Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: March 14, 2022
You might have been working hard towards your weight loss. If so, you’ve probably been doing a few things to shed off those extra pounds. These may include working out either in the gym or at home, drinking more water, keeping a food journal, counting your calories, and more such things.
That said, you may be doing all these necessary things to help you achieve your goals, but failing to monitor your alcohol intake might be slowing down your progress.
This is because alcohol weight gain is a crucial matter that many people tend not to be aware of.
The saddening reality that alcohol leads to weight gain is a bitter pill that many people might be unwilling to swallow. Needless to say, drinking alcohol is one of the most preferred pastime activities for many people.
How can you unwind after a stressful day with a cup of water or even apple juice? How will you have a happy hour moment without one or two bottles?
Quite frankly, it just doesn’t make sense.
In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about alcohol and its relation to weight gain.
Such information will help you answer some commonly asked questions such as, ‘why does alcohol lead to weight gain in your stomach?’, and ‘how does it make you gain weight?’
You will also learn how you can drink alcohol and avoid gaining weight so that you wouldn’t have to give up your happy hour moments.
Alcohol, Calories & Weight Gain
When it comes to counting calories – whether on a calorie counting app or manually – many people usually forget to account for the calories that they drink. Drinks such as sodas, juices, energy drinks, and above all alcohol, pile on the calories.
There are several causes of alcohol weight gain, including:
- Extra Calories
It’s worth noting that most drinks and all foods contain calories. Although the calories found in healthy foods and drinks are mostly good for your body, those in alcohol are usually referred to as empty calories.
They are absorbed into the system but only provide minimal to no nutritional value to your body.
If your body has additional calories that it doesn’t convert to energy for use, they’re often converted to fat and thus a constantly increasing waistline.
- Increased Appetite
You may have noticed that you usually end up eating a lot during or after drinking at night? It can sometimes be because of the presence of food during parties. It can also be because booze affects your hormones, as well as your decision-making abilities.
Based on a particular 2015 study conducted on 24 healthy men, drinking around 20 g of alcohol alters how we perceive food. In that study, scientists discovered that the men who took 20 g of vodka consumed 11% more than the men who only took orange juice.
Additionally, they found out that the men who took alcohol opted for high-fat savory foods and had a 24% probability to reach for these foods rather than healthier choices.
It shows that apart from making you want to eat more, taking alcohol also causes you to make poorer food decisions. These two factors increase your calorie intake resulting in alcohol weight gain.
- Your Body Utilizes Alcohol As A Source Of Fuel
The Journal of Clinical Investigation conducted a study in 2013, whereby when one consumes alcohol, the system quickly starts to turn it into acetic acid. Acetic acid usually circulates in the blood and may serve as an excellent source of energy for your brain and other organs.
It might mean that whenever you eat, the calories are not quickly converted to fuel as they usually would. As we already know, any calories that aren’t quickly converted to fuel, usually end up being converted to fat and then stored in the body resulting in alcohol weight gain.
- It Affects Your Organs & Metabolism
Most healthy diets enable small amounts of alcohol intake. One study conducted on mice illustrated that drinking small to moderate alcohol amounts every once in a while may help to rev up the metabolism.
RELATED READING: Is Alcohol Allowed on South Beach Diet?
That said, no such research has ever been carried out on humans. As a result, the same might not occur with you.
What’s more, excessive alcohol consumption results in alcoholic fatty liver. The term “fatty liver” refers to a damaged liver that influences how the system metabolizes and stores fats and carbohydrates.
As such, this makes it increasingly challenging to lose weight illustrating the delicate association between alcohol consumption and weight gain metabolism.
Alcohol Temporary Weight Gain: Why & How Does This Occur?
You might have woken up and noticed that after a night of drinking, your stomach was sticking out a bit more than usual and your face seemed a bit rounder than it normally does?
If that’s the case, this does not necessarily mean that you instantly gained weight overnight. The truth is that this puffiness is commonly referred to as alcohol bloating.
There are two primary causes of alcohol bloating:
- Stomach Bloating
It occurs because alcohol is an inflammatory substance that is one of the causes of gastritis. Gastritis happens when your gastrointestinal tract, or lining, gets inflamed.
A particular study in 2009 associated alcohol with the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria which is commonly believed to cause gastritis.
Gastritis patients experience several signs and symptoms such as a burning ache in their upper abdomen, nausea, a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating, and vomiting.
It is worth noting that when left untreated, gastritis might lead to stomach bleeding, stomach ulcers, and in worse situations stomach cancer.
- Facial Bloating (The Dreaded Carb Face)
Taking booze results in dehydration. And when you are dehydrated, the skin and vital organs usually try to retain as much water as they can. This in turn results in puffiness, in your face, as well as other body parts.
One of the crucial factors you should keep in mind is that alcohol bloating, or alcohol temporary weight gain can take anywhere between several days to several months to subside. It entirely depends on the seriousness of the matter.
RELATED READING: I Quit Drinking for a Month: Here Were the Results
Is it possible to treat alcohol bloating? Yes, there is a treatment for this condition. If that issue is brought about by gastritis, you may receive some antibiotics from your health specialist as well as other additional medications such as H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors, as well as antacids.
Would you like to prevent it altogether? Some of the easiest ways you could do this are by minimizing or fully quitting alcohol, working out, drinking lots of water, and maintaining a healthy diet.
How Long After Eating Should You Drink Alcohol To Prevent Weight Gain?
Based on a post by Men’s Health, you need to wait a minimum of 15 minutes after starting your meal/ eating before having your first sip of booze.
Ensuring there is food in your belly before drinking, inhibits the alcohol from being instantly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Apart from slowing down how quickly you become drunk, the slower rate at which booze is soaked up in the body might also minimize the calories absorbed in the system.
How Does Alcohol Increase Cortisol And Lead To Weight Gain?
This is an important question. When you are drunk or struggling with alcohol withdrawal, it could raise your stress or anxiety levels which in turn increases your cortisol levels.
The stress hormone “cortisol” has been associated with weight gain specifically in the belly. You should note that high cortisol levels usually increase your urge to eat which ultimately results in obesity.
So No Alcohol = Weight Loss?
Although low to moderate alcohol intake won’t necessarily make you “fat”, you need to be aware of your drinks’ caloric value and ensure your diet compensates for that.
In reality, numerous studies have claimed that one alcoholic drink every day may improve heart health and boost HDL cholesterol levels, specifically in red wine form, which also includes resveratrol and tannins– powerful antioxidants that protect human health.
After all, alcohol will remain a vital cultural and social lubricant. However, if you would like to watch your weight and avoid a beer belly, it may help to follow some simple rules:
- Consult with your doctor before deciding what changes to make to your diet, especially if you’re a heavy drinker, as it can be dangerous for alcoholics to quit cold turkey
- Take water in between your drinks to enhance fullness and activate the release of toxins
- Keep off sugary drinks and cocktails; go for liquor with simple mixers (e.g., tonic or soda water)
- Avoid unhealthy meals when drinking; choose seeds, nuts, and high-protein foods
- Consume low-calorie, high alcohol content beverages (such as red wine rather than lager beer)
- Consider limiting your alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks at a go; binge drinking will cause serious health complications and unrestricted weight gain
While drinking alcohol might be an exciting part of modern culture and some social circles – if you’d like to remain healthy, toned, and happy while you age – take alcohol in moderation.
Remember, alcohol is an extremely powerful chemical. Therefore, if you think that you’re suffering from alcohol addiction, seek professional assistance immediately!