Coronavirus: stay safe with our facts, information and practical advice about alcohol and your health

How can I lose my beer belly?

Can you get rid of 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. The pure alcohol in your drink is as fattening as whatever drink it’s in - so it's no more fattening in beer than in wine for example.

With around seven calories per gram, alcohol contains almost the same calories as pure fat.

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. In addition, many alcoholic drinks drinks are also high in sugar meaning you could be consuming lots of empty calories, which could lead to weight gain, putting your long term health at risk.

Find out the calories in your drinks. Use our Unit and Calorie Calculator

How heavy nights out can contribute to a beer belly

Some pints of lager can contain 180 calories, the equivalent to a slice of pizza. Stouts and ales can be as calorific as a whole bagel (around 250 calories per pint!) and a pint of cider can contain as many calories as a sugared doughnut.

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.

More information on calories in lager and beer

Alcohol has no nutritional value and 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 not to drink 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 reduce your belly fat by cutting down on alcohol at home as well as when out and about.

Use the free Drinkaware app to track how many calories you are consuming from alcohol

Alcohol and exercise

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 in a standard strength 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.

Athletic performance

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 UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines of not regularly drinking more than 14 units a week. 

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 — you could start by and swapping your regular pint for a lower alcohol or non-alcoholic beer, which tend to have fewer calories. 

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.

Have a Little Less 

Drinking even a little less each day through the week can have benefits for your health, helping you cut down down on calories and contribute to weight loss. 
Use the DrinkCompare Calculator to see the health benefits of having a little less

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(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.

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