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Alcohol Consumption & Weight | Does Drinking Make You Gain Weight?

Published on August 11, 2021
Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight? | Alcohol & Weight Gain

Drinking alcohol can be a reason someone is gaining weight or not losing it as fast as they expected. 

But alcohol may not be the only reason you’re gaining weight. The mixers alcohol is combined with, unhealthy foods are eaten with alcohol, and other factors can be causes of weight gain as well.

How Can Alcohol Cause Weight Gain

Drinking alcoholic beverages can make it harder to lose weight as well as cause weight gain. Reasons for this can include:

  • high-calorie drink: Alcohol is a high-calorie drink, especially when combined with sugary mixers that make up a lot of the most popular drinks.
  • empty calories: Calories from alcohol are empty calories so they don’t meet any of your nutritional needs, which can make it more difficult to lose weight.
  • extra calories: Alcoholic drinks are normally consumed with other foods and drinks so they add extra calories to your daily calorie intake. If you’re a heavy drinker, the number of extra calories can be significant.
  • lowered inhibitions: Drinking alcohol lowers inhibitions which can make people overeat or make more unhealthy food choices than they normally would. It can also make people less interested in exercise
  • body’s fat-burning mechanisms: Alcohol interferes with the body’s fat-burning mechanisms and stops your body from burning fat.
  • source of energy: When your body is using alcohol as a primary source of energy, the excess glucose (carbohydrates) and lipids end up as adipose tissue, also known as fat.
  • appetite stimulant: Alcohol is an appetite stimulant and stops you from feeling full, which can cause you to eat more and gain weight.
  • fat storage: Alcohol calories are burned before calories from higher-calorie foods. The fat from those foods can be stored in the body while it burns the alcohol off first. The excess fat is often stored around the abdomen, leading to the infamous “beer belly.”

Factors Contributing Alcohol-Related Weight Gain

Whether someone gains weight from drinking alcohol or not depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • what you drink
  • alcohol content (the higher the alcohol content, the more the calories)
  • how often you drink
  • how much you drink (moderate drinking vs. heavy drinking or binge drinking)
  • what you eat when you drink
  • metabolism
  • initial levels of body fat
  • overall diet
  • genetics
  • gender
  • level of physical activity
  • age
  • if you have risk factors for obesity and diabetes 

Is Weight Loss Possible With Alcohol Use?

It is possible to drink alcohol and still lose weight, but alcohol intake must be done in moderation. 

Consider Calories From Alcohol

You have to take the calories in alcohol into account. It might only be a beverage, but those calories still count in your daily intake and if you have a drink or two, you may need to take in fewer calories from somewhere else.

Watch What You Eat

You also have to watch how much you eat while drinking since it will likely stimulate your appetite and lead you to feel hungry. 

If you’re struggling, you may think about consulting a healthcare professional or a nutritionist to find the right balance of healthy food and alcoholic beverages.  

Consider Alcohol Treatment

Cutting down on your alcohol intake can help you lose weight but for those who have an alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, that’s easier said than done. You may need to seek addiction treatment to handle an alcohol problem before thinking about meeting your weight loss goals.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, call our helpline today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Australia Department of Health - Alcohol and weight gain
Current Obesity Reports - Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update
National Library of Medicine - ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND BODY WEIGHT
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Weight loss and alcohol

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