Is Alcohol Making You Fat?

Occasional intake of alcohol may not cause you to gain weight, but heavy drinking could lead to obesity and weight gain. It could cause fat accumulation in your liver and abdominal area, and pump in empty calories. Some drinks contain sugar and calories equivalent to candy bars or chips – indulging in these could lead to fat and weight gain.

READ ALSO: What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Here’s how and when alcohol can cause you to gain weight and pile on that unwanted fat.

Heavy Intake Will Cause Weight Gain in Men

There are mixed results from studies and research on whether or not alcohol directly contributes to weight gain and obesity. However, studies like the British one conducted over 5 years on middle-aged men concluded that drinking over 30 gm of alcohol per day, which is, getting over 9% of their daily caloric consumption via alcohol was directly connected to obesity and weight gain. The type of alcohol didn’t matter as it was the heavy drinking that brought on this effect. And while there was no earlier substantial evidence connecting drinking light-to-moderate quantities of alcohol with obesity, the researchers concluded that higher alcohol intake contributed to weight gain in men who consumed alcohol. Heavy drinking may also cause women to gain weight.

Light to Moderate Drinking May Not Be a Problem

A 12.9 years study on the long-term studies on light to moderate drinkers, however, reveal a different story. As one study that was 12.9 years long noted, women who were of normal weight and drank light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol actually gained less weight than non-drinkers at the follow-up stages. Another study backed this up saying that light-to-moderate drinking was not linked to weight gain in most women – however, this may not be applicable for African-American female drinkers.

READ ALSO: Home Remedies for Alcohol Withdrawal

Other Factors May Affect Weight Gain together with Alcohol Intake

It is not certain whether these results are linked to gender-based differences in how the body reacts to alcohol consumption. The role of other external factors may have also contributed to the results like diet, exercise, smoking etc. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle alongside that moderate alcohol intake might help prevent weight or fat gain even if you drink regularly.

Alcohol Has As Many Calories Per Gram As Pure Fat!

So why is it that alcohol could have a role to play in making you fat? As it turns out, it has as many calories to the gram as pure fat – 7 calories per gram on average. That’s thanks to all the sugar and starch it contains. In terms of total calorie intake, here’s a look at what you get from a standard serving of your tipple of choice:

  • 12 fl ounces of beer: 153 calories
  • 12 fl ounces of light beer: 103 calories
  • 9 fl ounces of a piña colada: 490 calories
  • 6 fl ounces of a mojito: 143 calories
  • 5 fl ounces of red wine: 125 calories
  • 5 fl ounces of white wine: 121 calories
  • 4 fl ounces of champagne: 84 calories
  • 5 fl ounces of sweet wine: 165 calories
  • 5 fl ounces of distilled spirits (gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum): 97 calories
  • 5 fl ounces of liqueurs: 165 calories
  • 75 fl ounces of a Manhattan: 146 calories
  • 25 fl ounces of a martini: 124 calories

Alcohol Is As Sweet and Calorific As Candies or Potato Chips

The National Health Service in the United Kingdom compares the calorie count of some popular alcoholic drinks to a range of popular candies and chocolates. All alcohol has some amount of sugar in it, and it is comparable to some candies and chips you wouldn’t touch when you are trying to lose some fat. One pint of cider can make you hit the upper limit of sugar consumption set by the World Health Organization. Certain alcohol is especially high in sugar, with sherry, fortified wine, liqueurs of different kinds, and cider topping the list. Spirits like vodka or gin, while themselves not as high in sugar, are often mixed with sugary sodas or packaged juices that upsurge your sugar consumption.

READ ALSO: Alcohol is More Harmful to Brain than Marijuana, Study Discovers

As far as calories go, a pint of beer has about as many as a full bag of potato chips. A double measure (1.7 ounces) of fortified wine contains the same calories as a bourbon biscuit. You wouldn’t binge on the chips or the biscuits if you were trying to stay fit or lose weight. But drinking a couple of drinks a day could mean you’re consuming as much sugar and calories as if you had those foods. Food for thought, isn’t it?

Alcohol Could Cause Belly Fat to Accumulate

Alcohol may impact on lipid oxidation or the breakdown of fat in the body. Studies looking at the metabolism of alcohol have discovered that alcohol overpowers this oxidation and cause fat in the body to increase. Also, this non-oxidized fat appears to gather in the abdominal region.

Your Drink Might Make You Consume More Calories

Taking alcohol may cause you to consume snacks you may not otherwise have felt the need to eat. There are suggestions that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol could result in increased energy intake. That’s because of a combination of the appetite-enhancing effects of the drink, prompting you to eat more.

Empty Calories May Cause You to Miss Out On Healthier Foods

Even if you are being strict about calorie counting, you may be doing yourself harm. Especially if you’re being very strict about your diet. Alcohol is something that contains empty calories, meaning, you aren’t getting any real goodness out of them. So instead of alcohol, go for a nutritious fresh fruit, vegetable juice, salad, or even a lean protein meal that could keep you full for longer and nourish your body with a host of vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy carbs, and fiber for a drink that wears off once your body burns through the sugar.

READ ALSO: 11 Ways to Control Your Intake of Alcohol

Excessive Intake Can Cause You to Develop a Fatty Liver

Heavy drinking even if it is for a few days can cause fats to accumulate in your liver. If this continues, it can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, a precursor to cirrhosis or scarring of the liver in alcohol-related liver disease, you may develop jaundice and notice swelling in the stomach and ankle region as a result of impaired liver function. A fatty liver problem can be reversed simply by stopping intake of alcohol.

Have Your Alcohol Responsibly And Limit Fat Problems

Here are a few ways you could still enjoy drinking but lower your chances of having a problem.

  • Avoid heavy drinking: Stick to the limits of low-risk drinking which is not more than 3 drinks per day (and not more than a total of 7 through the week) for women and not more than 4 drinks per day (and not more than a total of 14 through the week) for men.
  • Don’t binge drink. Space out your intake. Binge drinking causes your blood alcohol concentration to go to 0.08 g/dL which tends to happen if you consume when you’ve had 4 (for women) – 5 drinks (for men) in the space of just 2 hours.
  • Have a healthy dinner:This will fill yourself up before you have a drink so you’re less likely to overdo the drinking and can avoid the empty calories, trading them up for healthier options instead.17
  • Drink water between each alcoholic beverage you consume: Besides helping you cut down on the calories from your drink, doing this also prevents you from getting dehydrated.
  • Have lighter versions of your favorite drinks:You could do this by picking low-calorie variants: for instance, lighter wines may have less than 80 calories per 6 ounces serving compared to regular ones which could have twice that number. Another way to reduce your caloric consumption is by diluting your drink with water or regular soda.


Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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