Know the FactsHelping you make informed decisions about your drinking
Alcohol and Body Weight
The energy content of alcohol is quite high when compared to other sources of energy (e.g. fat or carbohydrates). Alcohol contains 7.1 kcal per gram, which means that one standard drink is 71 calories. The table below shows you how standard drinks compare to some foods.
|Number of Standard Drinks||Food Equivalent|
|2||1 scoop of chocolate ice cream|
|6||1 large slice of cheesecake (125g)|
|8||1 meat pie AND 1 double coat Tim Tam|
|10||1 regular bucket of hot chips AND|
a 600 ml bottle of Coca Cola AND
1 fun size mars bar
Alcohol is different from other energy sources because it cannot be stored and has little nutrients.
When you drink, your body will use alcohol as its preferred fuel source, meaning you stop burning body fat as a source of energy, and store any food you may have eaten as fat.
As well as interfering with your normal metabolic processes, alcohol also affects how hungry you feel and how full you feel after eating. A research study that compared the appetites and food intake of people who had 4 standard drinks to people who only had 1, found that people who had 4 drinks reported:
- Increased feelings of hunger
- Increased food intake
- Increased intake of salty or fatty foods
- Decreased feelings of fullness after eating
The combined effects of feeling hungrier after drinking, being more likely to eat fatty food after drinking, and your body processing the alcohol instead of the food you have eaten (which it stores as fat), can lead to weight gain in the short and long term. The exact effects of alcohol on your body weight will depend on a number of things such as your overall diet, genetic background, gender and level of physical activity, but overall, frequent and prolonged use of alcohol has been linked to the development and maintenance of obesity.
- Caton, S.J., Ball, M., Ahern, A., & Hetherington, M.M. (2004). Dose-dependent effects of alcohol on appetite and food intake. Physiology and behaviour, 81, 51-58. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2003.12.017
- Lieber, C.S. (2001). Molecular basis and metabolic consequences of ethanol metabolism. In N. Heather, T.J. Peters & T. Stockwell (Eds.). International Handbook of Alcohol Dependence and Problems. (pp. 75-102). West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- Suter, P.M. (2005). Is alcohol consumption a risk factor for weight gain and obesity? Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Services, 42, 197-227. doi: 10.1080/10408360590913542
- Suter, P.M., Hasler, E., & Vetter, W. (1997). Effects of alcohol on energy metabolism and body weight regulation: Is alcohol a risk factor for obesity? Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 55, 157-171.