, or learn coping techniques to manage emotions without turning to food. 

But sometimes, replacement addictions occur. Alcohol is a relatively common one. Alcohol abuse or misuse can quickly develop, especially if you’re not careful. It’s important to be on the lookout for signs of dependency or overuse. These are some examples.

  • Increased drinking frequency or having more alcohol in a single session.
  • Finding that you look to alcohol when you feel bored, upset, angry, or lonely.
  • Wishing you could have a drink when something’s not going your way because alcohol makes you feel better.
  • Not being able to control how much you drink once you start, or not knowing how much you had the last time you drank alcohol.
  • Having your friends express concern about your habits, or getting defensive when they ask you about your alcohol consumption.
  • Not remembering what happened while you were drinking.

If you do worry that your alcohol consumption is becoming unhealthy or getting out of control, ask a healthcare provider for help. There are many support groups, including those with bariatric surgery patients who are struggling just like you, as well as programs to help you overcome this challenge.

Safer Drinking After Bariatric Surgery

There are many steps you can take to make drinking safer after bariatric surgery. First, get your healthcare provider’s okay. You never want to go against them if they’re being conservative. The guidelines are there to protect you and keep you healthy and on track for your weight loss goals. Ask your provider if your drinking might interfere with nutritional status, since some vitamins can be depleted with excess alcohol consumption.

Set a limit before you go out and have a plan for what you’ll eat. It’s important to stick to a limit of one drink for women, or two drinks for men, if you choose to drink at all. And, stop drinking if you start to feel intoxicated.

Follow regular precautions, such as not drinking on an empty stomach, drinking plenty of water during the event, and not driving when you drink. Even if you felt like you could get away with driving after a drink or two before surgery, it’s definitely not an option now. 

Also be sure to be safe if you have a condition such as diabetes. If you do, be sure to test blood sugar before, during, and after drinking, and to have identification on you stating that you have diabetes, especially if you’re on insulin.

Concerns About Food Consumption and Choices While Drinking Alcohol

The calories from alcohol and alcoholic beverages are not the only problem for weight loss when it comes to drinking alcohol. Drinking can also lead to overeating, especially of unhealthy, high-calorie foods. 

First, consider the foods you may eat while you’re drinking alcohol. Party foods and bar foods aren’t known for being healthy or low-calorie! Jalapeno poppers, chicken wings, sliders, fried mozzarella sticks, chips and dip, fried shrimp, onion rings, quesadillas, and bacon-wrapped anything are all high in calories and low in nutrition. They’re also easy to overeat, especially if you’re at a bar or party for a long time while socializing. 

Then, what happens later at night? Because of the way alcohol is metabolized, chances are you may feel starving a few hours after you stop drinking. There may be a late-night stop at a taco shop, hamburger joint, or convenience store for pizza or cookies. 

Overall, your night of alcohol consumption can easily include an extra 1,000 or 2,000 calories that you hadn’t really planned to eat. That’s about a half-pound’s worth of body fat! These choices can definitely interfere with weight loss, especially if alcohol consumption becomes a regular.

Best Foods to Eat While Drinking Alcohol

Still, it’s completely unsafe to drink alcohol on an empty stomach. It’s best to go in with a plan for which foods you will have while you’re drinking. Nutritious foods are best. Foods with fiber, healthy fats, and proteins can slow down the absorption of alcohol. These are some lower-calorie foods that are high in fiber or protein.

  • Raw vegetables, such as cut carrots, celery, or broccoli florets.
  • Cooked vegetables, such as grilled asparagus, .
  • Salad with lettuce or other greens and a light vinaigrette dressing.
  • Lean proteins, such as chicken breast, fish, grilled shrimp, or a veggie burger.
  • Air-popped popcorn.

Peanuts and nuts are also healthy and common at bars, but they’re high in calories. Stick to a small serving if you choose to have them.

There’s another reason why it’s best to wait a year after surgery to drink alcohol. High-fiber foods that are low in calories and good to munch on while drinking alcohol may be impossible to tolerate for a while after surgery. 

Alcohol consumption isn’t recommended after bariatric surgery, but the reality is that many patients aren’t willing to give it up for life. If you do choose to drink after weight loss surgery, it’s best to wait at least a year and to ask your healthcare provider for advice and safety tips. Never drink on an empty stomach, and always have a plan for your alcohol consumption at an event. 

You can always consider alcohol-free options. Another choice to limit excess calories and sugar is to use Sugar-Free Mocktails. They’re delicious and easily available at The BariatricPal Store. Party on and lose weight!

Drinking alcohol after surgerySugar-free mocktails