Alcohol and Weight Loss − Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?

Last Updated: May 17, 2024

David Levin Reviewed by David Levin
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With a prevalence of 41.9%, the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is a major health crisis, causing chronic diseases, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and various types of cancer.

Since alcohol provides 7.1 kcal/g, alcohol consumption significantly contributes to energy intake, potentially leading to weight gain and the development of obesity, particularly in heavy drinkers. Considering that both excessive alcohol intake and obesity pose significant public health concerns, it is crucial to explore the link between alcohol and weight gain.

Does drinking make you gain weight? Why does alcohol make you gain weight? Continue reading to learn about the impact of alcohol and weight loss.

Does Alcohol Cause Weight Gain?

Enjoying a glass of wine every other weekend is unlikely to lead to weight gain and may, on the contrary, offer protective benefits against cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

However, research shows that heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking can contribute to weight gain. In the study, the likelihood of obesity in the group with the highest alcohol consumption was 70% greater than in the group with the lowest.

The individuals in the heaviest drinking category took ≥75% of their total daily caloric intake from alcohol, in contrast to the lightest drinking group, which obtained <24% of their caloric intake from alcohol on their day of heaviest drinking. Binge drinking has been linked to a higher risk of obesity and a larger waist circumference.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?

The truth is that consuming alcohol can contribute to weight gain, not solely because of its calorie content but also due to its various factors, such as:

  • Type of drink
  • Quantity
  • Frequency
  • Consumer’s body type
  • Lifestyle

Alcohol can contribute to weight gain in the following six ways:

  • High in Calories

Alcohol is calorie-dense, with around seven calories per gram. Unlike carbohydrates and protein, which have four calories per gram, alcohol provides “empty calories” with little to no nutrients. These extra calories can add up quickly, especially with sugary mixed drinks.

  • Impairs Fat Burning

Consuming alcohol can lead to weight gain as it disrupts the body’s fat-burning process. The liver prioritizes metabolizing alcohol, which slows the processing of fats and sugars, causing them to be stored as body fat instead of being used for energy. This can slow down the metabolism, hinder weight loss efforts, and even lead to fatty liver disease over time.

  • Increases Appetite

Alcohol consumption affects brain chemistry by altering neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin and dopamine.

This change influences appetite regulation and food reward pathways, increasing cravings for high-calorie foods. Alcohol may disrupt the hormonal balance that stimulates hunger and signals satiety. Together, these effects contribute to increased appetite, overeating, and potential weight gain.

  • Impact on Sleep

Alcohol consumption can significantly disrupt sleep by interfering with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, leading to fragmented sleep patterns and frequent stirrings. This disruption impairs sleep’s restorative functions and affects hormone regulation. The combined effects of disrupted sleep can result in increased appetite and potential weight gain.

  • Nutrient Absorption

Alcohol’s interference with nutrient absorption can significantly impact metabolism and overall health. When alcohol is present in the digestive system, it can impair the absorption of essential nutrients and vitamins, including vitamin B12, thiamine, folate and zinc. These nutrients play crucial roles in energy metabolism and cellular function.

  • Energy Levels

Hangovers are characterized by fatigue and weakness, significantly reducing motivation and physical activity due to dehydration and the diuretic effects of alcohol. This exacerbates fatigue and causes nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort, further hindering physical effort and reducing energy spending.

Does Liquor Make You Gain Weight? Calories and Portions

A few drinks during a night out can easily contribute 500 calories, or even more, to your daily caloric intake. A 4 oz. margarita contains 28 grams of sugar, equivalent to 7 teaspoons!

Refer to the list below to find the types of alcohol that are lowest in calories:

  • Champagne: 84 calories per 4 oz.
  • Gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila: 97 calories per 1.5 oz.
  • Brandy, cognac: 98 calories per 1.5 oz.
  • Red wine: 125 calories per 5 oz.

For other options, consult the full list by the National Institutes of Health.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and Weight Loss

For individuals dealing with alcohol dependence, the question “Can alcohol make you gain weight?” is likely a frequent one. Despite the potential for weight loss due to poor nutrition, people with AUD are more likely to experience weight gain.

Yet, alcohol abuse may also be present as comorbidity with other disorders, such as distress-induced overeating (DIO). A study shows that excessive eating and drinking are two different ways to cope with similar emotions. Weight gain can occur not only from consuming alcohol but also from emotional overeating.

Tips To Avoid Alcohol-Induced Weight Gain

Alcohol can often play a sneaky role in weight gain. However, with the right strategies, it’s possible to enjoy social occasions without letting alcohol ruin your weight management goals.

Here are some practical tips to help you avoid alcohol-induced weight gain:

Before You Drink:

  • Having a solid meal before drinking slows down alcohol absorption
  • Drinking plenty of water helps you feel fuller
  • Choose lower-calorie options like clear liquors with soda water
  • Decide on a drink limit/one cheat day beforehand and stick to it.

While You Drink:

  • Pace yourself. Rushing your drinks can lead to overconsumption.
  • Include water, sparkling water, or diet soda, or choose non-alcoholic alternatives.
  • Opt for healthy snacks like nuts or vegetables with hummus.

After You Drink:

  • Replenish lost fluids by drinking plenty of water.
  • Opt for a balanced meal with protein and vegetables.
  • Go for a walk, hit the gym, or do any activity you enjoy.

Does Drinking Alcohol Make You Gain Weight? − Bottom Line

While moderate alcohol consumption may not lead to significant weight gain for everyone, excessive drinking, and the associated behaviors can contribute to increased body weight and related health risks.

If you are trying to manage your weight, consider the role that alcohol may play in your calorie intake and dietary choices and stick within recommended alcohol guidelines (generally one drink/day for women, two for men). If you suspect that alcohol dependence or an eating disorder may be factors affecting your weight management efforts, seeking professional help and support is essential.

People Also Ask

Does vodka make you weight gain?

Vodka is one of the least calorie-dense drinks, but when consumed in excess, it can contribute to weight gain and potentially lead to alcohol dependence. Moderation is the best choice.

Can alcohol cause you to lose weight?

While alcohol itself doesn’t cause weight loss and often contributes to weight gain, excessive consumption can lead to unhealthy weight loss due to poor nutrition and calorie displacement.

Can you lose weight by quitting alcohol?

Yes, quitting alcohol can lead to weight loss by reducing calorie intake and improving lifestyle choices, such as healthier eating and increased physical activity.

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Page Sources

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Retrieved on May 17, 2024.

Published on: December 10th, 2019

Updated on: May 17th, 2024

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