Do you love a good glass of wine? If so, you’re not alone, but drinking wine is also linked to the dreaded wine belly.
Wine is one of the most popular beverages in the world. But you may not know that it can also significantly contribute to belly fat. Wine can be fattening, cause belly fat, and cause bloating in the stomach.
But there are still ways you can drink wine while mitigating the damage. For example, you don’t have to completely give up your nightly glass of wine to lose belly fat.
In this blog post, we will explore the link between wine and belly fat and provide tips on reducing the impact that wine has on your waistline.
Does Wine Cause Belly Fat
You’ve probably heard alcohol is bad if you’re trying to lose weight. And you’ve also heard how drinking beer can cause belly fat… but so can wine!
Most of us like unwinding at the end of a long and stressful day with some alcohol. And there are ways to still drink some wine without gaining belly fat.
But it’s also really easy to find yourself with a bloated belly from drinking wine. You can get a wine belly due to a few big reasons…
Alcohol is high in calories.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, almost double the 4 calories per gram of carbs and protein. In addition, a small 5 ounce serving of wine contains over 120 calories, more than a light beer.
3/4 of a bottle of wine contains as many calories as a Big Mac. So if you’re drinking more than a glass or two of wine per night, that’s like eating a Big Mac every night after dinner… gaining weight in the belly wouldn’t come as much of a surprise!
Alcohol is “empty calories” because it provides no nutritional value to your body. No sense of fullness comes with drinking alcohol like you would with eating protein, carbs, or fats. If anything, your body starts craving to eat more calories when drinking alcohol.
Studies have found that drinking alcohol can increase your appetite, with some people taking in 300-400 more calories a day when drinking.1 Consuming too many calories in one sitting can add up quickly.
Wines also contain residual sugars left over from the fermentation process. The drier the wine, the fewer sugars it still has after fermentation. But some cheaper wines even add sugars to increase the flavor.
Alcohol stops fat burning.
Your body sees alcohol as a toxin, so it wants to prioritize metabolizing it so it can process it out of your system fast. So while your liver works to burn these alcohol calories off, it shuts down fat burning in your body.2
So instead of burning off your body fat or carbs, if you’ve eaten early, you’ll be burning off the alcohol first. So whatever you’ve consumed earlier in the day will much more likely be stored as fat, causing you to gain weight in your belly.
And this could take a while, depending on how much wine you’ve drunk. So the more you drink, the longer it’ll take to metabolize the alcohol, and then the easier it’ll be to store what you’ve eaten as body fat.
Most drink wine in the evening with dinner, so it’ll take longer to process the alcohol since you aren’t up and moving around like you were earlier in the day. So sitting down while eating and watching TV reduces your caloric burn, making it even easier to gain weight.
Alcohol makes you eat junk.
Most of us know firsthand what it’s like to eat a lot of pizza or other junk foods after drinking. Alcohol makes you prone to craving high-calorie, high-fat, and high-carb foods.3
It’s a lot harder to make healthy eating choices after you’ve had a few drinks and are now starving. The “drunken munchies” often have us nibbling on cheese cubes when sipping a glass of wine.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes it easier to throw your diet out the window and make poor food choices. Instead, you lower your defenses when buzzed and relaxed, making it too easy to eat unhealthy food.
Alcohol increases blood sugar.
Wine can increase your waist size since alcohol interrupts your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. As you drink alcohol, your body will deplete its liver and muscle glycogen (stored carbs).
Alcohol prevents your liver from producing new glucose, which signals your body to release glycogen. Then, insulin is released from your pancreas to lower your blood sugar levels.6
It’s too easy for your blood sugar to drop to unhealthily low levels making it easier to crave carbs to bring it back up. So if you’ve ever craved pizza or chips when drinking alcohol, this is one reason.
Over time and in excess, this can screw your blood sugar and insulin. Alcoholics have a much higher likelihood of diabetes and pancreatitis from this.7
Insulin resistance and higher circulating blood sugars are driving causes of weight gain and belly fat.8 While small levels of alcohol have been found to improve insulin sensitivity9, drinking too much and making poor food choices can worsen your weight gain.
Can You Lose Belly Fat and Still Drink Wine
Now that you know how wine can give you a big belly, I’ll show you how to still drink wine without gaining weight.
One study10 had people consuming 2000 calories of alcohol daily, so their total intake was 4500 calories. The funny thing is that at the end of the study, the weight gain in this alcohol group was small, if any.
But the group consuming an extra 2000 calories from chocolate ended up having a lot of weight gain from the extra calories in sugar. However, many studies are finding small to moderate drinking of red wine led to no significant weight gain.11,12
Wine contains polyphenols, plant-based compounds packed with antioxidants, and health-boosting nutrients. These polyphenols can reduce inflammation, lower appetite, promote fat burning and even prevent storing extra fat.13
Wine Belly vs. Beer Belly
Many beer-drinking men are well known to get a beer belly. While men are more likely to store excess fat in their stomach area, it’s no secret that drinking too much beer can lead to visceral fat in the belly.14
Why is this? Well, beer is generally higher in carbohydrates, and heavier beers like IPAs contain more calories. Drinking higher-sugar wines will also increase the chances of gaining abdominal fat.
Beer can also be easier to overdrink, and before you know it, a guy can finish a whole six-pack by the end of the game you were watching. Unfortunately, drinking too much wine will cause too many calories that’ll need to be processed while everything else you just ate will be stored as fat.
In the battle of beer vs wine, wine is definitely the winner. But it’s not really the alcohol itself that’s the problem. Drinking some alcohol can be neutral or lead to weight loss when you’re doing it right.
Ultimately, it’s not really the alcohol itself, when consumed in small to moderate amounts, that makes you gain weight. Instead, increases in stomach fat are caused by the following:
- too many calories
- too many sugars/carbs
- binge and excessive drinking
- making poor food choices
- drinking worse kinds of wine
- not exercising or having good diet the rest of the time
So now that you know small to moderate amounts of alcohol doesn’t make you gain weight, let’s talk about how to lose the big wine belly…
How to Get Rid of the Wine Belly
Most people aren’t going to give up their nightly wine altogether realistically. So it’s not reasonable to say stop drinking wine.
One simple and easy method is to lower the calories simply you’re consuming the rest of the day to offset the calories from the alcohol. So if you drink two glasses of wine per night (~250 calories), try eliminating those calories earlier in the day.
Intermittent fasting is a simple dieting method I’m an advocate for. Start a timer after you finish eating or drinking wine for the night. Then 16 hours later, have your first meal at about lunchtime the next day.
Studies have found you can easily skip 550 calories just by using this fasting method.15 To curb hunger in the morning, drink:
- coffee + C8-MCT coffee creamer
- unsweetened green tea
- zero calorie sparkling waters (like Zevia)
- super greens powder
These will help crush the hunger pangs while speeding up your results by accelerating your fat-burning metabolism.
Of course, this doesn’t entitle anyone to think they can drink more later in the day. This will only help with small to moderate drinking, and any benefits are almost all thrown out the window with heavy excessive drinking.
The next way to avoid the wine belly is to limit wine consumption. I’m not saying you have to give it up completely, but if you’re drinking a whole bottle of wine a night, it’s best to cut back.
Two glasses of wine (5 ounces) should be the hard nightly limit. If you have trouble cutting yourself off, try only buying smaller half-sized bottles.
Cutting back on your frequency can help flatten out the wine tummy. Instead of drinking every night, try skipping a few nights here and there.
I have a rule of no drinking Monday-Friday at 5 pm, and then I can have a couple of alcoholic drinks if I want.
But I understand this can cause binging for some, which isn’t going to be good. So if having only a couple of small glasses of wine per night helps keep you straight and steady, stick with that.
Cut the sugars & carbs.
Another tip is to have low-sugar wines to keep your insulin from spiking with alcohol consumption. Higher sugar wines can promote the wine belly, so it’s best only to drink dryer wines.
Red wine is usually the lowest in sugar, while white wine can have up to 65% more sugar. The best alcohol for weight loss will be low in sugar, carbs and fats.
The best lower-sugar red wine varietals include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
And white wines that are usually dryer include:
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Grigio
- Spanish Albariño
Avoid cheaper $10 wines since they usually contain added sugars to improve flavor. The wine producers also add artificial acids to balance the sugars, making it hard to tell.
Dessert wines higher in sugar, such as Riesling, Moscato, Gewurztraminer, and Chenin Blanc. Sparkling wines like champagne also tend to be sweeter than dryer varietals.
If you are going to eat or drink carbs and sugars then try taking a “carb blocker” to blunt the insulin response to keep your body from entering a fat-storing mode.
Limit food eaten.
Early we talked about how alcohol can make anybody have poor food choices. So instead of ordering an extra large pepperoni pizza from Domino’s, try having a ready-to-go meal.
Having your healthy meal readily available to eat will be vital to preventing drunken munchies. Eating before drinking can also help keep you on track and avoid binge eating.
Keeping bad snacks out of the house is a big part of dieting. “Out of sight, out of mind” goes a long way in preventing snacking. So I have a rule that if it’s in the house, you will end up eating it.
If you wait until you’re starving and don’t have a ready-to-go healthy meal then it’s far too easy and tempting to order fast food. If you’re going to drink wine then be sure to prepare yourself for success beforehand.
Wine Belly Before and After
So how long does it take to lose the wine belly?
This will depend on how much you have to lose in the first place. For example, if your wine tummy is relatively large, it will take longer than someone with a smaller protrusion in the stomach area.
But simply by cutting back on your calories, preventing overeating with drinking, and making better wine choices, you could quickly start seeing results within a week or two.
You may not get rid of the wine belly immediately, but you’ll see progress soon. Be sure to use a tape measure to measure the circumference of your wine belly and to track your results.
You’ll get quicker results by exercising and adding a strength training routine. For example, exercise will burn extra calories, and strength training will improve lean muscle mass.
Lean muscle mass is essential for toning and tightening your overall body, not just your stomach. Just losing weight will also result in muscle loss, making you “skinny fat.” This makes your body have a saggy, loose, and mushy consistency.
Wine Belly Exercises
These are some of my favorite exercises for slimming down the waistline. They will crank your heart rate, so you burn fat, but also implement strength training to build lean muscle.
It’s best to use these exercises by implementing them with HIIT workouts. Using high-intensity exercises will crank up your heart rate and burn more fat.
An example would be to do 30 Jumping Jacks, then 20 Mountain Climbers, then 30 Bicycle & Rotates about five times for one circuit.
Then after doing these exercises, doing some cardio will help a lot. You’ll burn through glycogen in the first part of the workout, and your body will start burning fat stores. So doing cardio afterward can burn even more stubborn belly fat.
Cross-Body Mountain Climbers
Do this exercise by starting in a push-up position. Bring one knee up to your chest, quickly switch legs and do the same thing.
Scissor Kick Crunches
Do this exercise by lying on your back. Bring one knee up to your chest, switch legs and do the same thing.
- Lie down on your stomach and put your elbows on the ground.
- Push yourself up so you are resting on your toes and elbows.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
Bicycle & Rotates
- You will need to lie on your back to do the bicycle exercise. Place your hands by your head and bring one knee up to your chest.
- Then switch legs and do the same thing with the other leg. You can also do this exercise by rotating your waist.
- You will need to lie on your back and put your hands by your head.
- Bring one knee up to your chest and rotate your waist so that the other knee comes up to meet it.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down.
- Place your hands on the ground and jump your legs out so you are in a plank position.
- Jump your legs back in and stand up.
Plank to Push-Ups
- To do the plank-to-push-up exercise, you must lie down on your stomach.
- Put your elbows on the ground and push yourself up to rest on your toes and elbows.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Next, go into a plank position by putting your hands on the ground and jumping your legs out to rest on your toes and elbows.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Finally, jump your legs back in.
So, there you have it! The surprising truth about wine and belly fat. While drinking wine in moderation may not be bad for you, overindulging can lead to weight gain – especially around your midsection.
Drinking higher sugar wines and making poor food choices will also make it more likely you get a belly bulge. Limiting your consumption, having a healthy meal, and exercising can slim down that wine tummy fast.
Cutting back on calories earlier in the day is usually the most straightforward method for slimming down the wine tummy. But I know eating less so you can drink more doesn’t sound the greatest and is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
But also keep in mind that if you’re doing everything else right, you can easily afford to have a couple of small glasses of wine per night. Working out, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, etc., all afford you your chosen lifestyle.
If you’re drinking responsibly, living an active lifestyle, and working out hard, you can still slim down the wine stomach while burning fat and gaining lean muscle.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.