Alcohol and weight gain – What makes us put on pounds and what can we do about it?

Posted by Luisa de Luca on

Probably every single one of us has already had a bad experience with alcohol, whether because of simply drinking too much or just mixing different types in a wild way. In order to clarify the effects that alcohol has on our body, it is important to understand what it is really doing to us. As soon as alcohol comes in our system, the first priority for our body is to metabolize it. In other words, the metabolization of anything else will be stopped, so that the alcohol can come first. But why is our body acting like that? In contrast to protein, carbohydrates or fat, our body does not have any space to store the alcohol, so that it has to be metabolized first.[1]


The contained calories in alcohol should definitely not be underestimated if you consider that it has about as many calories per gram as pure fat. Here comes the knock-out argument that will make you think twice about whether you want to get drunk tonight. Drinking a frozen margarita comes to as many calories as eating a cheeseburger and drinking a glass of wine is equal to eating a slice of cake, just look at the calories![2] According to the celebrity personal trainer Lucas James, adults who regularly drink alcohol consume ten per cent of their daily calorie intake just through alcohol – that´s a lot.[3]

However, you don't have to cut out alcohol entirely, if you enjoy it in moderation. Guidelines for staying healthy allow men to consume two standard drinks and women one, a day.[4] A standard drink can either be 5 oz. of wine, 12 oz. of beer or a shot of spirit (1.5 oz.). 

There are some options that are less calorie-intense than others. Besides Everclear, a pure grain alcohol with has the lowest calorie-to-alcohol ratio under the alcohols and is in some areas illegal or difficult to find due to its high alcohol content, there are some common ones.[5] Gold Tequila Jose Cuervo and Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey both with 96 calories per shot are the best choices if you are aware of your calorie intake.

It is also very important to watch what you mix your alcohol with. Sugary sodas, juices and frozen or blended drinks should be avoided, as they are calorie intense. Try to choose club soda, fresh fruit or tonic water instead. Alcohol choices that are better for you include Vodka & soda with lemon, light beer, Gin & tonic with lime and red wine.

If you are badly affected by cravings after drinking, you should follow these three simple guidelines in order to skip the munchies! First, eat a healthy meal before going out in order to feel full. Second, drink plenty of water between your drinks to help you consume less alcohol and third better prepare some healthy snacks at home before going out to prevent consuming fatty pizza or burgers.[6]

A study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse conducted by Rosalind Breslow examined if patterns of drinking made a difference in weight gain over time. The study revealed, that people with higher alcohol consumption on just single days a week had a greater BMI than those whose drinking were more distributed during the week, but moderate amounts. The men of the test group who had at least four drinks on their chosen single days had a BMI which was one unit higher, than those who limited themselves to a single drink regularly. In other words, a 5-foot-9-inch man experienced a 7-pound gain over the test period. Breslow concluded: “When you put it together, people who were heaviest drank a big amount with the lowest frequency, the people who were the leanest drank small quantities more frequently.”[7] Here is a representation of the most popular alcoholic beverages and their calorie amount, to help you make better decisions for your next night out!

popular alcoholic beverages and their calorie count                    

Does it also make a difference which beer, wine or cocktails you pick? Obviously yes! Here you can find the lightest version of your favorite alcoholic beverage.

Calories & Carb Chart for all the popular beverages.




Brand   (Calories, Carbs(g))

Budweiser 145, 10.6
Coors Light 102, 5
Miller Genuine Draft 143, 13.1
Michelob 155, 13.3
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 175, 14.1
Sam Adams Boston Lager 160, 18
Heineken 150, 11.5
Corona 148, 13
Guinness Extra Stout 153, 17.4

Type (Calories, Carbs(g))

Cabernet Sauvignon (red) 90, 2.5
Merlot (red) 95, 2.5
Chianti (red) 100, 2.5
Chardonnay (white) 90, 1.1
Sauvignon Blanc (white) 80, 1.1
Port (Ruby) 185, Up to 10

Type (Calories, Carbs(g))

Gin & Tonic 200, 4
Vodka Cranberry 220, 5
Bloody Mary 180, 4
Margaritas Up to 500, Up to 10
Long Island Iced Tea Up to 550, Up to 11[8]









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