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Updated on November 15, 2023
7 min read

Beer Bellies: Causes & How to Get Rid of Them

What Is Beer? 

Brewers make beer from grains, combining barley, wheat, or rye for an alcoholic beverage. Additional ingredients may include:

  • Hops
  • Flavors
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Fruits 

The Brewing Process

Brewers ferment the mixture with yeast to create beer. The beer fermentation process takes five steps:

  1. Malting or heating, drying, and cracking the grains
  2. Mashing or soaking the grains in water to release the sugar to create wort
  3. Boiling the wort and adding hops and other flavors
  4. Fermenting or adding yeast to the wort mix to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide in the mix
  5. Bottling and aging

Nutrition Facts of Beer

Beer provides a small degree of nutritional benefits. The average 12 oz. beer with a 4% alcohol content includes:

  • 153 calories
  • 14 grams of alcohol
  • 13 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat

There are trace amounts of micronutrients in beer, including potassium, magnesium, and sodium. However, it’s not a valid source of nutrition. Most health experts also believe the calories and carbohydrates in beer exceed the health benefits it provides. 

What Are the Different Types of Beer?

Beer comes in various types with different alcohol contents and flavors. Varying strengths range from 4% to 6% alcohol, but the complete range goes from 0.5% to 40%.

In general, the different types of beer include:

  • Pale ale
  • Stout
  • Lager
  • Wheat
  • Pilsner
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Why Does Drinking Beer Lead to Weight Gain?

Drinking too much beer can make it harder to lose weight and even lead to weight gain. The weight you gain depends on the number of calories you burn compared to the number of beer calories you consume. 

Drinking beer increases the risk of weight gain because:

1. Beer Contains a Lot of “Empty” Calories

Compared to the calories you’re ingesting when drinking beer, you get a minimal amount of your daily nutritional needs. Additionally, drinking beer might increase your appetite.

The more you drink, the less likely you will make intelligent food choices. An evening of drinking beer can quickly become a binge of high-calorie junk food.

2. Beer Interferes with Your Body’s Ability to Burn Fat Optimally

Because your body must prioritize metabolizing alcohol over other fuel sources, breaking down stored body fat is put on the back burner. In a way, your body runs on alcohol calories instead of sourcing energy from stored fat.1

3. Beer Contains Hops, Which Are High in Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are a plant compound that mimics the action estrogen usually performs. Estrogen is a sex hormone in men and women that plays a role in fat metabolism.

The link between exposure to phytoestrogens from beer drinking isn’t definitive. Still, it’s possible due to how estrogen works in the body.

The bottom line is that drinking beer increases your daily intake of calories. In moderate amounts, this is unlikely to cause significant body weight gain. But regular beer drinkers face a risk.

What Is a Beer Belly?

A beer belly describes excess visceral fat that accumulates around your midsection, often indicating a rise in body fat percentage. People with this weight accumulation often consume a lot of beer. 

There’s a link between high beer consumption and an increase in belly fat.2 However, not everyone who drinks heavily will develop a beer belly. Conversely, it’s possible for someone who never drinks beer to be heavier around their midsection.

Who Is at Risk of Developing a Beer Belly?

Someone with a consistently high alcohol intake, particularly from beer, has a high risk of developing a beer belly. Anyone who consumes excess calories and doesn’t do physical exercise is also at risk of expanding their waistline. 

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What Causes Beer Bellies?

Doctors believe consuming substantial amounts of alcohol can significantly increase belly fat. When you drink alcohol, your liver burns it for energy and ignores stored fats.3 

There's also a risk associated with binge drinking. Most people aren't just drinking alcohol like beer only a few times a week; many consume it more frequently.

Moreover, people often drink beer while eating unhealthy foods. So, it’s easy to understand how consuming beer increases your risk for midsection weight gain directly and indirectly.

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5 Tips to Get Rid of a Beer Belly 

Like all types of excess weight, there’s no magic formula to lose belly fat or decrease a beer belly. However, these strategies can help:

1. Cut Back or Eliminate Beer When You Drink

Consume three or fewer beers at a time. You can also opt for a light beer with fewer calories.

2. Increase Physical Activity

Exercise alone is unlikely to eliminate your beer belly. However, increasing the calories you burn likely leads to weight loss.

Aerobic or cardio activities offer a variety of health benefits, including weight loss. Building muscle through strength training also helps your body burn calories more effectively. 

Toning exercises like abdominal crunches won’t eliminate your beer belly. Still, it can give you greater core strength and muscle definition, creating the illusion of a flatter stomach.

3. Increase Water Intake

Water helps your body’s system work better and increases its ability to burn fat. It also fills you up, so you’re less likely to over-drink alcohol. You can also alternate between glasses of beer and water when drinking.

4. Limit Alcohol Consumption with a Customized System

To avoid drinking too frequently, only drink on a specific day of the week or a “special” event.

5. Eat a Full, Healthy Meal Before Drinking 

Doing so helps avoid the temptation to eat high-calorie food due to hunger. It also prevents you from drinking as much because you’re already full.

Does Moderate Alcohol Consumption Cause Weight Gain?

The average person who occasionally enjoys an alcoholic drink or two is unlikely to experience weight gain. Alcohol can cause weight gain, but the degree varies from person to person. 

Everyone’s bodies are different. Moderate alcohol consumption might not lead to weight gain for the average person. However, someone who struggles with weight might be more severely affected by alcohol consumption.

How Does Alcohol Influence Dietary Choices? 

Alcohol is high in calories and tends to influence decision-making negatively. Even one drink could affect your judgment and increase the odds you’ll order a double cheeseburger instead of a steamed vegetable platter for dinner.

How Does Alcohol Impact Hormonal Balance? 

Alcohol also affects your hormones. If you don’t have issues with hormone imbalance, you likely won’t notice alcohol’s effect on your hormones. 

But if you have an existing problem with hormones, alcohol exacerbates the problem. It increases cortisol and estrogen, both associated with weight gain.

Is Moderate Drinking Safe for the Hormonally Impaired? 

There’s no evidence that moderate drinking significantly affects the hormonally impaired. This seems to be more of a problem for excessive drinkers.

How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep and Activity Levels? 

Alcohol consumption also affects sleep and hormone levels. While it may initially make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt your sleep cycle later on in the night. This is because alcohol affects the body's production of hormones that regulate sleep, such as melatonin.

What Other Types of Alcohol Cause Weight Gain?

All types of alcohol can cause weight gain. In most cases, it depends on how many calories you consume from alcohol compared to how many calories your body needs to function.

Distilled alcohol types have similar amounts of calories per ounce. However, it’s important to consider what you’re mixing with alcohol when drinking. 

For example, drinking whiskey and Coke puts you at a greater risk of weight gain than a drink of gin and soda. The same is true for a sugary tropical drink made with rum.

Summary

Beer bellies are a result of excessive weight accumulation around the midsection. While there's a link between heavy beer consumption and an increase in belly fat, anyone who consumes excess calories without enough physical exercise is at risk of developing a beer belly.

To combat this issue, you can try the tips above. Additionally, while moderate alcohol consumption may not significantly affect weight gain for most people, it can still impact hormone balance and sleep patterns.

Consider the amount and type of alcohol you consume. If drinking beer or any other alcoholic beverage is causing you distress or health problems, speak to an addictions specialist to learn how to combat it.

Updated on November 15, 2023
8 sources cited
Updated on November 15, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Alcohol Metabolism.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2022.
  2. IARD Health & Policy Reviews. “Drinking and Obesity” International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, 2017.
  3. Kazibwe et al. “Association Between Alcohol Consumption and Ectopic Fat in the Multi‐Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.” Journal of the American Heart Association, 2023.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Calorie Count - Alcoholic Beverages.” MedlinePlus, 2022.
  5. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. “Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits.” Harvard School of Public Health, 2022.
  6. Gramlich et al. “Nutritional status in patients with sustained heavy alcohol use.” UpToDate, 2023.
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Alcohol Calorie Calculator” Rethinking Drinking.
  8. Agarwal et al. “Relationship between BMI and alcohol consumption levels in decision making.” International Journal of Obesity, 2021.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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