Does alcohol contribute to weight-gain?

I do not want to be a party-pooper but when an individual is stressed it can affect their sleeping patterns, dietary discipline, or management of stress. Some clients result to alcohol-intake because it gives a feeling of relief and muscle relaxation. However, alcohol is a major contributor to weight-gain and it does not contain any nutritional value to our overall well-being. We will go through what alcohol is, its effects on the human body and nutritional benefits to better understand the link between alcohol-intake and weight-gain.

Ethanol is an organic chemical compound. It is a simple alcohol produced by fermenting sugar, and sugar crops are the easiest ingredients to convert into alcohol. Alcohol (aka ethanol) is not an essential nutrient like protein, carbohydrates, and fats, but it does contain calories, which is why it stands in as a fourth macro.

Alcohol contains around seven calories a gram – it is nearly as energy-dense as pure fat.

Calories from alcohol are ’empty calories’, meaning they have no nutritional value.

They don’t benefit our bodies in any way.

according to drinkaware uk

Whether you are trying to lose weight, maximize training or your performance, it behooves you to take a closer look at the many effects alcohol has beyond its caloric content. A fantastic article on Barbell Logic is The Pros and Cons of Alcohol for Training by Jeremy Partl, R.D., but I will quote some of the basics here:

  • Protein Synthesis – Studies show that both acute and chronic alcohol ingestion can have a detrimental effect on cell signaling and protein syntheis in the skeletal muscle. In other words, you may be risking the hardwork that you are doing in the gym by drinking alcohol.
  • Reduced Inhibitions – Alcohol changes the brain chemistry, which in turn impacts moods, behaviours, thinking, memory, physical movement and bodily functions, which may have costly side effects. Many of us have tales of doing stupid things and making poor choices when we consume alcohol. If we are not careful, these poor decisions can be dangerous to our waistline (among other things). How much easier is it to say yes to the high-calorie appetizers and desserts at a party when you have had a drink or too?
  • Recovery and Sleep – Alcohol decreases overall sleep quality. The downstream effects of reduced sleep include poorer decision-making, higher hunger levels, worsening performance and more, over time, impacting the physical results that you want from your training.

Unlike the other macronutrients, alcohol cannot be stored as body fat. If you are drinking alcohol and eating, your body will use the alcohol first, increasing the priority for carbohydrates and fats to be stored as glycogen and adipose tissue. Different alcoholic drinks have different amounts of calories in them, and many are high in sugar. A pint of lager can contain the same number of calories as a slice of pizza, or a large glass of wine the same an ice cream sundae.

Drinking alcohol also reduces the amount of fat our bodies burn for energy. While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in our bodies, we can’t store alcohol, so our systems want to get rid of it, and this takes priority. All other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.

I hope this article widens your perspective on the effects of drinking alcohol, if not there is numerical information below for calorie counting references. It may be a hassle to calculate but your choices affect your overall health and well-being, so depending on the life you want to live, choice wisely. If you need a Unit and Calorie Calculator, click this this great reference.

Calories and the Alcohol?

The most common sources of alcohol are beer, wine, and hard liquor. Since alcoholic beverages do not provide nutrition facts, Barbell Logic has provided a cheat sheet to refer to.

  • 1 oz of unflavored spirits based on proof:
  • 80 proof = 85 calories, 7 grams of alcohol, 0 grams of fat (F),
    • 0 grams of carbs (CHO), 0 grams of protein (P)
  • 90 proof = 95 calories, 14 grams of alcohol, 0 F/CHO/P
  • 100 proof = 105 calories, 15 grams of alcohol, 0 F/CHO/P
  • 110 proof = 115 calories, 17 grams of alcohol, 0 F/CHO/P
  • 120 proof = 125 calories, 18 grams of alcohol, 0 F/CHO/P
  • 130 proof = 135 calories, 19 grams of alcohol 0 F/CHO/P
  • 140 proof = 147 calories, 21 grams of alcohol, 0 F/CHO/P
Manual Calculation

If you are interested in calculating alcohol intake manually, follow the steps;

Conversions: 1 oz = 30 mL; 1 mL = 1 gram.

  1. Determine the percentage of alcohol by volume. If the proof is listed, then:
    • Alcohol % = Proof/2
  2. Then multiply the Alcohol% x mL = grams of alcohol
  3. Grams of alcohol x 7 = total calories from alcohol