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Alcohol and weight gain

By cutting down on alcohol you can cut down on calories.

Regularly drinking more than the low-risk guidelines gives your body more energy than it needs. It can also affect your general health.


Find out tips for drinking less

Being overweight and obesity are linked to conditions like:

  • diabetes
  • heart problems
  • circulation problems
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • depression

Why alcohol causes weight gain

Alcohol has almost the same calories per gram as fat. But alcohol calories are empty calories. This means they provide the same energy but none of the nutrition that food provides.

As well as the calories in alcohol, drinking also makes us more likely to eat too much. Most of us have experienced this. The visit to the chip shop after a night out or the nibbles to go with our glass of wine or beer. Alcohol triggers the part of the brain that makes us feel hungry.

Alcohol reduces your inhibitions. You’re less likely to worry about picking the unhealthy options when you’ve been drinking.

Calories in alcoholic drinks

Alcohol is a highly concentrated source of calories, containing 7 calories per gram. Only pure fat has more, at 9 calories per gram.

For every gram of alcohol you drink, you’re taking in almost double the amount of calories than you would from protein or carbohydrates.

Pure alcohol is not the only factor affecting the calorie content of an alcoholic drink. Ingredients such as sugar, wheat, barley and grapes all contribute to your drink’s calorie count.

Mixed drinks and cocktails can also contain a lot of calories due to other ingredients added during preparation.

Amount of calories in alcohol drinks

  • 1 pint of 4% strength beer = 182 calories
  • 1 large gin and tonic = 390 calories
  • 1 large glass of wine = 185 calories
  • Half a bottle of prosecco = 350 calories
  • 1 Long Island iced tea = 275 calories

Fat-burning process

Alcohol can also slow down your body’s fat-burning process.

Your liver processes and stores all of the fat, carbohydrates and protein that you consume. It breaks then down and turns them into energy.

But your body cannot store alcohol, meaning it must be broken down ahead of everything else.

This slows down your metabolic rate, reducing the amount of fat your body burns for energy.

Page last reviewed: 30 August 2022
Next review due: 30 August 2025