Does beer really cause a beer belly?

That infamous paunch that many like to blame on beer is often the butt of a joke when it comes to having a large stomach, but is beer really to blame? Does beer really cause a beer belly?

Beer guzzlers around the globe may be happy to learn that beer in itself is not the cause of that large inflated stomach, but an excess of calories in general. While beer consumption does not help, since the average beer contains 154 calories and very few beer drinkers have only one, large bellies in both men and women are the result of too many calories in general.

But it doesn’t end there. An 8.5-year study that involved 7,876 men and 12,749 women showed that men were at a 17 percent higher risk of waste circumference gain than their female counterparts. The overall conclusion of the study, beer consumption leads to a thicker mid-section.

What causes a hard beer belly? Too many calories. An overabundance of food portions, sugar consumption, mindless snacking and alcohol are all factors that add to your daily calorie intake.

A Mayo Clinic doctor in Minnesota says, “In general, alcohol intake is associated with bigger waists because when you drink alcohol, the liver burns alcohol instead of fat.” And don’t forget about all the snacks you eat when you drink beer. That too, adds to your calorie overload.

When we eat more calories than we burn in a day, our bodies store the rest as fat. Where that fat is stored depends on our sex, age and hormones.

For example, women tend to store fat under their skin (subcutaneous fat), which is why you will sometimes see flabby arms, butts, thighs and bellies, but men have less subcutaneous fat, which means their fat is often headed straight for the belly.

This is also the reason older men are the ones to have the shed over their tools, if you will. They’ve had more years to store fat and generate that often hard paunch of a beer belly we see walking around back yard barbecues.

Hormones also play a role for both aging men and women, who with hormone decreases, tend to store more fat around the middle.

How can I drink beer without getting a beer belly? There are ways to enjoy a cold one without worry. Drink less alcohol by avoiding things like binge drinking and opt for light beers that offer less calories. You can limit the amount of beer you drink in a day or have a few only on weekends.

You can also reduce that specific calorie intake by eating a good healthy meal before you head out. Showing up full will curb the urge to snack while you drink.