Why Does Alcohol Make You Fat? Discover The Truth Here!

Why Does Alcohol Make You Fat? Discover The Truth Here!

Two of the questions I get asked the most is, ‘Can I lose weight and still drink alcohol?’ and ‘Why does alcohol make you fat?’

The short answer is YES, you can do whatever you want while you are trying to lose weight, but alcohol does impact on weight loss. To find out how much read on!

What Is Alcohol?

Simply put, alcohol is fermented sugar called ethyl alcohol or ethanol. No matter what type of alcohol you consume, it all has the same effect on the body, however all alcohol is not created equal. The source of the sugar used to make the alcohol, determines the type of alcoholic drink produced and it’s calorie content.

Types Of Alcohol

Take a look at this table and you can see the massive calorie difference between some of the more common alcoholic drinks:

  • Full Strength Beer (375ml) – 140 calories
  • Mid Strength Beer (375ml) – 130 calories
  • Light Beer (375ml) – 105 calories
  • Spirits (30ml) – 65 calories
  • Wine (240ml) – 120 calories
  • Wine Cooler (250ml) – 135 calories
  • Liqueurs (30ml) – 100 calories

Why Does Alcohol Make You Fat?

There are a lot of variables when it comes to weight loss, fundamentally weight loss is a process of creating a calorie deficit in your body by consuming less calories than your body requires to function.

Once you create a calorie deficit, your body calls on stored energy (fat) to meet your energy requirements. For more information on creating a calorie deficit to lose weight click here.

The 2 biggest problems with drinking alcohol while you are trying to lose weight are; firstly you usually end up in a calorie surplus and secondly how the alcohol is processed by your body.

Problem # 1

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As you can see from the table above the odd alcoholic drink here or there is not going to have a great effect on your overall calorie intake. Having a glass of wine or a beer is going to add about 120-140 extra calories to your daily intake total.

Those extra 120-140 calories, are less than most poor food choices, in fact most alcoholic drinks contain less calories than a large latte which can contain up to 170 calories.

Rarely does a person only have 1 drink. As a social drinker myself I will drink about 3 or 4 drinks over a nice meal or when catching up with friends.

What that means is, when I have a social drink, I can be consuming up to 400-500 extra calories for the day. The more you drink, the more calories you consume.

Problem # 2

Your body digests alcohol differently to the way all other foods and drinks are digested. When you drink alcohol it goes directly to the blood stream. About 20% of the alcohol you drink is absorbed through your stomach wall into you bloodstream while the remaining 80% percent is absorbed through the small intestine.

What that means for your body, aside from the buzz you get from the alcohol, is those calories are going to be immediately used as your body’s energy source as they are being converted so quickly. Any food you eat while you are drinking, is going to be stored as fat because your body is getting a continual supply of rapidly converted calories from the alcohol you are consuming.

This problem is often compounded by the calorie dense food we eat when we are having a social drink. You know what I mean, pizza, kebabs, fries, fast food.

We are all guilty of it, after a few drinks, the alcohol lowers your inhibition and you succumb to the shit food cravings. By the end of a night of social drinking and could have easily consumed an extra 1000 calories.

Given that alcohol calories are empty calories, meaning you get all the calories with little or no nutritional value, and it’s a fair bet the the food you eat doesn’t have a whole lot of nutritional value, it is safe to say this is a disastrous scenario for weight loss.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Fat

Can you lose weight and still drink alcohol?

Tips On How To Lose Weight and Still Drink Alcohol

It’s not all doom and gloom, losing weight doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have a social drink again. What it does mean is you have to be a bit smarter about how you go about it.

Tip # 1: Before you go out and have a social drink, make sure you have a nutritional meal, that is high in protein. This will help you feel fuller for longer and you will be less likely to make poor food choices because you are hungry. Also make sure on hot days you quench your thirst with non-alcoholic drinks, such as water, prior to drinking alcohol.

Tip # 2: Instead of drinking beer or wine, look at drinking white spirits, such a vodka or gin. Both of these options can be mixed with something as simply as soda water and fresh lime, which will limit the amount of liquid calories you are ingesting as both the soda water and lime contain virtually no calories. You can also look at mixing spirits with diet soda. Whilst diet soda isn’t an overly healthy option, as I have explained in a previous article here, it is definitely the lesser of the 2 evils when the choice is between it and regular soda.

  • Bourbon and regular soda – 120 calories
  • Bourbon and diet soda – 70 calories

Tip # 3: If you have a party or event you are going attend and you are planning to have a drink, look at creating an extra calorie deficit in your diet for the week before. Practically, take about 100 calories per day off your normal target calories each day. If you do this for 7 days before you have a social drink, you would have put about 700 calories in the bank in preparation for the calories you are going to consume while you are drinking.

At the end of the day the choice to drink alcohol or not while trying to lose weight is up to the individual. Personally I enjoy a social drink, my drink of choice is usually bourbon with diet coke or gin lime and soda.

If you are reading this article, chances are you enjoy a social drink and are trying to lose weight. Essentially, my overall message when it comes to any nutritional or weight loss advice is, what you are doing needs to be a lifestyle.

There is no point in going on a diet, eventually it will end and you will, more than likely, revert to your previous eating habits. Basically, if you are planning to drink alcohol, you need to learn how to incorporate it into your nutritional plan, with moderation as the key consideration.

At the end of the day a social drink every now and then is not going to be the cause of your fat thighs or beer gut. Your fat thighs or beer gut are a result of your body having a calorie surplus.

The truth of the matter is alcohol is not adding that many calories to your daily intake. What people really need to do is look at the food that they are eating on a day to day basis.

If you can create a calorie deficit in your body, even when you have a social drink, then yes you can still lose weight whilst drinking alcohol.

Remember, weight loss is a simple formula. You must burn more calories than you consume, and 3,500 burned calories equals one pound or half a kilo of weight loss.

If you are struggling on your weight loss journey, you should consider taking a look at my recommended nutrition plan <— Link to Website. Once your nutrition is in order I recommend you have a look at my recommended training program for women <— Link to Website or my http://www.noexcusefitness.com.au/recommends/visualimpactmen.

If you have any questions about alcohol and weight loss, drop a comment below.


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17 Comments
  1. Cool post. I rarely drink alcohol anymore, but when I do I always go with a vodka and water mix with a splash of lemon or lime. Beer can be one of the worst choices do to the calories and the hormonal issues with the hops.

    • Brad,
      I’m the same, when I was younger I used to drink a hell of a lot more. Now having a social drink with friends every now and then is all I do. The last thing I want is to be hungover and not be able to train the next day!
      Niko

  2. When I saw the article headline I was afraid I will read some crap about how alcohol magically makes you obese, but hell I was surprised at how intelligently it’s written, good point Niko.

    Like you said you can lose weight while drinking, but why would you do that, right? It just doesn’t make sense to be drinking all the time or every day and then trying to be successful in business or in this case in weight loss and in building a good looking body.

    Personally I can eat and drink a ton, I’m 6’2”, lean, extremely active and young, but even I don’t want to sacrifice my meals throughout the day just for the sake of drinking. Sure when I go out at the end of the week I will have a few drinks, but that’s one fast the day before.

    But really when you want to achieve something you have to sacrifice stuff like alcohol, which I think it’s a win win, because you will also feel better in the gym and save some money too.

    I love your three tips btw.

    Cheers,
    VG

    • Vaclav,
      I’m glad you read the article and didn’t stop at the headline and thanks for the compliments. You make some good points about sacrifice and deciding how important your goals really are to you. Whilst I enjoy a social drink, by no means would I ever let it impact on my nutrition and training. My health is far more important than a few drinks.
      Niko

  3. As a uni student, drinking is part of the culture. There are a few tips I use though to limit fat gain. These are to limit dietary fat as anything in excess on a calorie surplus will be stored. I also tend to train on that day so most extra calories go into repairing muscle damage. I also don’t eat anything after, I just hydrate with water. Idea is to give my body a chance to breakdown the alcohol while I am sleeping instead of digesting shitty food which most eat after an alcohol binge. Diet soda is another thing which you mention which I take full advantage of.

    Tbh it isn’t really alcohol that makes you fat imo, it is more the lifestyle. Social pub drinkers are fat because they sit at the table drinking plenty of pints of beers and eating peanuts, crisps etc. People who drink on a night out dance which burns calories and you may well end up burning more calories than you consumed.

    • Michael,
      Good tip on only consuming water after consuming alcohol, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
      Niko

    • Michael is absolutely right.

      Alcohol does add calories, but it isn’t always the alcohol that is directly responsible for the weight gain…it’s the stuff people consume along with their drinks. When having a drink, who doesn’t like to have wings, pizza, or something else tasty? Overtime the two combine to add on a few pounds the person didn’t have before.

      • Robert,
        You and Michael are exactly right. Alcohol, like everything in life is about balance and moderation.
        Niko

  4. Cool article Niko. I find that drinking can definitely be a bad idea when trying to get really lean … and it’s not because of the fact that a beer has 100-200 calories in it.

    Like you mentioned, drink 3 or 4 beers and then hit the snacks and you’ve just consumed enough calories for the day.

    Good advice on planning and setting up for a night out though. After all, life isn’t ALL about being fit … we’ve got to enjoy it a bit.

    -Kevin

    • Thanks Kevin. We all still need to be able to enjoy ourselves. Like I always say health and fitness is a lifestyle and having a social drink is part of my life, so I needed to learn how to incorporate it into my fitness regime.

  5. One of the best articles i have read on your site…. not only do you make very good points you have balanced research to back up your information.

  6. Hey Niko! It’s been awhile I know. Dropped off the edge of the Earth for a bit.

    To bad for me I live in a city with about a dozen local breweries, all of which are amazing. It’s tough to turn down a delicious beer after a long day of work, but for the sake of my waistline I need to learn to just say “NO”!

    • Hey Trey,
      Good to have you back. You will be pleased to know Tough Mudder has made it’s way to Australia. Will be having a go at one as soon as it makes it to Brisbane. Your right about the beer, every now and then is cool, but everyday after work is going to to add size to your waistline.
      Niko

  7. Great post Niko! It all boils donw to moderation!

    This might not be relevant but if you are going to have alcohol do not have it on an empty stomach, lol. I remember at an event I had some rum cream after not having anything for the day because I was so busy. I ended up getting really disoriented I had to sit down and collect myself, haha. Good times. :D

  8. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It’s the little changes which will make the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

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