There are those almost quite proud of the paunch around their mid-riff that they see as symbolising their affection for alcohol. For the rest of us, the battle against a beer or wine belly is one we must continually face as we grow older. Here we look at why beer and wine often contributes to weight gain, why the waistline is most often the area affected, and what can be done to help prevent beer or wine adding inches to your circumference.
How does alcohol contribute to weight gain?
Too many calories from any source can result in an increased amount of fat stored around the belly. The problem with alcohol, though, is that the calories contained are fairly concentrated. To demonstrate this, whereas carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram, alcohol has 7 calories per gram – which is just shy of fats at 9 calories per gram. However, whereas carbs, proteins and fats are essential nutrients, alcohol is not, supplying what nutritionists refer to as empty calories (calories without nutrition).
To make matters worse, drinking alcohol postpones the fat-burning process. The reason behind this is that your body views alcohol as toxic and thus focuses its efforts at processing and eliminating it when consumed. As a result, everything else comes to a complete standstill. This means that your body will stop burning other such things, including its stored fats. Not only this, it also prevents your body from releasing sugar into the blood, which has the effect of stimulating your appetite. With the foods accompanying alcohol so often being high in fats and extremely salty, it is a complete recipe for disaster for anyone not aware of this and trying to control their calorie intake.
But why is the belly most often affected?
The way in which your body decides to store fat is dependent upon your age, sex and hormones. For instance, whereas women tend to have more of what is referred to as subcutaneous fat, which is deposited just beneath the skin in the arms, thighs and buttocks, men usually have less subcutaneous fat and instead the extra weight is carried on the belly. With regards to age, as we get older our calorie requirements go down, making it harder to keep extra weight off. At the same time, our hormone levels also decline causing any extra fat to often shift to the waist.
What is important to bear in mind, however, is that the fat stored around the stomach area is thought to be the most dangerous type of fat with regards to your health. Referred to as visceral fat, this fat is metabolically active, meaning it can interfere with your body’s hormones, which can put people at greater risk of certain conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. As such, this central type of obesity is often thought to carry more risks associated with it than a more normal fat distribution. As much as a bit of paunch around the waist can be laughed off among friends, it should be taken very seriously from a health and wellbeing perspective.
How can you help prevent a beer or wine belly?
With all of this in mind, what can be done to either prevent or reduce the effects of beer and wine on the waistline?
For starters, simply being aware of the number of calories in the alcohol that you’re drinking is a hugely important first step. Replacing your go-to bottle of vino or lager with a lower calorie alternative just makes perfect sense. This doesn’t mean you can drink more, it simply means that you can be confident that you’re still able to enjoy alcohol but in the knowledge that you’re drinking fewer calories.
Following this, there are several other simple changes that you can make to help fight against the belly. For instance, eating a healthy, filling meal before you start drinking can help you resist the temptation of a calorific snack later in the evening. On top of this, earning your glass before you drink it is a mindset change that can have significant ramifications. By this we mean deciding to go for a walk or on the treadmill earlier in the day, for example, and putting that amount of effort and calories burned in relation to the amount of calories you might later consume through alcohol can really help put things into perspective.
On the whole, though, we’re afraid that there isn’t a magic formula for beating a beer or wine belly. A combination of a good diet and exercise is the only way to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight in the longer-term. Towards this, here at DrinkWell we are dedicated to providing you with a huge selection of wine, beer, and spirits that contain fewer calories on average than their full-fat alternatives. Along the way, we’ll also endeavour to provide you with some excellent recipes, health information, as well as fitness tips, tricks and advice. We’re all in this battle together.