Tag Archives: Liver

Is Booze Making You Fat? The Truth About Alcohol & Calories


We don’t burn extra calories to metabolize alcohol – not like we do from digesting carbs, fat and protein. This phenomenon, called the “thermic effect of food”, refers to the energy we use to digest food into small, absorbable components. Because alcohol is so easy to absorb, it enters our bloodstream without burning any extra calories.

Your liver does the dirty work because alcohol is seen as a toxin, the liver prioritizes metabolizing alcohol first which means you won’t be burning calories from other sources while that happens. The liver is only able to clear alcohol at a rate of around one ounce liquor per hour, which is why consuming more than this will leave you feeling tipsy.

Alcohol makes your blood sugar drop, making you want to reach for carbs. The liver helps keep our blood sugar steady, but a liver busy at work metabolizing alcohol can’t do this effectively, causing your blood sugar drops and stays low until the alcohol is metabolised. This explains why you crave carbs and wake up the next day with a headache.

Alcohol calories that aren’t burned will be stored as fat. This is true for all extra calories eaten no matter the source, but what makes alcohol calories worse is that they are stored in your liver first. It takes time for the liver to ship out the alcohol-induced fat for proper storage in your fat cells. If the liver doesn’t do this fast enough (or if you drink too much, too often) the fat stays stuck in your liver and around your abdomen giving you what we refer to jovially as a “beer belly.”

This of course doesn’t mean you need to completely dodge all social sips. Here are some tips to help prevent you from gaining too much of your night out:

1. Pour yourself half as much. This will help you limit yourself to one or two drinks per party.

2. Avoid higher calorie mixed drinks like eggnog, margaritas, mudslides, or other sugary mixed drinks–or have one and consider it dessert.

3. Alternate between having alcohol and water to stay well hydrated.

4. Sip slowly and take the time of enjoy your alcoholic beverage.

5. Keep your alcohol budget at or below 200 calories. 

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Hopefully this will make you think twice when you go out this weekend!

Another way to look at the effect alcohol has on weight loss is to compare the equivalent time you would need to spend doing fitness training to burn these calories off! We’ll assume someone has an average fitness level and is of average weight.

Training time required to burn off calories from alcohol:

Alcoholic drink

Walking

Swimming

Running

Cycling

Beer (355ml)

30 mins

17 mins

12 mins

13 mins

Light beer (355ml)

20 mins

11 mins

8 mins

9 mins

Low carb beer (355ml)

23 mins

13 mins

9 mins

10 mins

White wine sweet (200ml glass)

40 mins

23 mins

16 mins

18 mins

White wine dry (200ml glass)

29 mins

16 mins

12 mins

13 mins

Red wine (200ml glass)

28 mins

16 mins

11 mins

12 mins

Spirits (on ice / neat)

13 mins

7 mins

5 mins

6 mins

Water

0 mins

0 mins

0 mins

0 mins