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Health experts reveal why alcohol makes you gain weight

Why does alcohol make you gain weight? Experts reveal the REAL reasons why your nightly glass of wine is leading to unexpected belly fat

  • If you enjoy a tipple, but struggle with weight, the way you drink can be to blame
  • Experts reveal the body will burn alcohol calories over other calories first 
  • This means if you consume food while drinking, this can end up being stored 

Health experts have revealed the real reasons why drinking alcohol can lead to unexpected calories – and it’s not just due to ‘sugary’ mixed drinks and ‘high carb’ beer.

Alcohol alone contains seven calories per gram so even if you choose ‘low carb’ and ‘low sugar’ drink options, you’re still consuming empty calories that do nothing for your body nutritionally. 

The body also processes alcohol differently to other drinks, so you’re far more likely to store calories from food while drinking than you are at other times. 

To explain this in a more in-depth way, Dr Zoe Harcombe and Dr Sarah Brewer recently broke down the reasons why alcohol leads to weight gain – especially around the belly.

Health experts have revealed the real reasons why drinking alcohol can lead to unexpected calories – and it’s not just due to ‘sugary’ mixed drinks and ‘high carb’ beer 

How many calories are in your favourite drinks? 

 Glass of wine 

Can of full-strength beer 

Can of light beer 

One shot of spirits 

Bottle of pre-mixed soda 

75 calories

136 calories 

94 calories 

66 calories 

177 calories  

1km of jogging 

2km of jogging

1.5km of jogging

1km of jogging

2.5km of jogging  

Source: Alcohol Think Again  

Your body processes alcoholic calories first

According to Dr Harcombe, author of The Diet Fix, the body doesn’t ‘store’ alcohol, it burns the calories from alcohol before anything else.

‘While the calories in alcohol can’t be stored, the calories in alcohol will be preferentially burned by the body,’ she told Get The Gloss.

She said if you were to consume 100 calories of alcohol and an equivalent amount of pasta, the body would burn the alcoholic calories instead and therefore store the food calories.

Alcohol hinders fat burning

Alcohol has an impact on the body’s production of glucagon – a hormone involved the production of glucose and fat burning.

Glucagon is considered to be essential for maintaining blood sugar levels, a function considered a priority by the body.

‘The body registers alcohol as a poison, and so the liver prioritises getting rid of the substance before doing the many other jobs that it has to do,’ Dr Harcombe said.

Alcohol has an impact on the body's production of glucagon - a hormone involved the production of glucose and fat burning

Alcohol has an impact on the body’s production of glucagon – a hormone involved the production of glucose and fat burning

Drinking impacts your ability to make healthy choices 

The desire to eat after consuming alcohol is because the liver is working overtime to process alcohol, which means it’s not attending to blood sugar levels.

Dr Harcombe said this is the reason why you might be drawn carb-laden foods when drinking as these foods help the body to quickly restore glucose levels.

Watch for hidden alcohol carbs 

While it’s virtually impossible to choose a drink which is calorie-free, you can make choices about choosing those with fewer carbs.

Dr Harcombe’s advice is to steer well clear of beer or lager if you are trying to lose weight, and to watch for some spirits, especially those that are grain-based. 

It’s also worth being mindful that mixers can also come laden with sugars or sweeteners.

Alcohol can lead to stubborn belly fat  

Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan, said an enzyme called Aldh1a1 is responsible for converting alcohol to fat around the middle.

‘The enzyme causes visceral fat to build up around your internal organs. After middle age, as the menopause approaches, oestrogen levels fall and so alcohol starts to pile on weight around the waist,’ she said.

It’s worth noting other factors can also contribute to weight gain during menopause such as a lack of exercise, unhealthy eating and not enough sleep, the Mayo Clinic states.

 



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