How can I beat my beer belly
Can you lose your beer belly and still enjoy a drink come the weekend? Find out about calories in beer, and how alcohol affects your exercise performance.
Hidden calories in alcohol
When it comes to alcohol and weight gain the term ‘beer belly’ can be misleading.
Alcohol is a molecule – with seven calories per gram, it contains almost the same calories as pure fat.
But alcohol itself is as fattening whatever drink it’s in. It is no more fattening in beer than in wine for example.
Different alcoholic drinks have different calorie contents and it’s important that you understand what’s in your drink and how it can affect your weight.
Some pints of beer, larger or cider can contain a whopping 250 calories per pint – the equivalent of a small chocolate bar.
That means on a night out drinking pints you could be consuming almost your whole day's healthy calorie intake (2,500 for men) just in alcohol.
And that's not including the chips, takeaway pizza and hangover fry-up the next day.
Alcohol has no nutritional value. It may actually make you feel more hungry instead of less.
Eating more food after drinking is one reason why drinking alcohol regularly can cause a beer belly – sometimes called ‘central obesity’.2 Men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 alcohol units a week. Regularly having three of four pints after work or sharing a bottle of wine over dinner is enough to make an impact on your waistline over time.
Avoid the calories and try some alcohol free nights out.
More information on calories in lager and beer
If you drink alcohol it can be harder to shift that stubborn ‘beer belly’ fat with exercise.
Drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy.3 Our bodies can’t store alcohol. So when you drink alcohol your body wants to get rid of it. All of your body’s other processes that should be taking place, like burning fat, are interrupted while it does that.
To burn off the 180 calories you’d find in an average pint of lager (4% ABV) a typical man would have to spend: 13 minutes running on the treadmill or playing football; 15 minutes cycling or 20 minutes swimming or half an hour on the golf course.
So can you reap the benefits of the hard work you do in your exercise sessions and still have a drink after-work or at the weekend? The advice would be to stick to the low risk alcohol unit guidelines of not regularly drinking more than 14 units a week.
And if you feel like the balance between alcohol and exercise is veering too much towards the former, then it's a good idea to consider cutting down on alcohol.
Spirits, wine and light beer and light cider have less calories than regular beer and cider. A single (25ml measure) vodka and coke or gin and tonic is around 110 calories, while calories in whiskey are about 61 per 25ml shot. A medium-sized glass of 13% wine (175ml) contains 159 calories, although a bottle would be 682 calories.
Drinking even a little less each day through the week can have benefits for your health. We can tell you how alcohol affects your body and help you cut back and feel better.
(1) Yeomans, M. R. (2004). Effects of alcohol on food and energy intake in human subjects: evidence for passive and active over-consumption of energy. British Journal of Nutrition, 92, S31-S34.
(2) Lourenco, Oliveira, Lopes The effect of current and lifetime alcohol consumption on overall and central obesity; European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012) 66, 813–818; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2012.20
(3) Sonko, B. J., Prentice, A. M., Murgatroyd, P. R., et al. (1994). Effect of alcohol on postmeal fat storage. Am J Clin Nutr, 59, 619-25.