It’s no secret that we’re still not living in the easiest of times, and many people turned have turned to a glass or two of alcohol during the evening as a way of unwinding after a crazy day. And with the state of the world as it is, no one can blame you. And even if relaxing with a drink isn’t your thing, many people find it easy to get into the habit of daily drinking because of social obligations or time spent at happy hours with coworkers. If alcohol on a daily basis is your thing, you may be curious to know how drinking a beer (or two) every night can impact your body and overall health.
First, let’s discuss what is considered to be “one beer.”According to the CDC, a standard drink is 12 ounces of beer—which is also equivalent to five ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. When researchers and other experts talk about one drink per day, this is the size they’re most likely referring to. Unfortunately, this means your beloved pint of beer is a bit more than the recommended moderate amount.
If you’re in the habit of drinking beer every night, you may still be under the CDC’s limit of “moderate drinking.” However, this doesn’t mean it comes without side effects. Read on to learn what our registered dietitians list as the potential side effects of drinking a beer every night. Then, check out the 5 Drinking Habits That Will Wreak Havoc on Your Metabolism.
You’ll be consuming empty calories
Depending on the type of beer you drink, you may be consuming hundreds of empty calories in one sitting.
“This, of course, can be an innocent habit at first, but it can lead to weight gain, especially if your beer enjoys the company of snacks,” says Elizabeth Huggins, RDN, at Hilton Head Health.
For example, some of your fancier, flavored beers are going to have higher calorie counts. A Bud Light Lime-a-Rita has 220 calories per 8 ounce can, and a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale has 318 calories per 12 ounce bottle. According to the National Health Society, the average pint of beer is the caloric equivalent to one chocolate Mars bar.
The National Library of Medicine also claims that because alcohol is full of empty calories—meaning it carries zero nutritional value—it may contribute to weight gain. Although they do agree that one drink a day for women and two for men is considered “moderate,” they recommend drinking even less if you’re wanting to lose weight. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Public Health states that alcohol may be a “sizable factor” in gaining weight—especially for men, because their oftentimes more likely to drink beer.
It can impact your gut—in positive and negative ways
On top of beer leading to empty calorie consumption, this beverage has also been known to interact with your gut health, and research actually shows both potentially positive and negative side effects of regular beer consumption.
“Drinking beer consistently may cause bloat and can irritate your digestive tract,” says nutritionist Katie Boyd, MS. “It can make your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can turn into inflammation of the gut lining. This can have long-term side effects like gastritis.”
According to Alcohol Research, larger amounts of alcohol can lead to inflammation and damage of the gastrointestinal tract. But, interestingly enough, a new study published in Agriculture Science & Technology found that daily beer consumption may actually have the ability to improve diversity in the gut microbiota. This research study was small and used only 22 male participants, so it’s most likely too early to claim that beer drinking is good for your gut. But, it’s certainly interesting and something beer lovers will want to keep an eye on!
It might impact your sleep
Alcohol is also known to negatively impact your natural sleep cycle.
“The more you drink and the closer it is to bedtime, the more likely you will experience diminished sleep quality,” says Huggins. How so? “Alcohol in beer causes gastric acid to be secreted and could increase your chances of suffering from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux, which in addition to being unpleasant, can also negatively impact sleep,” she says.
While having a few beers may lead you to think you are sleeping well, it’s most likely poor sleep quality, which is less restorative. “Unfortunately, poor sleep interferes with mental functioning and our energy levels the next day,” says Huggins.
Boyd agrees. “Drinking too much beer can lead to sleep disruption because it causes your insulin to spike in the middle of the night if you consumed it later in the day, thus waking you up. In the morning, you may feel groggy,” she explains.
One more thing to consider
If you’re going to continue your nightly beer habit, experts recommend you chase it with some water.
“One of the simplest things you can do to improve your body’s vitality and keep it running smoothly, is getting your recommended intake of water,” says fitness trainer Corey Calliet. “It aids in the body’s recovery, detoxification, and elimination processes.” On top of that, drinking water consistently throughout the day can also curb cravings and keep you from eating excess calories.
So, there you have it. While drinking beer every day may relax you during tough times, there are some significant side effects to consider, including empty calorie consumption, poor sleep, potential gastrointestinal inflammation, and possibly even better gut diversity.
A previous version of this story was published on June 21, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links.