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Updated on August 21, 2023
5 min read

How to Lose a Beer Belly & Why Does it Happen?

Kelly Brown
Elena Borrelli M.S.PAC
Written by 
7 Sources Cited
Kelly Brown
Written by 
7 Sources Cited

Carrying too much weight is never healthy, but it’s especially risky when the extra weight is in your midsection. Some people who frequently drink beer gain this weight and refer to it as a beer belly.

You can feel subcutaneous fat when you pinch the excess skin in the abdomen. Fat deep inside the abdomen is called visceral fat. Visceral fat is metabolically active, which means it interferes with hormones.

Who is at Risk for Developing a Beer Belly?

Despite the frequent association of beer bellies with men, women are actually more at risk when they are heavier around the middle of their bodies.

According to one study, women who carried extra weight around their midsection had up to a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack than men with extra midsection weight. Female study participants with the highest waist-to-hip ratio had the greatest risk of having a heart attack.1

The study showed that the waist-to-hip ratio was an even better indicator than BMI (body mass index) of heart health risk in women.

A higher risk for women doesn’t mean there is no risk for men to experience health problems when they have a beer belly. 

Drinking too much alcohol, especially beer, increases your risk of developing belly fat and puts your heart health at risk, regardless of whether you’re male or female.

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Why Does Beer Make You Gain Weight?

Alcohol is high in calories, which is why avoiding it is one of the first recommendations for people who want to lose weight. Although beer has some health benefits, it can make you gain weight.

There are four main reasons why drinking beer might lead to weight gain:

High in Calories

Calories are the primary reason why beer leads to weight gain and heavy drinkers develop a beer belly. A 12-oz serving of regular (not light) beer with an alcohol content of 4 percent has approximately 150 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates.

This is around the same amount of calories found in sodas. 

Some people also report having a higher appetite when drinking beer. And sometimes, the more alcohol someone drinks, the worse their judgment gets when it comes to food choices.

Affects Your Body’s Metabolism

Drinking beer or any type of alcohol interferes with your body’s fat-burning process. When you drink, your body has to prioritize breaking down the alcohol. Drinking moderately likely won’t lead to weight gain, but regularly binge drinking beer can.

Contains Phytoestrogens

Beer contains hops, which are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are compounds that mimic the female sex hormone estrogen.

For this reason, some people speculate that drinking a lot of beer could lead to hormonal changes that make men more likely to store belly fat. However, there is no evidence on exactly how exposure to phytoestrogens affects men’s weight or if there is really any effect at all.

Affects Sleep

Drinking alcohol interferes with your quality of sleep. Sleep is an important factor that affects body fat. The better your sleep quality, the more likely you are to maintain a healthy weight or lose extra body weight. When you drink, you interfere with your body’s ability to manage weight.

Does Beer Really Cause Weight Gain?

Everyone’s body metabolizes alcohol differently. However, there is evidence that drinking beer specifically causes belly fat gain.

One study showed that men who drank three or more drinks per day had an 80 percent higher risk of having a lot of belly fat.2  

While there’s a link between beer consumption and belly fat, some people believe beer is not the only cause of the problem. For example, someone who drinks a lot of beer is less likely to make healthy lifestyle choices overall. While their beer consumption contributes to their weight gain, it’s likely not the only – or even the primary – cause.

Most research shows that drinking a lot of beer is linked to increased body weight and a bigger waist circumference. The beer belly is attributed to overall weight gain, not just weight gain around the midsection.

Overall, the more you drink the higher your risk is for weight gain.

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4 Tips to Lose a Beer Belly

There are several things you can do to lose your beer belly. For example:

1. Drink Less Beer

This is the most obvious tip. Cut back on the amount of beer you consume each week. This will reduce your daily calorie intake, which can prevent excess weight gain.

2. Exercise More

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week. Strength training at least two days a week also helps burn fat. 

3. Eat Healthy

Your diet might automatically improve when you cut back on how much beer you consume. However, you can also improve your diet by:

  • Reducing portion sizes
  • Increasing your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins
  • Replacing juices, sodas, and alcohol with water
  • Eating enough fiber

4. Sleep

Your sleep might improve when you cut back on your beer intake. Make sleep a priority by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and aiming to get 7 to 9 hours uninterrupted hours every night.

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How Long Will It Take to Lose My Beer Belly?

How long it takes someone to lose their beer belly depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Activity level
  • Overall diet
  • Health issues

The best way to lose a beer belly is to cut back on consuming alcohol. Reducing your alcohol intake by just a drink or two each week can have a significant impact.

However, you need to make sure you don’t supplement the reduction with other calories. Your best bet is to aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. You can do this by limiting alcohol consumption to no more than a few drinks per week, making healthy food choices, and aiming for 30 to 60 minutes of movement per day if your overall health allows.

Updated on August 21, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on August 21, 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. Harvard Health Publishing. “Belly Fat May Pose More Danger for Women than for Men.” Harvard Health. 

  2. Schröder, Helmut, et al. “Relationship of Abdominal Obesity with Alcohol Consumption at Population Scale.” European Journal of Nutrition, vol. 46, no. 7, 20 Sept. 2007, pp. 369–376, 10.1007/s00394-007-0674-7. 

  3. Agatston, Arthur. “Why America Is Fatter and Sicker than Ever.” Circulation, vol. 126, no. 1, 3 July 2012, 10.1161/circulationaha.112.098566. 

  4. Raversy, Gregory, and Jean-Philippe Chaput. “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” Current Obesity Reports, vol. 4, no. 1, 8 Jan. 2015, pp. 122–130. 

  5. Fazzino, Tera L., et al. “Heavy Drinking in Young Adulthood Increases Risk of Transitioning to Obesity.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 53, no. 2, Aug. 2017, pp. 169–175, 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.02.007. 

  6. CDC. “The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Sept. 2020. 

  7. Newsom, Rob. “Why Is Sleep so Important to Weight Loss?” Sleep Foundation, 9 Oct. 2020.

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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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