Is there a connection between alcohol and weight gain? It is a widely known fact that regular and excessive alcohol use can lead to health problems, including weight gain, Alcohol Beer Bellies. There are many contributing factors to the development of alcohol related health concerns. For more information on the various conditions, please follow the link.
For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on weight gain and the development of what is commonly referred to as a “Alcohol-Beer Bellies”. Many individuals experience weight gain with moderate alcohol use and prolonged heavy alcohol use.
One reason for this would be that certain types of alcohol, such as beer, are high calorie beverages with little to no nutritional gain. Gram for gram, beer has as many calories as a soda, so it could potentially add to the total calories in your diet. Other drinks would include liquor mixed with a cola or other high calorie beverage. Another factor would be that when drinking, we tend to make poor choices in food.
For example, think about a time when you were out with friends. You get ready to order food after having a few drinks. What was your food choice? Did you opt for grilled chicken and vegetables, or did the burger and fries sound more appealing?
Even if you don’t order a meal, common snacking foods in bars and restaurants are often fried or lack nutritional value.
Age is an additional contributing factor. As we age, our metabolism changes. These changes could include a decrease in the rate that food is broken down which could potentially lead to weight gain.
Simply put, we gain weight when we consume more calories that we burn in a day. So if a person drinks moderately, and has little to no time for exercise, they are more likely to gain weight related to their drinking.
This coupled with a poor diet will lead to weight gain, for more information on the various conditions, please follow the link.
As noted above, it is common for individuals to experience weight gain with regular drinking, even if drinking moderately. Alcohol-Beer Bellies often refers to weight gain around a person’s belly or stomach.
A person who is a heavy drinkers are more likely to develop Alcohol-Beer Bellies compared to someone who drinks on occasion and moderately.
Beer bellies are also more common among men compared to women, however women can develop beer bellies.
Generally, alcohol consumption is linked with bigger waists, because when you consume alcohol, your liver burns alcohol instead of fat. It throws off your body's normal process of fat disposal in the diet.
As noted above, it is a common experience for individuals to experience weight gain when drinking alcohol. When someone drinks enough to develop a beer belly, they are at risk for some other health concerns.
The problem with belly fat is that it isn’t just limited to the extra layer of padding underneath the skin (subcutaneous fat). It likewise includes visceral fat. One thing to be aware of is that belly fat is the most dangerous type of fat we can develop. Belly fat is also known as visceral fat which has been proven to increase the risk of heart disease. Belly fat is also known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer in both men and women. Men are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction if they have excessive belly fat.
A person who has a beer belly likely has an elevated BMI which is associated with a variety of health concerns regarding obesity. This would include high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.
As stated above, belly fat is the most dangerous kind of fat. Belly fat is a symptom associated with Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic syndrome has been defined as a “cluster of at least three of the following conditions” by medical professionals. Conditions include:
Research is ongoing to observe any link between a beer belly (visceral fat) and the development of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. As with other conditions, this is associated more with the weight gain and development of fat compared to alcohol itself.
Something to be very mindful is that you are not diagnosing yourself with health conditions. Even if you are a trained medical professional, it is possible that your judgement could be clouded.
There are several medical conditions that are associated with water retention that can be missed and thought of as typical “weight gain”. Water retention is most common among alcoholics and individuals who have a long history of alcohol abuse.
Many of these conditions are associated with liver concerns such as liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis is the result of a fatty liver which can develop after long term alcohol abuse. The challenge with liver disease, is that many individuals are not diagnosed in time to receive medical interventions.
Alcoholic liver disease can cause a variety of concerns such as not being able to digest food properly, fight infections and remove waste. To read more regarding liver disease, please follow the link.
It will come as no surprise that the changes needed to lose weight associated with a beer belly will require behavioral changes.
The most beneficial, and for some the most difficult change, would be to stop drinking alcohol. For those who struggle with an alcohol addiction, this may be a process. It may be necessary to look into treatment options available to you and which would be a good fit for you.
Stopping your use of alcohol would cut out the empty calories that are often associated with drinks. Even if you opt for a lower calorie option, none at all would have the biggest impact. The other side to this is that if you switch to a lower calorie option, you are still at risk of developing health concerns associated with drinking such as alcoholic liver disease which we touched upon earlier.
Another change that could help in losing a beer belly would be to have a healthier diet. We discussed above that drinking alcohol is commonly associated with poor food choices. That may be a more convenient options such as take out or frozen food, or food with higher a calorie and fat content.
Choosing foods that are fresh, and nutrient dense will have many health benefits for you. Another thing is to be mindful of portion sizing.
We may have the initial instinct to fill our plate, however how much we eat should be dependent on how hungry we feel at the moment. This may require a bit of effort to pay attention to if you are not used to that.
Another recommendation that will likely be of no surprise would be exercise. For someone who has alcohol related weight gain and does not have a regular exercise routine, starting small would be a step in the right direction.
Some individuals identify time as a barrier to being able to exercise regularly. If you can relate to this, take time to think about your drinking behavior.
If you were able to find time to squeeze drinking into your schedule, is it possible that if you stop drinking, you can find 15 to 20 minutes a day to exercise?As time goes on, the kinds of exercise and duration of the exercise period will likely increase to continue noticing changes.
It is likely that if you add exercise to your routine, you will notice other positive changes such as a decrease in :
These are all known benefits of regular exercise.
Before beginning any changes to your diet or exercise routine, it would be wise to have a visit with your doctor. Talk to them about your concerns, and your thoughts about the changes you would like to make to your behaviors.
They may be able to provide you with further guidance regarding what would be the best approach for you and your health at that time.
The bottom line is that if you have a beer belly, you are at a higher risk of developing health concerns. Many of the suggestions in the article are easier said than done, however it is still worth the time and effort to try.
If you are a heavy drinker, the healthiest option for you would likely be to stop drinking. This may sound like a daunting task for some, but know that there are people out there who can help you.
You can reach out to a mental health professional, an Alcoholics Anonymous member, or a close family member or friend for support.
Take the time for yourself, and make healthy changes to your lifestyle.