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Temporary Weight Gain After Drinking Alcohol: What’s Going On There?

Have you ever stepped on the scale after a night out drinking and noticed a higher number than expected? 

It’s not just you; many people experience temporary weight gain after consuming alcohol. This can be a confusing and frustrating experience, especially if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight.

Alcohol can cause weight fluctuations for several reasons. We’ll focus primarily on the factors contributing to (seemingly) rapid weight gain.

Does Alcohol Make You Weigh More The Next Day?

Yes and no.

After a night of heavy drinking, you might notice the scale tipping a bit higher the next day. This weight fluctuation is usually not due to fat gain, however. It’s a combination of two main factors: water retention and disruption of the digestive system.

a woman's feet on a scale after a night of drinking
temporary weight gain after drinking alcohol

1. Alcohol Leads To Water Retention and Bloating

When you drink alcohol (especially in large amounts), your body tends to hold on to water. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages your body to lose more water through urination. 

When that happens, your body may try to hold on to as much water as possible. This causes water retention and bloating, which can result in a temporary increase in weight when you step on the scale the following day.

2. Alcohol Disrupts Digestive System

Alcohol consumption can also interfere with your digestive system. It may slow down the digestion process and cause temporary gastrointestinal disturbances such as gas or constipation. These disruptions contribute to a feeling of heaviness and can make your weight measurement a bit higher than usual.

Remember, these effects are usually temporary, and the additional weight is often not from increased body fat, but from fluid and digestive changes.

Other Factors That Influence Weight Change After Drinking

While water retention, bloating, and digestive issues are the primary culprits of (seemingly) overnight weight gain, there are other factors that exacerbate those hangover pounds. 

1. What and How Much Did You Drink?

Alcohol’s caloric content varies by type. Beer, hard cider, sugary wine – they can all pack a powerful caloric punch. Liquor is generally lower in calories, but here’s the thing about that.

Mixers.

When you mix drinks with sugary sodas or juices, those calorie counts can soar. The amount you drink matters too—more drinks mean more calories, which can add up to temporary weight gain. 

Will it contribute to overnight weight gain? If we’re talking fat, no. But how your body processes these drinks can contribute. 

Still, these factors do contribute to a longer-term connection between alcohol and weight gain

2. Your Individual Metabolic Responses

Your metabolism plays a key role in how alcohol affects your weight. 

Some people may experience a slowdown in metabolism with alcohol consumption, making it harder for their bodies to burn calories efficiently. This response can vary greatly from person to person, and it’s important to recognize that your own metabolic reaction to alcohol could be different than your friend’s.

3. What You Eat During and After You Drink 

Have you ever noticed how after a particularly boozy happy hour or late night at the bar you feel absolutely ravenous? 

Like you could devour an entire pizza (maybe you even did).

There are a few reasons for that.

  • Alcohol can stimulate nerve cells in the brain’s hypothalamus that increase appetite and lead to some pretty intense cravings for junk food. 
  • Drinking can cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop, which also stimulates the brain to feel hungry and crave the most calorie-dense foods it can find (oh hey, junk food again).  
  • Drinking affects your judgment. Sober you might not order and consume enough greasy takeout at 1 a.m., but drunk you certainly would. 

All of these can lead to long-term weight gain and contribute to the bloating and digestive issues that cause weight gain after a night of drinking. 

A woman tugs at excess belly fat over her jeans
bloat and weight gain after drinking alcohol

How To Avoid Gaining Weight The Day After Drinking 

The easiest solution would be to just not drink. But if you must, you can try these strategies. 

1. Stay hydrated. 

Keeping well-hydrated is so important when consuming alcohol – for a variety of reasons. Aim to drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages to reduce dehydration and help curb excessive drinking. This habit not only keeps the calories in check but also assists your body in metabolizing alcohol more efficiently.

But that only works if you also incorporate tip #2. 

2. Don’t Drink Too Much (a.k.a. Mindful Drinking Habits)

Be aware of what and how much you’re drinking. 

Avoid high-calorie mixers; opt for seltzer or lime to add flavor without the extra sugars. Stick to one or two drinks and be mindful of your pace. 

Now if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written here, you’ll know that I don’t think moderation works for most people. 

A lot of people struggle to quit drinking once they start, so even if you have great intentions of sticking to practical drinks and cutting yourself off after two drinks, in reality, it might not be so easy. 

Once the alcohol starts impairing your judgment and behavior, it’s a whole other ballgame. 

3. Eat Well and Stay Active

If you want to fight that post-drinking bloat and digestive distress, one of the best things to do is get back on track as soon as possible. 

Don’t lay around the house nursing your hangover and ordering more takeout. 

Force yourself to choose nutrient-dense food, lots of water, and get moving – even if it’s just a walk for fresh air. 

Bloating can result from the inflammation alcohol causes in the stomach and may last a few days, or longer depending on your body and the amount of alcohol consumed.

Temporary Weight Gain After Drinking Alcohol: The TL;DR

Did you gain five pounds after a night of drinking? The thing is – you probably didn’t. Those extra numbers on the scale are likely a result of bloat, water retention, and a digestive system that’s not firing on all cylinders. 

But if you drink heavily like that every night or even multiple times per night, you may find that weight gain sticks around, even when you’re not drinking or recovering from drinking.

Wondering about your drinking?

The following quiz is called the AUDIT, which is short for Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. It’s used by medical professionals to assess your risk for alcohol dependence. Curious about how your drinking habits stack up? Take the assessment.

This is not an official medical diagnosis nor is it medical advice. Rather this is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or concerns, share your results with your doctor.

Welcome to your Alcohol Use (AUDIT) quiz

1. 
1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

2. 
How many units of alcohol do you drink on a typical day when you are drinking?

A unit of alcohol is one standard drink. Examples of one standard drink include:

  • 12 oz can of beer with about 5% alcohol
  • 5 fl oz of wine (roughly 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fl oz shot of spirits like vodka, rum, or whiskey (about 40% alcohol)

3. 
How often have you had 6 or more units if female, or 8 or more if male, on a single occasion in the last year?

4. 
How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?

5. 
How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?

6. 
How often during the last year have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

7. 
How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

8. 
How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

9. 
Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

10. 
Has a relative or friend or a doctor or another health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?

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