“Drinking beer doesn't make you fat, it makes you lean.... Against bars, tables, chairs, and poles.”
That is a very famous saying when it comes to weight gain, due to alcohol! Ever noticed how your slim and trim guy friend, suddenly developed a beer belly over the summer vacation, which according to him was spent drinking and living it up! Millions around the world blame the golden frothy liquid, popularly known as ‘beer’ for their round, protruding belles.
The advent of the 21st century has seen us Indians slowly becoming weight conscious, alcohol was bound to come under the scanner sooner or later! For a long time now, people have believed that drinking alcohol directly leads to weight gain, with beer bellies providing physical evidence to the same. But does Alcohol really lead to weight gain?
Is Alcohol bad for my weight?
Recent reports and studies conducted on the same have found that while alcohol itself does contain some calories, 7 calories per gram to be precise, it does not directly lead to weight gain. Weight gain with alcohol happens only when it is consumed in excess! In fact research has even shown that women who drink alcohol daily have a lesser chance of gaining weight than women who abstain completely from it!
Similarly, other research and studies have proven that when one drinks alcohol such as red or white wine, in moderation, it is known to actually aid in weight loss and is also healthy for the body, particularly the heart. While it is true that alcohol does contain calories, a mere 5% of the total calories are turned into fat!
So how does alcohol make me gain weight?
Even though alcohol does contain more calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates- 4 grams each; a very miniscule percent of the total calorie count is actually converted into fat. So how is alcohol really making its drinkers gain weight?
The answer lies hidden in the fact that excess alcohol consumption not only slows down the amount and rate at which the body burns fat to gain energy, but also increases your appetite! A combination of these two factors could very well be the reason behind those ‘beer bellies’ but is it the only reason?
What exactly happens to the beer after I drink it?
Once you have gulped down an entire bottle of your favorite alcohol, it enters your body and more than 90% of it gets converted to acetate and not fat, as the popular myth goes! Infact only 5% of the total alcohol gets converted to fat, while the rest is transformed to acetate as it passes through your liver. Acetate slows down your body’s metabolism, i.e, it doesn’t allow the body to burn enough fat!
Our body’s burn fat for the generation of energy under normal circumstances. However, when we drink alcohol it gets converted to acetate in our body, it is this acetate that our body starts burning in place of fat for the generation of energy! This replacing of the actual fat by acetate in our bodies after consuming alcohol, is what leads to the accumulation of fat, hence the proverbial beer belly!
No doubt Alcohol affects my weight, but will it make me obese?
Ever wondered why you feel starved, every time you drink a lot? Its because alcohol acts as a potent appetizer, increasing your appetite by disturbing your metabolism!
When trying to understand the effects of alcohol on weight, one must look beyond the obvious! While a beer belly may or may not be the handiwork of alcohol alone, there are many other factors at play when it comes to obesity. If you look closely at the lifestyle of someone who is obese and drinks alcohol, you’ll find that their diet along with their appetite will be quite unhealthy. A diet, full of junk food like Pizza, Vada Pav’s, street side food and lots of meat will do nothing, but push you along onto the path of obesity!
Are there any health effects of drinking alcohol?
Alcohol if had in moderation poses no health risk; in fact wine if had in moderation is known to be good for the heart! But alcohol in general, had in excess, does pose many health risks!
Dehydration – Alcohol acts as a diuretic, meaning, it makes you urinate frequently, thereby furthering the loss of water from your body which leads to dehydration.
Weight effect – A single bout of binge drinking reduces your testosterone levels considerably for about 24 hours and increases the levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, this leads to muscle wasting. In fact studies conducted on the topic have proven that men who drink excessively carried less muscle than their teetotaler counterparts!
Liver Damage – Drinking heavily for longer periods of time affects the liver and leads to liver cirrhosis. This condition leads to disturbances in the normal functioning of the liver.
What is the right amount of alcohol intake, to avoid weight gain?
While the usual standard of drinking alcohol is 3-4 drinks per day for men, and 2-3 drinks for women, it is really dependant on the person, their body type and their origin as to how much they must drink.
To know the right amount of alcohol for you, it’s best to know the calorie content of your drink. Following are some popular types of alcohol, with their calorie content,
Beer: 135-145 calories, 12 fl Oz
Wine (red, white): 70-75 calories, 3.5 fl Oz
Vodka, Whiskey, Rum: 97 calories, 1.5 fl Oz (One shot)
*note – 1 fl oz equals approximately 28 grams*
The key to avoiding weight gain from drinking alcohol is nothing but moderation. Just like we practice moderation in our food intake to cut down the calories build up, similarly to avoid a beer belly, one must practice moderation while drinking alcohol.
Finally, as Winston Churchill says, “Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me” practicing moderation is the safest route to avoiding weight gain and enjoying your drink or two!