“Does alcohol make you gain weight?” is a common question I get in my Inbox at least once a month They are probably referring the common imagery of the classic beer belly.
Or as my friend up North asks, “can drinkin alcohol stop you from building mucsle?”
It’s long been a myth that alcohol alone can make you gain weight. While searching for the answer to this post (doing a little market research) I found the Top 10 results all explaining that drinking alcohol can lead to weight gain. But none of them mentioned the differences between pure alcohol and a mixed drink or beer. They lumped the answer into a single “Yes” which if you keep reading, you’ll understand is not correct.
A person who drinks beer will have a substantially higher chance at unwanted weight gain than a person who drinks hard liquor without anything else added. A whiskey shot is not the same as a beer shot in reference to gaining weight.
Unless the drink includes eating food or the drink itself contains more than hard liquor (sugar, wheat, hops, etc), you won’t really gain weight from drinking alone. You may get a host of other problems however.
Alcohol itself contains about 7 calories per gram. And while it is sometimes classified as a carbohydrate, the energy derived and it’s potential to be stored is not the same as a carbohydrate food source. Once you start drinking, the body will use alcohol as a primary fuel source. It can and will store anything else potentially as fat until the alcohol is out of your system.
So if alcohol doesn’t necessarily make you gain weight, what about drinking might?
If you drink and eat, the alcohol will be used as fuel and the food stored. So any potential weight gain is coming from the food energy that is not being used and gets stored. It’s why there are many skinny alcoholics!
Alcohol may only have 7 calories per gram but the other stuff in the drink can add to that:
- and many other carbohydrate sources that contain calories that will be stored!
Pure Alcohol is a silent partner in the potential to gain weight.
Let’s make up a story and say that some person can start drinking in the morning and sustain themselves all day and into the night This is how you might have a skinny alcoholic. They will get energy from the alcohol and barely store any of it. They will be malnourished and again, a slew of other issues but the alcohol itself is not normally the culprit when it comes to excessive weight gain from drinking.
This is a really good reason why some people can drink alcohol and not get fat.
If you are one of those people who wonders will drinking once a month affect muscle mass, the short answer is no. I’d steer clear of any binge drinking as there is absolutely no benefits to that activity but the occasional drink will not ruin week’s worth of progress in a single night.
While it’s technically possible to gain weight from drinking alcohol, you’d need so many drinks you’d probably die first (and I’m sure people do). Eating while drinking which is extra energy (calories) they do not need and can be stored (into fat cells).
It’s important to keep in mind that when discussing the possibility of weight gain coming from an alcohol beverage, pure alcohol has the least potential to be stored as fat.
Please see this post for a more detailed look at alcohol and bodybuilding.
Be Fit, Stay Strong!
Marc David – CPT
PS - I hope this post answers the questions does alcohol make you gain weight that we all privately ask ourselves when reaching for the next beverage.