Does Drinking Make You Gain Weight?

Drinking alcohol and weight Gain

Drinking alcohol is a common way to relax, socialize, and celebrate. But did you know that it can also affect your weight and health? Alcohol contains calories, but unlike food, it provides no essential nutrients. It can also interfere with your metabolism, hormones, and appetite, making losing or maintaining weight harder. In this blog post, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about alcohol and weight gain and give tips on how to enjoy alcohol without sabotaging your weight loss goals.

Does Drinking Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?

The simple answer is yes, drinking alcohol can make you gain weight. Alcohol is notable for containing high calories and can reduce metabolism, making it harder to burn fat. Drinking alcohol can also lead to poor dietary choices and late-night snacking. Sometimes, nothing is better after a hard day than a cold beer or a soothing glass of wine. But if you drink too much or too often, those extra calories can add to weight gain over time.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, one standard drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is equivalent to:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (40% alcohol)

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Depending on the type and amount of alcohol you drink, you could consume anywhere from 100 to 300 calories per drink. For example, a 12-ounce bottle of regular beer has about 150 calories, a 5-ounce glass of wine has about 120 calories, and a 1.5-ounce shot of vodka has about 100 calories. Nonetheless, the figures may differ depending on the beverage’s brand, ingredients, and serving size.

To put this into perspective, if you drink two beers daily for a month, you could consume an extra 9,000 calories, equivalent to gaining about 2.6 pounds of fat. If you drink two glasses of wine daily for a month, you could consume an extra 7,200 calories, equivalent to gaining about 2 pounds of fat. And if you drink two shots of vodka daily for a month, you could consume an extra 6,000 calories, equivalent to gaining about 1.7 pounds of fat.

Of course, this does not mean drinking alcohol will automatically make you gain weight. It depends on how much and how often you drink and your overall diet and lifestyle. But if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, it is essential to be aware of how alcohol affects your calorie intake and energy balance.

How Much Alcohol Makes You Gain Weight?

Research has found that light-to-moderate alcohol intake does not cause weight gain. Instead, frequent excessive drinking could result in weight gain over time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), heavy drinking is classified as consuming more than three drinks per day or seven drinks per week for females. The NIAAA says that heavy drinking is more than four drinks per day or 14 per week for males.

Heavy drinking can have several adverse effects on your weight and health. One aspect is that it can elevate the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses like liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. For another thing, it can impair the functions of your glands that release hormones, which may cause weight gain.

Drinking alcohol and weight Gain

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Hormones and Appetite?

Drinking alcohol tends to impair the activities of glands that release hormones, which may result in weight gain. Typically, the glands within your body can remarkably release precise amounts of hormones at specific times. These hormones act as messengers, facilitating communication with your tissues. Their vital role is to regulate your body’sbody’s stress response and effectively manage your energy and metabolism.

For example, your adrenal glands, found on top of your kidneys, secrete cortisol, a stress hormone. Usually, cortisol helps your body respond to stress by increasing blood pressure and heart rate. Some evidence suggests that heavy drinking may cause your adrenal glands not to regulate how much cortisol they secrete. As a result, people who drink heavily may have high cortisol levels.

Research has revealed that elevated cortisol levels tend to increase abdominal weight gain. This is because cortisol stimulates muscle tissue breakdown and fat storage in the belly area. Visceral fat, also called belly fat, is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat (the fat under your skin) because it surrounds your vital organs and increases inflammation.

Another hormone that may be affected by alcohol consumption is leptin, which regulates your appetite and energy expenditure. Leptin is synthesized by your fat cells and signals your brain when you are full and when to burn calories. Some studies have shown that alcohol may reduce leptin levels, increase hunger and reduce energy expenditure.

On the other hand, alcohol may also increase the levels of another hormone called ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite and promotes fat storage. Some studies have shown that alcohol may increase ghrelin levels, food intake, and weight gain.

In addition to affecting your hormones, alcohol may also affect your brain and behaviour, making it harder to resist temptation and make healthy choices. Alcohol can impair your judgment, lower your inhibitions, and increase your impulsivity, which may lead you to overeat or snack on high-calorie foods you usually would avoid. Alcohol can also affect your sleep quality, affecting your appetite and metabolism the next day.

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What is a “Beer Belly,” and How Does Alcohol Cause it?

A “beer belly” refers to that protruding stomach some people carry around. It is not caused by beer alone but by excess alcohol consumption in general. A small portion of the calories from alcohol accumulates as fat near your midsection. Instead, the liver gives priority to metabolizing alcohol over breaking down fat. Consequently, while consuming alcohol, your body isn’tisn’t actively burning fat.

Your liver is the primary organ responsible for metabolizing alcohol and other toxins in your body. Upon consuming alcohol, your liver converts it into acetaldehyde, further broken into acetate and water. Acetate is then used as an energy source by your body or excreted in urine.

However, when you drink more alcohol than your liver can handle, the excess acetaldehyde and acetate accumulate in your blood and tissues, causing oxidative stress and inflammation. This can damage your liver cells and impair their ability to metabolize fat and other substances. As a result, the fat you consume or already stored in your body is not burned efficiently and deposited in your belly area.

How Can You Prevent or Reduce Weight Gain From Alcohol?

The best way to prevent or reduce weight gain from alcohol is to limit your intake or avoid it altogether. If you drink, choose lower-calorie options such as light beer, wine, or spirits mixed with water or diet soda.

Stay hydrated and maintain a balance between alcoholic beverages by drinking water in between to reduce your consumption. Eat a balanced meal before drinking to avoid overeating later. And prevent binge drinking, which can have serious health consequences beyond weight gain.
Here are some tips on how to drink responsibly and moderately:

  • Follow the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption: no more than one drink per day for females and no more than two drinks per day for males.
  • Measure your glasses and use standard serving sizes: You can choose between 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.
  • Drink slowly and savour the taste and aroma of your drink.
  • Alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages like water, sparkling water, or juice.
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach or when thirsty, hungry, tired, or stressed.
  • Eat healthy snacks or meals before or while drinking to prevent low blood sugar and curb appetite.
  • Avoid high-calorie mixers such as regular soda, juice, cream, or syrups. Use water, diet soda, club soda, lime juice, or tonic water instead.
  • Avoid drinking games, shots, or rounds that encourage you to drink more or faster than usual.
  • Establish a defined limit for the amount of alcohol you’ll consume, and commit to adhere to it. Monitor the number of drinks you’ve had and ensure you stop drinking once you’ve reached your predetermined limit.
  • Plan and have a designated driver or use public transportation if you are going to drink outside your home.
  • Do not drink if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, under 21 years old, taking medication that interacts with alcohol, or have a medical condition affected by alcohol.


Drinking alcohol can be enjoyable and beneficial for some people in moderation. However, it can also cause weight gain and other health problems when done in excess. Following these tips allows you to enjoy alcohol without compromising your weight loss goals.

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