Most of us love beer. What’s not to love, really? It’s a great drink, perfect for an evening when you want to relax and unwind, maybe put your feet up after a long day at work. It’s the kind of drink you love to share with your friends while you hang out and chill, an icebreaker as you meet new people.
Not to mention, most of us probably got initiated into adulthood with that first big gulp of beer. Besides, who can forget all those nights of beer pong in college? Needless to say, beer is one of the most loved beverages in the country. But there are some pretty awful myths linked with drinking beer.
The most common, of course, is the threat of that dreaded beer belly: a flabby paunch with a life of its own. The threat of spending the rest of their life with a belly like that would put anyone off.
So, just how legitimate is this claim? Let’s start off by studying a bit about what beer is, and how it’s prepared.
What Is Beer?
As most of us know, beer is an alcoholic beverage. It’s manufactured through a process called brewing which involves the fermentation of sugar components present in certain cereal starch grains.
The most commonly used ones are malted barley, wheat, rice etc. The first recorded recipe for beer is nearly 4000 years old. Beer is usually flavored using hops, which make a great flavoring for beer since they’re quite bitter, balancing out the sweetness from the sugar in the grains. Herbs and spices are also used sometimes to flavor beer.
Beer is usually brewed in a simple five step process.
Beer Brewing Process
The first step is called malting. At the end of the malting process the complex sugars are broken down into simple sugars. An alternative to malting is the process of milling, which is breaking down the barley by crushing it.
Mashing is the process of mixing the grains with hot water in a special container called a mash tun. The heat from the water then breaks down the starch into sugars, the end product of which is called a wort.
The wort is then boiled for a couple of hours and during this process the beer gets sterilized. Once the hops are added the beer begins to get its flavors, the gentle bitterness helping to offset the sweetness of the wort.
Afterwards, yeast is added to the mix and the wort is fermented to form alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Finally, at the end of this process, the beer is bottled and left to age. The strength of a beer depends on the amount of alcohol it contains, which is measured as alcohol by volume (ABV).
ABV refers to the amount of alcohol in a 3.4-oz (100-ml) drink, expressed as a percentage. The alcohol content of beer is usually 4–6%. However, it can range from very weak (0.5%) to exceptionally strong (40%).
The main types of beer include pale ale, stout, mild, wheat beer, and the most popular beer, lager. The different brew styles are made when brewers vary the grains, brewing times, and flavorings they use.
Beer isn’t completely without benefit, of course. Most beers contain small amounts of micronutrients, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium. However, the benefit from these nutrients is next to nothing, because you would have to consume a few gallons of it for it to have any substantial effect on your nutrition.
It’s important to note that beers with a higher alcohol content also contain more calories. This is because alcohol contains about seven calories per gram. This is higher than carbs and protein (4 calories per gram) but lower than fat (9 calories per gram).
3 Ways That Beer May Cause Fat Gain
So, here’s the big question. Does drinking beer make you gain weight? If so, then how? There are three ways in which this could possibly happen.
- One, beer increases your appetite and you end up over-indulging.
- Two, it could inhibit your body’s capacity to burn fat and make you pile on those kilos.
- Three, it can increase the phytoestrogen content of your diet.
Let’s examine these three reasons closely.
Increased Calorie Intake
Gram for gram, beer contains as many calories as a soft drink, so it has the potential to add a lot of calories to your diet. It does contain a lot of carbohydrates and sugar content as well. However, some studies have also shown that drinking alcohol can increase your appetite because it’s generally consumed in a setting with a lot of food.
So, you’re more likely to over-indulge, almost as a physiological response.
Furthermore, it’s been shown that just because you had a couple of beers , you aren’t very likely to take a smaller serving at dinner. So in the long run, the consumed calories are here to stay. This means that drinking beer regularly could contribute a significant number of calories to your diet.
Inhibiting Your Metabolism
Drinking alcohol can prevent your body from burning fat. This is because your body prioritizes the breakdown of alcohol over other sources of fuel, including stored fat. This means that until every last drop of alcohol that you consumed is fully burned, the fat isn’t going to budge.
In theory, this implies that drinking alcohol causes fat storage, but there are mixed opinions about this. Some studies claim that drinking beer in moderate quantities would not affect your metabolism much.
This is because alcohol merely postpones the fat burning process and doesn’t really put a stop to it. However, there’s no doubt that those extra calories are going to pile up and cause you to gain weight.
The Effect Of Phytoestrogens
Phyto-estrogens are compounds that function similarly to the female hormone called estrogen. It’s assimilated into the body when we eat food that’s rich in phyto-estrogens such as soybeans, yams, and tempe. But most importantly, hops that are used to flavor beer are also rich in phyto-estrogens.
So, a common assumption is that men who consume beer may suffer hormonal imbalance, leading to an increase in belly fat. But, there is no direct link between phyto-estrogens and belly fat , so this is an ambiguous argument at best.
Does Beer Really Cause You To Gain Belly Fat?
Why is the prospect of belly fat so awful? Other than the aesthetic factor, belly fat is referred to as visceral fat and has some pretty serious consequences. Several dangerous conditions like cardio-vascular problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and even colon cancer are linked to high visceral fat.
To make matters worse, visceral fat results in the release of certain proteins, in addition to causing hormonal imbalance. This, in turn, can cause inflammation and affect the way your body assimilates and breaks down fat.
One study found that men who drank more than three drinks per day were 80% more likely to have a lot of belly fat than men who didn’t drink as much.
Interestingly, other studies have suggested that drinking beer in moderate amounts of less than 17 oz (500 ml) per day may not carry this risk. However, other factors may contribute to this difference. Factor such as the kind of lifestyle a person leads would make a difference on how much weight they put on.
Most studies show that beer consumption is linked with both an increase in waist circumference and body weight. However, this is just proof that like every other food, and increase in calories causes and increase in weight gain. Furthermore, overweight people may be more at risk when it comes to gaining weight from beer consumption.
So, it’s safe to conclude that the amount of weight you put on depends on whether you’re a light or heavy drinker.
Men Have A Higher Risk Than Women
This may sound sexist, but it actually has some pretty valid reasons; men are more likely to overindulge in beer compared to women; women don’t opt for beer as a beverage as often as men do; finally, male bodies happen to have greater android fat distribution, which is the tendency to gain weight around the waist.
Beer happens to contain more calories per oz than any other alcoholic beverage, so men on average consume more calories as a result of choosing beer. For example, 1.5 oz (45 ml) of spirits contains around 97 calories and a standard 5-oz (148-ml) serving of red wine contains 125 calories. A standard 12-oz (355-ml) serving of beer contains more than both of these at 153 calories.
Yet another contributing factor could be the effect of beer consumption on testosterone levels. While small doses may not have a substantial effect, continuous consumption is sure to make your testosterone levels take a dive.
Reduced testosterone levels are sure to make your body gain excess fat, especially around your waistline. Studies show that obese men tend to have lower levels of testosterone.
Do Other Types of Alcohol Cause Belly Fat?
The most significant way beer contributes to belly fat is through the excess calories it adds to your diet. Since beer is the drink that has the most calories per glass compared to other beverages, it’s safe to assume that other drinks don’t cause weight gain as much as beer does. In fact, some studies claim that people who consume red wine frequently actually have better luck maintaining their weight than others.
Although purely an assumption, this may be because people who consume red wine may have healthier lifestyles or be healthy eaters as well, because red wine is often linked with gourmet dinners rather than fast food.
But it’s clear that, irrespective of your choice of beverage, the two important factors that you need to watch out for are how much you drink and how often you drink.
Binge drinking can be particularly harmful. If you’re the type to drink more than four glasses in a single sitting, you’re likely to pile on those inches, irrespective of what drink you’re having.
So the key to drinking right is without doubt moderation without overindulging. This also means that someone who drinks one glass every day is at a lesser risk than someone who doesn’t drink often but consumes five to six glasses at once.
How To Get Rid Of Your Beer Belly
Unfortunately, there are no magical shortcuts to getting rid of that body fat. A healthy diet coupled with an active lifestyle is the best way to shed those extra inches off your waist.
If you’re a heavy drinker and are looking to reduce weight, then it’s probably wise to cut down on your alcohol consumption. Refrain from binge drinking and limit yourself to one or two glasses a day, spaced out over the day.
There aren’t proven diets that target belly fat, but it’s a proven fact that consuming foods that are lower in processed sugars, carbohydrates, and fat are sure to help you cut down on the calories. If weight loss is the goal, be sure to cut back on your sugar intake and opt for unprocessed natural foods.
Include a healthy selection of fruits and vegetables to your diet. Also, make sure you choose foods that are high in dietary fiber, because they not only help you feel full but also aid digestion. The best option is of course exercise. Hire a trainer or join the gym. Make sure you opt for both fat burning exercises as well as cardio and strength training to speed up weight loss.
One of the most popular exercises are HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training, which make sure you keep burning calories long after you finish your work out. Several workouts also target specific muscles and can help take those inches off your waist.
Beer Belly Side Effects Bottom Line
Drinking beer does cause weight gain, especially when done without moderation. Binge drinking in particular can make you put on visceral fat. Overindulging in beer is sure to cause you to put on weight. Try to stick to one or two glasses a day. At such low quantities, you’re unlikely to develop a beer belly.
Finally, if you’re looking to regulate your weight, be sure to drink in moderation, eat healthy, and lead an active lifestyle.