Despite its name, beer is not the only culprit behind the infamous beer belly. Research from the beer-loving Czech Republic tells a different story. In a study of nearly 2000 adults, beer consumption was not related to circumference. Drinking beer is often associated with increased body fat, particularly around the abdomen.
This is commonly referred to as a “beer belly”. Alcohol consumption will increase the total calories we consume each day. The calories in alcohol are “empty calories”, meaning they have little nutritional benefit. Therefore, consuming extra calories through drinking can lead to weight gain.
The beer belly is a commonly used term, but it is not only beer that contributes to the gut. Instead, it is a general lifestyle of eating fatty foods, not exercising, and generally not maintaining a health-conscious lifestyle. So why does beer give you a beer belly specifically? Well, the answer boils down to two things: gender and age. After about 35 years of age, most men's metabolism begins to decline.
While men tend to put weight on their bellies, fat stores usually go in the back and hips for women. Getting rid of a beer belly requires a combination of diet and exercise, and it may take longer to get rid of it than putting it on. It seems that moderately drinking one beer a day (or less) is not related to having a “beer belly”. Despite the popular belief that beer tends to go directly to the belly, it seems that the high-calorie drink contributes to weight gain throughout the body.
In the long term, drinking beer on a regular but moderate basis in servings of less than 17 oz (500 ml) per day does not seem to lead to an increase in body weight or belly fat. The risk of weight gain may be even higher in people who are already overweight compared to people of normal weight who drink beer. The strength of a beer depends on the amount of alcohol it contains, which is measured as alcohol by volume (ABV). Beer itself is quite calorific, with around 150 calories per unit.
So why is beer fattening? Well, that starts to seem obvious. Beer drinkers around the world tend to grow bellies, especially as they get older and especially if they are men. The caloric content of beer depends on its concentration: the more alcohol it contains, the more calories it contains. Weak abdominal muscles combined with extra mass inside the abdomen that push out result in a rotund beer belly for men.
Increasing physical activity is essential to losing the beer belly because visceral fat tends to mobilize first during exercise. Beer bellies tend to be more prominent in older people because as you age, your caloric needs decrease and you often become less active; gaining weight becomes easier. Beer bellies are more prominent in men as they age because the body goes through physiological changes. Visceral fat responds better to a healthy diet than to exercise, so drinking alcohol and consuming too many calories are the main causes of beer belly.