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Does Beer Make You Fat

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Key Takeaways

Alcohol can cause weight gain for a variety of reasons. For example, it:

  1. Is often high in calories
  2. Affects your sleep
  3. Can affect your hormones
  4. May cause you to want to eat more
  5. Affects your exercise routine
  6. Leads to poorer dietary choices

Does Beer Really Make You Gain Weight?

Beer is an alcoholic drink that is derived from yeast-fermented malt. It’s flavored with hops. 

There are various types of beers, some of which are lighter than others. Here are a few:

  • Ale
  • Sour Ale
  • Blonde Ale
  • Brown Ale
  • Pale Ale
  • India Pale Ale
  • Pilsner
  • Lager
  • Stout
  • Porter
  • Wheat

While drinking any kind of beer in moderation may not necessarily make you gain weight, heavy beer consumption can cause belly fat. Any and all alcohol intake may be a risk factor for obesity in some people.14

Drinking in moderation refers to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink per day for women. Even less beer is better for the body. 5, 6

However, 2 in 3 adult drinkers admit to drinking above moderate drinking levels at least once per month.7

To prevent weight gain from beer, it’s best to stick to lighter beers or cut back on your beer consumption. Another way to prevent weight gain is to abstain from drinking alcohol altogether.8

Beer Nutrition Facts 

A 12-ounce light beer will have about 103 calories. Meanwhile, a regular 12-ounce beer will have about 153 calories. 

A beer with a higher alcohol content, like a craft beer, will have about 170 to 350 calories, on average.4

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What Causes a ‘Beer Belly?’ 

Moderate drinking does not typically cause harm to the body. However, heavy drinking can cause a “beer belly.”

Alcohol accounts for 16 percent of adult drinkers’ total energy intake across the country. Men are more likely to drink beer, and they’re also more likely to gain belly fat from it than women.14

5 Ways Beer Can Cause Weight Gain (According to Science)

Here are five ways that drinking too much beer can ultimately lead to weight gain down the line:

1. Beer is often high in calories

Beer has calories, and consuming too many calories can cause weight gain

While some beers are lighter than others, even light beers typically contain at least 100 calories, if not more.

These calories are additive to your regular nutritional intake, and the more beers you drink, the more calories you add.4

2. Drinking beer can poorly impact your sleep

Drinking beer can disturb your sleep. Specifically, drinking too much can make it more difficult to stay asleep and experience deep sleep.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It slows down your brain activity. So, you may fall asleep faster, but you will likely have poorer quality sleep and less of it.1

In fact, greater alcohol intake is linked to sleeping less than six hours per night.15

Sleep deprivation reduces the amount of leptin in your body. Leptin is the hormone that tells you when to stop eating. Sleeping less is associated with eating more, causing weight gain.2, 12 

Greater alcohol intake and less sleep are both linked to a higher body mass index (BMI).14

3. Drinking beer can affect your hormones

Drinking beer can throw your hormones for a loop. In turn, hormonal imbalances can affect your weight. 

Chronic beer consumption disrupts the connections between your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. This can cause hormonal disturbances that can take a physiological and behavioral toll on you.10

For example, it can cause stress, thyroid problems, immune system dysfunction, and more—all of which are linked to weight issues.10, 11

Hormonal changes (including leptin reduction) can affect your appetite, satiety, and weight control.11

4. Drinking beer can make you eat more

Drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages reduces your logical and decision-making processes. It makes you likely to act in ways you wouldn’t if not drinking. 

When you have had several beers, the immediate thought of eating unhealthy foods isn’t suppressed by the concurrent thought that ‘I have already eaten plenty today, and don’t need to eat more right now.’ 

The immediate gratification of eating is more likely to be indulged rather than suppressed. Eating more than necessary may also lead to weight gain. 

5. Drinking too much beer can take a toll on your exercise routine

Drinking too much beer causes a hangover, which can affect your productivity. 

If you feel hungover, you are less likely to exercise and more likely to make poor dietary decisions. Both of these can lead to weight gain.9

This is why people who are physically active are also likely to be drinkers. 

It’s also why exercise is often used as a form of treatment in problem drinkers. After all, exercising tends to light up the same reward center in the brain as drinking alcohol.9

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How to Prevent & Get Rid of a Beer Belly 

To prevent a beer belly or get rid of belly fat and lose weight, here are some tips:

  • Drink beer in moderation and less frequently
  • Choose lower-calorie drinks
  • Stop drinking alcoholic drinks altogether
  • Get proper sleep
  • Exercise to keep your body moving, burn calories, and stimulate the same reward center in your brain
  • Practice self-care to keep your mind and body healthy

If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol addiction, know that resources are available to help.
Reach out to rehabilitation centers in your area, look for support groups, or contact a mental health professional to talk about other treatment options.13

Begin your journey towards lasting recovery
Call us (866) 928-4133
Updated on March 28, 2022
14 sources cited
  1. Alcohol and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 29 Nov. 2021.
  2. Beccuti, Guglielmo, and Silvana Pannain. “Sleep and Obesity.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jul. 2011.
  3. Cains, Sarah, et al. “Agrp Neuron Activity Is Required for Alcohol-Induced Overeating.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 10 Jan. 2017.
  4. Calorie Count - Alcoholic Beverages: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  5. DJ;, Palmer BF;Clegg. “The Sexual Dimorphism of Obesity.” Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 
  6. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation.” Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation - MyHealthfinder.
  7. Facts about Moderate Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 Dec. 2020.
  8. Kase, Colleen A, et al. “The Relationship of Alcohol Use to Weight Loss in the Context of Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment.” Appetite, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Apr. 2016.
  9. Leasure, J Leigh, et al. “Exercise and Alcohol Consumption: What We Know, What We Need to Know, and Why It Is Important.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, Frontiers Media S.A., 2 Nov. 2015.
  10. Rachdaoui, Nadia, and Dipak K Sarkar. “Effects of Alcohol on the Endocrine System.Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2013.
  11. Schwarz, Neil A, et al. “A Review of Weight Control Strategies and Their Effects on the Regulation of Hormonal Balance.” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2011.
  12. Sleep.” The Nutrition Source, 27 Jan. 2021.
  13. Support Strategies for Quitting - Rethinking Drinking - NIAAA.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  14. Traversy, Gregory, and Jean-Philippe Chaput. “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” Current Obesity Reports, Springer US, Mar. 2015.

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