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Does wine make you gain weight?

Examining the connection between wine and weight gain.

Does Wine Cause Weight Gain? Unveiling the Truth | Juniper

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably partial to the occasional (or regular) glass of vino.

But while the benefits of drinking wine — the antioxidant factor, heart-health support, and simply taking the edge off after a rough day — are pretty well-known, what might not be so evident is whether there’s a link between wine and your weight.

Namely, whether wine makes you put on weight. Let's find out.

How does alcohol lead to weight gain?

Before we get into how alcohol consumption can cause weight gain, it’s worth mentioning that the research on the correlation between the 2 is still a little inconclusive [1].

Some research has shown that there’s a positive association between alcohol and weight gain (i.e. it does put on weight), some that there’s a negative association (it could protect against weight gain), and other research that there’s no association at all.

You also have to remember that various types of alcohol, as well as how much you drink, can have different effects on your body. One review, for example, found that light to moderate drinking isn’t connected to weight gain, while heavy drinking is [2].

The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol in a week, spread across at least 3 days [3]. For women, having more than 6 units of alcohol on their heaviest drinking day is considered heavy or binge drinking [4].

All of this is to say that alcohol could absolutely cause weight gain, but it’s not a total given. With that in mind, here’s how alcohol has the potential to make you put on weight

It can be high in empty calories

If you’re not yet familiar with the concept of empty calories, they’re simply calories that provide very little to no nutritional value. Pure alcohol is particularly high in energy, containing about 7 calories per gram (that's 29 kilojoules) — and all of them are empty [5].

This means that when you drink excessively, you’re consuming a lot of calories and your body isn't getting much (if anything) in return.

It can make you feel hungrier

Despite being high in calories, alcohol doesn’t do much to fill you up. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.

Ever felt insatiably hungry after a big night out? A 2011 study found that alcohol actually stimulates the nerve cells in the brain that control food intake in the same way hunger does [6].

Similarly, it affects the way your body secretes certain hormones that regulate your appetite. A 2008 study concluded that alcohol slows down leptin secretion, which is the hormone that helps you feel full [7].

It can affect your judgement

When that hunger sets in, you’re unlikely to reach for a bowl of lentils. Instead, cravings for salty, fatty, and sugary foods are much more common alongside a heavy drinking session. Alcohol impacts your judgement, making you more likely to give in to those cravings and reach for foods we know can contribute to weight gain.

This often continues the next morning, too, when nothing but a B&E roll will cure that nasty hangover. Being hungover can also cause you to drop your usual morning exercise routine — because who really wants to go for a run with a throbbing headache?

It inhibits your body’s fat-burning abilities

When you drink alcohol, it can get in the way of your body’s ability to burn fat. Your liver starts working overtime to remove the alcohol in your system, so it puts a temporary pause on processing other things like food.

This means that while your body is getting rid of alcohol from your system, the energy from anything you eat doesn’t get used up and is often stored as fat.

Does wine make you gain weight?

Wine is just like any other type of alcohol. If you drink wine in moderation, it’s unlikely to directly contribute to weight gain. But it becomes more of a culprit if you drink it heavily — that is, more than 10 drinks per week or more than 4 in a single day.

One thing that works in wine’s favour is that it does offer some benefits, particularly red wine. Numerous studies have shown that moderate red wine consumption can help lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease [8][9].

Plus, several wine varieties don’t have as many calories compared to sugary drinks like some cocktails and even full-strength beer. 

That being said, it can be very easy to drink a lot of wine without really being aware — who hasn’t split a bottle with a friend over dinner and not given much thought to it? — and research shows that the negative effects of excessive wine drinking override the benefits [10].

So, while having the odd glass from time to time isn’t likely to impact your waistline (and could, in fact, support your heart health), drinking too much wine can definitely lead to weight gain.

How many calories are in a glass of wine?

The energy content in wine really comes down to the variety. Many white wines, for example, are lower in calories than heavier reds, as well as sweet wines. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the high sugar content of dessert wines gives them a higher calorie count.

Here’s what you can expect in a standard serving of wine (usually about 150ml) and, for comparison’s sake, other popular alcoholic beverages [11].

  • Alcohol-free wine: 9 calories (37 kj)
  • Prosecco: 80 calories (334 kj)
  • Champagne: 95 calories (397 kj)
  • Light beer (1 350ml can or bottle): 103 calories (430 kj)
  • Riesling (white): 118 calories (493 kj)
  • Sauvignon blanc (white): 119 calories (497 kj)
  • Pinot noir (red): 121 calories (506 kj)
  • Semillon (white): 121 calories (506 kj)
  • Cabernet sauvignon (red): 122 calories (510 kj)
  • Merlot (red): 122 calories (510 kj)
  • Shiraz (red): 122 calories (510 kj)
  • Pinot gris (white): 122 calories (510 kj)
  • Chardonnay (white): 123 calories (514 kj)
  • Rose: 126 calories (527 kj)
  • Sangiovese (red): 126 calories (527 kj)
  • Burgundy (red): 127 calories (531 kj)
  • Mojito: 137 calories (573 kj)
  • Full-strength beer (1 350ml can or bottle): 153 calories (640 kj)
  • Dry dessert wine: 157 calories (656 kj)
  • Bloody Mary: 164 calories (686 kj)
  • Sweet dessert wine: 165 calories (690 kj)
  • Gin & tonic: 189 calories (790 kj)
  • Cider (1 350ml can or bottle): 199 calories (832 kj)
  • Long Island iced tea: 241 calories (1008 kj)
  • Daiquiri: 268 calories (1121 kj)
  • Margarita: 274 calories (1146 kj)
  • Old fashioned: 295 calories (1234 kj)
  • Pina colada: 340 calories (1422 kj)

Wine belly vs beer belly

You’re probably familiar with beer belly (extra weight around the midsection caused by excess beer intake), but what about wine belly? Is there a connection between belly fat and wine consumption?

There is some research that shows wine and beer have different effects on weight gain. A 2022 study found that beer and spirit drinkers put on more weight around their abdominal area than red wine drinkers, and that red wine may even protect against abdominal weight gain due to its anti-inflammatory effects [12].

That being said, excessive alcohol consumption of any kind — be it wine, beer or spirits — can lead to weight gain. And in most cases, where it ends up on your body comes down to things like sex, genetics, age, hormones, height, and weight.

How to approach drinking alcohol while losing weight

You don’t necessarily have to give up booze entirely if you want to lose weight — it’s simply about being conscious of what and how much you drink. 

Drink moderately

The research around alcohol and weight gain tends to focus on excessive drinking and alcohol abuse, with very little evidence indicating a link between moderate alcohol intake and putting on weight. 

Your best bet is to stick to no more than 1 alcoholic beverage per day if you’re trying to lose weight [13]. See if you can pour smaller glasses, too, to reduce portion sizes even more.

If you’re planning to have a few drinks, you could also alternate with glasses of water to reduce your overall alcohol consumption. (Bonus: the hydration boost might even help prevent a nasty hangover!)

And remember, the calories in booze contribute to your overall total. So if you’re keeping track of your calorie intake, don’t forget to factor it in.

Be smart about your drink choices

You can definitely stick to your nightly glass of wine while you’re trying to lose weight. But, you could also consider a lower-calorie option, like a vodka soda or light beer. 

Lighter spirits such as tequila, vodka, and gin tend to contain fewer calories, as do mixers like soda water and fresh lemon or lime juice. Sugary cocktails, on the other hand, are often incredibly high in (empty) calories.

Eat before you drink

It can be really tempting to skip dinner to compensate for the extra calories. But, if you drink on an empty stomach, you’ll be more likely to get hungry after a big night. Enjoy a nutritious meal before heading out and you may find you can stave off the late-night cravings.

Jump on board a weight loss program

If you need extra support on your weight loss journey, especially if you’re trying to curb your drinking, you could consider a dedicated weight loss plan like Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme.

The Weight Reset Programme combines breakthrough medication that helps to regulate digestion, decrease appetite and helps to change your relationship with food.

Health coaching is also used to assist you with lifestyle changes including sticking with a routine and a support system of other women on the journey with you, so you feel less alone.

One-on-one health tracking is used to give you a personalised experience where weekly check-ins with your health practitioner are used to track your physical, mental, and biometric health, always making adjustments to suit your individual needs. If you want to be supported through every step of your weight loss journey, this is how to do it.