Alcohol & Weight Gain | Does Drinking Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?

Alcohol intake can cause weight gain in a lot of different ways. Alcohol itself doesn't do your waistline any favors but what we tend to eat and mix with alcohol doesn't help either. Consider the multiple ways alcohol can lead to weight gain.

Alcohol is well-known for affecting your judgment, inhibitions, and organs, but can it affect your weight as well? Unfortunately, it can, especially if you’re a heavy drinker.

Alcohol is high in calories, can lead to poor food choices, and can negatively affect many parts of your body. One drink every once in a while is unlikely to cause problems, but excessive alcohol consumption may lead to weight gain and obesity.

How Alcohol Leads To Weight Gain

Alcohol intake can cause weight gain in a lot of different ways. Alcohol itself doesn’t do your waistline any favors but what we tend to eat and mix with alcohol doesn’t help either. Consider the multiple ways alcohol can lead to weight gain.

Empty Calories

Alcohol only contains what’s referred to as “empty calories.” This means that while alcohol is an energy source, it doesn’t provide many nutrients.

Alcoholic beverages are also relatively high in calories. There are about 155 calories in a can of beer. Those calories can add up very easily especially if you’re binge drinking or adding in sugary mixers or greasy snacks. That will likely affect any weight loss you hope for.

Increased Hunger

One major way alcohol can affect your weight is that it can make you feel hungry. Alcohol can lead to increased cravings and cause you to grab unhealthy snacks without thinking.

A few different things cause this hunger. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop and lead to that hungry feeling. Alcohol can also affect the area of the brain that controls your appetite. This can lead to hunger and, ultimately, weight gain.

Increased Fat Storage

When alcohol enters your body, your body is going to break down the alcohol before it uses anything else. Your body views it as a toxin and will try to get rid of it before burning fat or using carbs.

This means that any excess glucose, carbohydrates, or fats, will end up as fat on your body. If you exercise regularly, you’ll likely burn it off, but it’s going to take more time than if you didn’t drink.

Liver Function

Heavy drinking can greatly impact your liver. The liver works to filter out any foreign substances that enter your body. This includes alcohol. If you’re drinking excessively, your liver can become fatty and damaged.

A damaged liver can change the way your body metabolizes and stores carbs and lipids.

Additionally, if you’re drinking large amounts of alcohol, you’re at a higher risk of getting cirrhosis and liver disease.

Unhealthy Food Choices

Alcohol can affect your judgment and what you choose to eat. If you’re intoxicated, you likely won’t be sticking to your healthy diet.

Instead, you may go for a high-calorie option like french fries or a burger. These extra calories can easily lead to weight gain.

Testosterone Levels

Alcohol can also affect your hormone levels including testosterone. Testosterone is responsible for both muscle formation and your body’s ability to burn fat. If your testosterone levels decrease, your body will have a harder time burning fat.

Low testosterone levels can also lead to a disorder called metabolic syndrome. Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood sugar
  • increases body fat
  • high body mass index (BMI)


Besides testosterone, alcohol use can also increase the levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is the hormone you release when you’re stressed and has been linked to weight gain.

Alcohol can also impair the glands that release hormones into your body as well as the tissues that those hormones are directed at. This can lead to a number of health issues.

Less Sleep

Sleep is incredibly important to your overall health, but alcohol can decrease how much you sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can lead to a hormone imbalance that can affect hunger, weight, and how much energy you store.

Other Ways Alcohol Affects Your Body

Besides the aspects of the body that contribute to weight gain, alcohol affects almost every part of the body including:

  • brain: alcohol suppresses the central nervous system and alters the level of the neurotransmitters GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) and dopamine, potentially leading to increased heart rate, depression, and aggression
  • stomach: alcohol can cause an increase in stomach acid which can lead to irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining
  • heart: drinking alcohol can also cause high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and heart disease

If you or a loved one lives with alcohol addiction or another substance use disorder, you’re not alone. Please call our helpline today to learn about our treatment options.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

©2023 Northeast Addition Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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