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Updated on September 14, 2023
6 min read

How Does Alcohol Cause Weight Gain & How Can I Stop it?

Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?? 

Alcohol can have different effects on your body that contribute to weight gain. If you’re having trouble losing weight or noticed a sudden increase in your body weight, it might be because of alcohol consumption.

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6 Ways Alcohol Intake Makes You Gain Weight

Alcoholic drinks are typically dense in calories, and even moderate alcohol consumption can increase weight. Below are reasons why your alcohol intake may be the cause of your weight gain:

1. Alcohol is a Source of “Empty” Calories

Alcoholic beverages have “empty” calories, meaning they are high in calories and low in nutrients.

On average, 12 ounces (355 ml) of regular beer contains 153 calories. On the other hand, 5 ounces (145 ml) of wine contains 128 calories.2

Mixed drinks have more calories due to the added sugar and saturated fat. Having too many drinks in one occasion means you’ll be ingesting hundreds of extra calories, if not thousands.

Examples of mixed drinks include:

  • Pina colada
  • Tequila sunrise
  • White Russian
  • Cosmopolitan

2. Alcohol Affects Digestion and Nutrient Uptake

In general, all levels of alcohol intake can affect digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Heavy alcohol consumption can damage your digestive system and impact your metabolism because the body would have to prioritize eliminating alcohol before other nutrients. 

This reduces digestive secretions and food movement through the gastrointestinal system. Digestive secretions are essential components of healthy digestion.

It can contribute to weight gain if your body can’t metabolize food into fundamental macro and micronutrients.  

3. Alcohol Affects Your Sleep

Because alcohol has sedative properties, some people may use alcohol as a sleep aid. However, alcohol can have a drastic effect on sleep.

Alcohol can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, leading to poor sleep quality and insomnia.4 This interference can affect hunger, satisfaction, and energy storage hormones.3

Sleep deprivation increases hormones that increase appetite and fullness. This can set you up for weight gain.

4. Alcohol Affects the Body’s Fat-Burning Capability

When your body prioritizes metabolizing alcohol, the excess glucose and lipids can increase body fat, especially in the abdominal area. This abdominal fat is often referred to as a “beer belly.”

Excess alcohol consumption also impairs the liver’s capacity to metabolize and store fats and carbs.

When fat builds up in your liver, it can lead to:

5. Alcohol Leads to Poor Dietary Choices

Alcohol can impair judgment and decision-making skills,  potentially leading to poor food choices. Even those who are usually conscious of their diet struggle to resist the urge to eat when intoxicated.

Research shows that binge drinking is closely linked to overeating.5 The influence of alcohol on food choices was also well demonstrated in an animal study.

The study showed that when mice were given doses of ethanol, they increased their food intake over time. The results exhibit how alcohol can activate hunger signals in the brain, increasing the urge to eat. 

6. Alcohol Affects Testosterone Levels

Alcohol use has long been known to alter hormone levels, especially testosterone.8 Testosterone has a wide range of effects on your body, including the mass regulation of fertility and bone mass. 

Low testosterone can affect the following:

  • Muscle mass and retention
  • Fat distribution
  • How your body metabolizes fat

Increased body fat due to low testosterone levels further impairs the body’s ability to effectively produce and utilize this hormone. This leads to a vicious cycle of weight gain and increased belly fat.

5 Ways to Prevent Alcohol-Related Weight Gain 

If you want to drink alcohol and avoid gaining weight, you can follow the tips below.

1. Stay Hydrated

Regularly drinking water can help you avoid consuming more alcohol. This can also help you avoid dehydration.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to urinate more, which can lead to dehydration. Drinking water can help lessen the strain on your liver and kidneys, which is important in alcohol-elimination.

2. Eat Before You Drink Alcohol

Eating food before drinking alcohol can delay the onset of alcohol effects. Drinking on an empty stomach can get you drunk much faster since food primarily acts as a buffer for your body’s digestion of alcohol.

Controlling blood sugar levels and curbing comfort food cravings may be as simple as eating something with fiber, protein, and a small amount of healthy fat. Examples of such food include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt with berries
  • Apple slices with almond butter
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Protein smoothies

These foods will remain in your stomach longer, making you less inclined to desire food when drinking.

3. Avoid Drinks High in Sugars and Calories

Cocktails and mixed drinks contain high sugars and calories. They can also make you feel hungry.

Consider choosing low-calorie and low-sugar drinks, particularly:

  • White wine
  • Champagne
  • Clear liquors (vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy)

You should also avoid adding soda to your drink. Instead, you can use water and a slice of lemon or orange as your chaser to help flush out the aftertaste of alcoholic beverages.

4. Avoid Eating Greasy and High-Calorie Foods

Greasy foods tend to be appealing when people drink alcohol. However, they add more calories to your diet and can cause weight gain. 

When you get hungry while drinking, consider having vegetables and water instead of high-calorie foods. This type of diet can help you avoid over-consuming calories.

Consider drinking in a place that has these options. This way, you can be more calculated in what you order and avoid making choices that can lead to eating junk food.

5. Avoid Drinking Excessively

Heavy drinking increases the likelihood of gaining weight. The effects on your body will be more pronounced, potentially leading to internal organ damage and other medical conditions.

Drinking alcohol in moderation may help you control your urges to eat and keep you in the right mind to make better food choices.

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Should I Stop Drinking Alcohol to Lose Body Weight?

It is not essential to abstain from alcohol to live a healthy lifestyle. For example, a glass of red wine with a meal is completely acceptable. 

However, the problem comes when people binge drink. To reduce weight avoiding binge drinking can be a crucial first step toward weight loss.

However, adopting a comprehensive approach that includes dietary changes, regular physical activity, and other lifestyle modifications are still major factors in helping you lose weight.

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Other Ways Alcohol Can Affect Your Body

Alcohol can also affect your body in other ways besides weight gain. Excessive alcohol can increase the likelihood of long-term health problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Mental health problems like anxiety or depression
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Alcohol poisoning or overdose

Summary

Drinking alcohol can significantly increase your weight depending on how many calories an alcoholic beverage has. It can also affect how your body manages and handles weight.

Alcohol can also affect your digestion, nutrient intake, and fat-burning capabilities. Along with that, it can also disrupt sleep and testosterone production, increasing weight gain.

While you don’t need to quit alcohol to live a healthier lifestyle, the main problem lies in binge drinking. Excessive alcohol use increases your weight and puts you at risk for long-term health complications.

Updated on September 14, 2023
9 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 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. Lippi et al. “Moderate red wine consumption and cardiovascular disease risk: beyond the "French paradox" Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis, 2010.
  2. MedlinePlus. “Calorie count - Alcoholic beverages,” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2022.
  3. Roehrs et al. “Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), n.d.
  4. Stein et al. “Disturbed Sleep and Its Relationship to Alcohol Use,” Substance Abuse, 2005.
  5. Stephens, P. “Binge drinking 'link to overeating',” BBC News, 2014.
  6. Cains et al. “Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating,” Nature Communications, 2017.
  7. Sugary Drinks,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2023.
  8. Emanuele et al. “Alcohol’s Effects on Male Reproduction,” Alcohol Health and Research World, 1998.
  9. Salamon M. “Snooze more, eat less? Sleep deprivation may hamper weight control.” Harvard Health Publishing, 2022.
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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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