How Alcohol Leads to Weight Gain

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | March 25, 2016

When it comes to losing or maintaining weight, doctor’s orders are to limit your consumption of alcohol (among other things.) Alcohol is little more than liquid calories that can easily add up and which contain little nutritional value. Certain drinks can have as many calories as a three-course meal! Does that mean you should cut alcohol from your diet altogether to help manage your weight?

Before deciding whether or not to give up alcohol, there are a few things to consider. Your body requires a certain number of calories to maintain your weight, as well as a certain number of calories to lose weight. These numbers depend on a variety of factors, including height, weight, age, gender, activity level, previous weight loss attempts, stress level, and overall health condition. If you consume more calories than your body can utilize, then you will gain weight. Alcohol can lead to weight gain when you drink beyond your body’s daily caloric requirement.

It’s important to be aware of how many calories are in the beverages you choose to drink, especially if you’re trying to better manage your weight. Take a look at this chart illustrating the number of calories in some of the most common alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol is also known to inhibit decision-making processes. It’s been shown that when you drink alcohol, your caloric consumption can increase by 20 percent! And the foods you’re probably grabbing are usually high in sugar or fat, like chips and sweets. This suggests that it’s not only the alcohol that’s directly correlated to weight gain, but also the alcohol-induced behavior and thought processes that can lead to taking in excess calories.

Like many things, alcohol should be consumed in moderation. Taking these steps will help you maintain your weight management goals:

  • Eat foods that are high in nutrients every day.
  • Eat a balanced meal before drinking alcohol.
  • Drink water or seltzer in between each alcoholic drink.
  • Select “light” versions of your favorite drinks to cut out roughly 50-100 calories per drink.
  • Learn to sip your drinks slowly to make them last longer and to minimize overdrinking.

And always and most importantly: remember to drink responsibly! While you may think alcohol can help you enjoy a night out with friends or family, it can ultimately be detrimental to you and your health.


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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