Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?

Research has shown that drinking a lot of alcohol on a frequent basis can result in weight gain, and in some cases, weight loss. Not only does alcohol affect the body’s fat-burning processes, but it also affects appetite and food choices.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

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It is possible to gain weight if you are someone who drinks alcohol excessively and frequently, but that does not mean weight gain is a guarantee for everyone. Some people will lose weight.

There is no clear evidence one way or another to state for sure whether binge drinking alcohol is a risk factor for weight gain, but alcohol has characteristics that can cause fluctuations in weight, as well as other physical effects on the body.

How Alcohol Affects Body Weight

Alcohol can affect a person’s body in a number of different ways and may result in either weight gain or weight loss. Here is how alcohol intake affects your body’s weight regulation.

Disrupts The Fat-Burning Process

Alcohol disrupts the fat-burning process by forcing the liver to burn alcohol instead of body fat, greatly slowing down the process. Alcohol also suppresses testosterone production for up to 24 hours, which is the primary metabolic hormone.

Alcohol tends to have a high sugar and high calorie count, though this will vary significantly by type of alcohol.

Affects Appetite

Alcohol tends to make the appetite stronger, because it offers very little in the form of nutrition and leaves the body craving for nutrients and food. Alcohol calories are empty calories.

There is also evidence that alcohol stimulates nerve cells in the brain that stimulate appetite, which causes people to eat more while they drink alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction May Affect Eating Patterns And Food Choices

Multiple studies have shown that people tend to eat unhealthier foods while under the influence of alcohol.

Specifically, while under the influence of alcohol people tend to eat foods heavy in fat, sugar, and carbs (carbohydrates) and avoid foods with healthy whole grains, fruit, and milk.

Alcohol addiction may also result in a person starving themselves of food, especially because the less they eat the more the effects of excessive alcohol intake can be felt.

Someone trying to achieve a faster effect from drinking on a regular basis may lose weight as a result.

How Much Does Alcohol Abuse Contribute To Weight Gain?

Whether alcohol consumption leads to increased risk of weight gain or obesity will vary and depend on the individual, as there are many other factors besides alcohol that can contribute to weight gain or loss.

Other factors related to weight changes while abusing alcohol include:

  • gender
  • age
  • genetics
  • body type
  • body mass index (BMI)
  • family history
  • medical history
  • regular calorie intake
  • other medications being taken
  • physical activity level
  • preference in alcoholic beverages

People who are concerned about their waistline, beer belly, or weight loss goals can try low-calorie mixers like soda water, or try to limit the amount of alcohol they consume in general.

Can Alcohol Abuse Lead To Weight Loss?

Heavy alcohol use can also cause the opposite effect and cause people to lose weight. This is because heavy drinkers will develop the sense of being full from drinking alcohol and no longer feel a desire to eat.

Alcohol weight loss can also be due to the weakened immune system that a person develops while using alcohol on a heavy basis. People who drink a lot tend to be sick more often and may not feel up to eating like they used to.

Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse

Treatment options for alcohol addiction come in both inpatient and outpatient options depending on your needs. Most treatment programs will have medical detox or require you to finish detox before starting.

It is very important when getting treatment for heavy drinking that you also address any underlying mental health issues that are potentially leading you to drink, preferably with a healthcare professional.

This can be done with therapy, individual or group programs, and peer support. Some treatment centers also offer behavioral therapy.

Find Alcohol Use Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one have an alcohol addiction or another substance use disorder, you do not have to go through it alone.

Our treatment specialists at Bedrock Recovery Center can answer any questions and direct you to the best rehab program for you.

Reach out to us and get started on your recovery and wellness journey today.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  2. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School https://www.health.harvard.edu/addiction/alcohols-effects-on-the-body
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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