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The Science of Alcohol Use and Weight Gain

In this post we discuss the forever hot topic of 'alcohol and weight gain'. Now that Christmas is upon us for another year, many will be mildly concerned about the number of calories they are likely to consume over the holiday season.

It is undisputed amongst dieticians and the wider health and scientific community that alcohol consumption does increase weight gain.

How many calories does alcohol contain?

Pure alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. To put this into perspective, one gram of protein and carbohydrate both contain four calories each. Given alcoholic drinks are mixed with sugar, you're highly unlikely to know the exact caloric value of alcoholic drinks you consume. Some cocktails contain as much as 1000 calories per drink! This is the equivalent of around an hours' worth of jogging.

Other ways alcohol makes you put on weight

Consuming alcohol also impacts your weight because when you are drunk you appetite is stimulated. You are thus more likely to 'pig out' when under the influence of alcohol.

When you are drunk you are also likely to eat foods high in sugar or fat. If you have been fortunate enough to experience a 'night on the town' in one of England's many towns and cities then you will know of the popularity of the 'kebab shop run' before you get a taxi back to your home.

Alcohol raises our blood sugar levels. In turn, the pancreas secretes a substance known as insulin. Insulin lowers your blood sugar levels. Following this, you will feel lethargic and hungry. You will seek out food in order to even out your energy levels. Self-control literally 'goes out of the window' meaning you will seek out the most unhealthy foods such as a pizzas, kebabs or burgers.

If you drink an excessive amount of alcohol, you're also likely to suffer from a hangover. A hangover will slow you down during the day, meaning you do not get sufficient physical exercise. This lack of physical exercise also contributes to weight gain.

Consuming alcohol also hinders your body’s ability to burn off fat. Unlike other nutrients such as fat, protein and carbs, the body cannot store alcohol. Therefore, the body prioritizes the metabolization of alcohol. This in turn means other nutrients are not burnt off. Since alcohol cannot be stored, alcohol has earned the accolade of 'empty calorie'. This is because alcohol has no nutritional value whatsoever.

Other health implications associated with alcohol consumption

Below we list other negative health consequences when you choose to drink an excessive amount of alcohol:

  • Cancer - after tobacco, alcohol is the second biggest cause of cancer
  • Higher risk of stroke and heart disease due to higher blood pressure
  • Diabetes due to insulin resistance
  • Alcohol can also damage the kidney and liver

How to drink without putting on weight

Now we outline measures you can take in order to limit the number of calories you put on when you drink alcohol.

Firstly, ensure you keep a track of how many calories you consume when you drink alcohol. You will need to work out the caloric content of each drink you consume. It's essential you cut back on the number of drinks you consume during a drinking session. Shockingly, an Alcohol Concern study reveals over 80% of us are totally unaware of the caloric content of alcohol beverages we consume.

Alcoholic Drink Quantity Number of Calories
Red wine 175 ml 160 calories
White wine 175 ml 190 calories
Champaign 125 ml 89 calories
Beer One pint 180 calories
Cider One pint 210 calories
Whiskey One shot 64 calories
Vodka One shot 60 calories

 

Also consider drinking alcoholic beverages that are naturally lower in calories. Consider opting for lower calories 'mixers' such as diet coke or diet Pepsi.