We’re all familiar with the “freshman fifteen,” and we all know it isn’t solely attributed to a graduation from mom’s home-cooked meals to the 4 AM Taco Bell drive-thru. They say alcohol weight gain is common, but does science back this claim?
What is Alcohol?
While alcohol is not a macronutrient (nutrients that provide calories for energy) because we do not need it for survival, it is still a source of calories, so it is important to put it into perspective. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; these macronutrients have four, four, and nine calories per gram respectively. Alcohol provides seven calories per gram – very calorically dense, without providing any nutrients (what is often referred to as “empty calories”) to the body.
How Much is Too Much?
Considering how calorically dense alcohol is, it makes sense that actual weight gain from alcohol consumption depends largely on how much you drink. Research has shown that having one to seven drinks per week (one drink per day, not all seven in one) can actually lower the chance of weight gain, although the reason for this remains a mystery.
On average, a twelve ounce beer contains about 130 calories. The more you drink, the more the calories add up, and the quicker you’ll start to develop the dreaded beer belly. Also, when you are drunk, you are likely to ingest more food (and that Taco Bell drive-thru will call to you).
Stick to one beer, a glass of wine, or one cocktail a day, and you’ll gain all the benefits without the empty calories.