How can I beat my beer belly?
Find out about the calories in beer, why drinking can affect your attempts to lose weight through exercise and ways to cut back on alcohol and lose weight.
Drinking alcohol will add to the overall calories we consume each day. Calories from alcohol are 'empty calories', meaning they have little nutritional benefit. So consuming extra calories through drinking can lead to weight gain.1,2
Typically, men tend to show weight gain around their middle3,4, which is how the term ‘beer belly’ came about. Fat around the middle of our bodies is believed to be especially harmful, because it is laid down directly on the organs inside the abdomen (belly), including the liver.
With around seven calories per gram, alcohol contains almost as many calories as pure fat. In addition, many alcoholic 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.
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) and a pint of cider can contain as many calories as a sugared doughnut.
That means, on a heavy drinking day, you could be consuming almost your whole day's recommended calorie intake (this is 2,500 for men, 2,000 for women) just in alcoholic drinks. Two large glasses of red wine is almost 20% of a man’s daily recommended calorie intake.
And that's not including the chips, takeaway pizza and hangover fry-up the next day.
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.
If you drink alcohol it can be harder to shift stubborn fat with exercise.
Drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy.5 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.
Drinking before exercise can have a negative effect on your body while any attempt to exercise the morning after drinking can be thwarted as the effects of alcohol can make you feel tired, nauseous and lacking in energy or motivation.
 Yeomans, M.R. (2010). Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity? Physiology &Behavior, 100(1), 82-89.
 Kwok, A., Dordevic, A.L., Paton, G., Page, M.J. and Truby, H. (2019). Effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 121(5), 481-495.
 Wajchenberg, B.L. (2000). Subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue: their relation to the metabolic syndrome. Endocrine Reviews, 21(6), 697-738.
 Shi, H. and Clegg, D.J. (2009). Sex differences in the regulation of body weight. Physiology &Behavior, 97(2), pp.199-204.
 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.