So is beer more fattening than wine, or does it not even make a difference?
I know it can be confusing trying to find which one is better for your health and your waistline. Many wine-drinking advocates swear it’s way better for you but it can be confusing what to believe. The last thing you want to do is start drinking one and think it’s the better choice when it really isn’t.
In some ways, alcohol can contribute to weight gain and in other ways, it doesn’t make much of a difference. A lot is going to depend on what else is in the alcohol that will cause it to be fattening. Confusing I know…
But here you’ll discover the definite answer on whether it is better to drink wine or beer when it comes to your health and which one is more fattening.
Beer vs Wine Differences
A single serving of wine is typically 5 oz. which contains on average 12% alcohol. A typical serving of beer usually comes in a 12 oz. pour or can and only contains about 5% alcohol. So with a little math, this means both a glass of wine and a can of beer contain 0.6 oz. of alcohol per serving.
But if you ask most people who drink wine they’ll tell you they feel “less filling” than the person drinking a beer. This can encourage more drinking by the wine drinker than the person drinking beer. Most are a little shocked to see an actual 5 oz. pour of wine after measuring it out… it’s smaller than you’d think!
What’s in the rest of the wine you’re drinking depends on the varietal of wine. If it’s a dryer wine then it’s going to contain few sugars. But there are other varietals of wine that are much higher in sugars. Sugar has been heavily linked to weight gain so if you’re drinking a sweet wine with higher sugar content then switch to a low sugar one (1).
Beer typically contains a good amount of carbohydrates. Consuming too many extra carbs in your diet can lead to weight gain (2). This is one of the reasons drinking wine, in the long run, can be better for your pant size since it contains fewer carbs. Plus beer contains gluten which some studies have linked to weight gain (3).
Since beer is carbonated it might fill you up better than wine. And then you might be more likely to discontinue drinking after a beer or two. But on the other hand, carbonation can also stimulate the “hunger hormone” ghrelin which could lead to the desire to consume and eat more (4). This is one reason why sparkling waters might not be all that great for you. But many other factors could lead to increases in ghrelin not mentioned in this study such as poor sleep, bad diet, and high stress (5,6).
Health Benefits of Beer and Wine
The most well-known health benefit of red wine is resveratrol. It’s a polyphenol that works as an antioxidant and it’s found in the skin of grapes. More recent research has found the sirtuins in resveratrol are effective in slowing the aging process by extending lifespans and reversing metabolic diseases (7,8).
Numerous studies have also found drinking wine to be effective in lowering inflammation (9,10). Chronic inflammation in the body has been linked to numerous diseases including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes (11,12,13). The resveratrol in wine is largely responsible for this powerful anti-inflammatory effect.
Drinking wine has also been correlated with lowering the incidence of heart disease and improving cardiovascular health. The polyphenols and antioxidants in wine are largely responsible for helping to improve heart health. Some studies suggest drinking wine can help to lower blood pressure but other studies are finding it won’t (14,15).
Most people don’t know beer has an equal amount of antioxidants as wine but beers aren’t as powerful. Wine gets its antioxidants from resveratrol while beer gets its antioxidants from flavonoids produced by hops.
Beer contains a higher amount of protein and B vitamins than wine. Studies have found drinking beer can help improve good cholesterol by raising HDL levels (16). Having higher HDL cholesterol can help to remove harmful LDL cholesterol as plaque can build up in your arteries (17).
Stronger beers can also help to improve your gut health since it contains soluble fiber. This kind of fiber ends up helping to slow the digestion of food which in effect helps to slow sugar spikes too. Stronger beers are usually fermented twice which improves the number of healthy gut bacteria (18).
So Is It Better to Drink Wine or Beer
At the end of the day with all things being equal drinking wine is going to be less fattening than beer. The mere fact that beer contains a higher amount of carbs and calories will cause you to gain weight more than drinking wine.
With that said you still have to make sure the wine you’re drinking doesn’t contain a lot of sugars. Drinking high sugar sweet wines will inevitably cause weight gain too.
You’d be surprised how many cheaper wines you’ll find on store shelves contain residual sugars. Instead, find a slightly pricer and high-quality dry wine (>$15). Dry wine means the yeast in the fermentation process has eaten all the sugars.
Dryer wine varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sweeter wines to stay away from including dessert, late harvest, and some sparkling varietals.
If you are drinking beer no matter what then it’s best to stick with light or low-carb beer. We’ve all heard of the beer belly you’d get from drinking too much beer and studies have found heavy beer drinking does cause it (19). Cutting out alcohol is an effective way to get rid of visceral belly fat. Keep your beers light so you can keep the belly tight.
Some also believe the hops in beer can contain phytoestrogens. This can possibly cause hormonal disruptions in men that can cause them to get the dreaded “man boobs.” Some argue these phytoestrogens go away during the fermentation process or are so low it wouldn’t make a difference (20,21). But drinking alcohol, in general, can cause men to have lower testosterone levels too (22).
What is the best alcohol to drink when on a diet?
Your body processes the calories from alcohol differently than it does from calories from protein, carbs, and fats. The alcohol is processed in your liver into acetate which it first uses as an energy source to be burned off (23). But while this is happening your body shuts down burning off calories and fat from the rest of your body.
So the more you’re drinking alcohol your body won’t be losing weight. The trick is to keep your drinking down with only 1-2 servings a day max. Then add in daily exercise to help your body burn off the alcohol so it can go back to burning off fat instead.
The best alcohol for weight loss is going to be ones that don’t contain any excess sugars, carbs or extra calories. This includes a lot of mixed drinks like Long Islands or Pina Coladas. If you’re dieting then I’d stick with a small glass of dry wine or if that’s not up your alley then an alcoholic seltzer. It’s best to cut down on alcoholic beverages if you’re drinking too many with some of my favorite drinks for weight loss.
The Last Word
At the end of the drinking, too much alcohol, in general, is going to be fattening. If you want to keep the pounds off then it’s going to be critical to make sure you’re keeping your daily servings of alcohol low.
While low daily drinkers of alcohol haven’t been linked to weight gain but heavy drinkers are. Plus when drinking too much it’ll affect your quality of sleep. Drinking too much before bed can disrupt sleep patterns and prevent your body from reaching deep REM sleep (24).
If you’re drinking a bottle of wine a night or a six-pack of beer every day then that’s going to be fattening. After drinking alcohol use intermittent fasting the next day to burn off those excess calories.
While a dry wine is going to be less fattening than drinking a beer you still have to factor in other lifestyle factors. Make sure you’re eating a clean healthy diet, working out consistently, getting enough sleep, and keeping your stress levels down.
Even a glass or two of wine or beer will end up adding pounds to your waistline if the rest of your diet is a mess. I like to tell my clients they have to earn their alcohol by working out and eating clean throughout the rest of the day. Then having a small glass or two of wine is a fun reward at the end of the day and it won’t be fattening.
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 strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.