Can alcohol cause weight gain?

Everyone knows the health risks associated with high alcohol consumption – the effects go beyond risky behaviour and hangovers. High alcohol intake is associated with many chronic health conditions. You could also be adding weight problems to that. 

We’ve all seen the ‘beer bellies’ of serious drinkers, but did you know that even a moderate amount of alcohol can contribute to significant weight gain? There are several reasons for this: 

Amount of kilojoules – alcohol is high in kilojoules and doesn’t have any real nutritional value. Your body converts the kilojoules into energy or stores it as fat. Drinking your kilojoules means you can take in a lot more without feeling full. 

Altered metabolism – not only are there lots of kilojoules in alcohol, it actually affects the way your liver metabolises them. This means you’re more likely to store energy – from alcohol and food – as fat. This continues long-term, not only when you’ve just had a drink. 

Snacking – it’s very easy, after a few drinks, to reach for unhealthy snacks and greasy takeaways. Alcohol alters our blood sugar levels, making us hungry. Even small amounts of alcohol can lead us to choose the worst possible food types. 

Effects on sleep – some people think a nightcap helps them get to sleep, but alcohol affects the quality of your sleep. It causes night-time wakefulness, fluctuations in blood sugar levels, thirst, and frequent trips to the toilet. Not only does a bad night’s sleep make you feel awful the next day, you may actually eat more – as if to compensate for being tired. 

Think before you drink – drinking alcohol of any kind comes with risks. It’s worth checking the guidelines to know how many standard drinks you’re really having. Moderating alcohol intake – or going without – has well known health benefits… even if you’re not looking to lose weight, you’ll be gaining a healthy body.

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Can alcohol cause weight gain?