Don't blame the booze, fatties

7 Jan

Hey there, Tubby. Let me guess: you’ve decided to lose weight.

It is the new year, after all, and by the looks of the jam-packed gyms across the country, it stands to reason that many a thick-waisted soul has decided this is the year to finally get in shape. Get back to the ol’ fightin’ weight.

For those of you in that category, allow me to let you in on a little secret: drinking alcohol does not make you gain weight. Conversely, laying off the booze won’t help you lose it. The ‘beer belly’ concept is a full-fledged myth.

I’ve compiled some convincing data to back up this mind-blowing claim, which I have listed below. Get excited, people. This is the news you’ve always wanted to hear.

(Before we get to said data, I should mention that many of alcohol’s factors lead to weight gain. For instance, it impairs your judgment, which oftimes leads to a late-night Taco Bell run. And hangovers leave you feeling lethargic, making the idea of exercise about as enticing as a self-administered enema. Also, when is the last time your gin-soaked brain had you craving a salad? So, no, getting shit-faced probably isn’t a great idea while on a diet. Just know that the actual calories from alcohol won’t make you fat. Promise.)

Let’s back up a bit to explain what led me to this point. Last year, I too made a resolution to shed some poundage. As I was not too excited about having to give up my precious medicine alcohol during the diet, not to mention generally suspicious about alcohol’s correlation with weight gain — why are so many alcoholics rail-thin? — I embarked on a research project.

You will of course find a ton of articles that mention the abundance of calories in alcohol, but very few mention the fact that your body processes calories from liquor differently from food calories. They are not the same thing. And if you take a closer look at all the studies that have been conducted regarding the subject, you will find there is either a very small or, in some cases, zero correlation between drinking alcohol and gaining weight.

This is good news. Great news. Extraordinary news.

On to the data:

{+} The New York Times spoke with Dr. Charles Lieber, who has studied the effects of alcohol since 1957. The full article is worth your attention as it lays out why heavy drinkers rarely gain weight, but here is one choice snippet: “Weight gain was negligible in alcoholics who were given 2,000 calories of alcohol daily on top of the 2,500 calories from foods they consumed to maintain their weight. But when the same number of additional calories were fed as chocolate, a steady weight gain resulted.” Down with chocolate, up with moonshine!

{+} Texas Tech University conducted a thorough study from 1988-1994, analyzing over 8,000 people during that period. While they found that heavy drinkers showed weight gain (no specifics were given about how diet/exercise was monitored, however), they found that moderate drinkers were LESS likely to be obese than non-drinkers.

{+} The Royal Free & University College Medical School (catchy name, guys!) out of London found similar results from their study of middled-aged men: moderate drinkers were not affected at all by alcohol, but heavy drinkers did experience some minimal weight gain.

{+} The same results were found in yet another study, this one involving over 49,000 women over an 8-year span. Moderate drinking showed zero correlation with weight gain. Heavy drinkers gained up to 5% more weight, which is notably less than the percentage of alcohol calories they were ingesting daily (at least 500 calories/day, much more than 5% of their intake).

{+} The most enlightening, comprehensive information comes from the State University of New York, which reviewed every major study done on the subject, including those done by the researchers mentioned in the above links, and found no evidence of alcohol leading to weight gain. That is the link you’re going to want to bookmark and refer to every time one of your friends calls BS on your claims that booze won’t make you fat (and they WILL call you on it, believe me).


In conclusion, feel free to pound brews during your diet, just don’t let the booze cause you to skip your workouts. And go ahead and re-familiarize yourself with those tasty full-flavored beers (hello again, Surly. Been too long, Bell’s.) rather than that tasteless swill called “light” beer. You’ve got science on your side.



4 Responses to “Don't blame the booze, fatties”

  1. RandBall's Stu January 8, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    I would like to confirm that Bell’s is awesome.

  2. TK January 8, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Interesting how your past two posts have been about booze. 1) dedicated to the hopeful removal of Satan’s practical joke, the hangover and 2) that sipping suds and spirits does not actually harm one’s beach body.

    If this is what ’10 and the next decade is all about, I applaud it.

  3. BreAnne January 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    I think this warrants further research. Where do I sign up to become a test subject?

  4. Dave MN January 21, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Greatest studies ever. As a lover of full-flavored beers who does not have a “beer gut”, I throw my non-considerable girth behind them fully.

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