Once or twice a week, we'll go out and enjoy the occasional cocktail or two at happy hour, pairing it with a side of chips and guac for our taste buds. While half of us guilt-trip ourselves to the gym, the other half boasts about never gaining a beer belly (or butt) after drinking during the week. In awe we ask ourselves, "Does drinking help shrink belly fat?"

Alcohol has been portrayed as the waistline enemy; it contains empty calories and no nutritional value. Ethanol (alcohol) supplies food energy, but it doesn't contain significant traces of vitamins and minerals that contribute to our diet. This means our body burns it off first, so any remaining calories in our stomach — whether they're from a cocktail or the chips and guac — will be stored as fat.

So why do some drinkers tend to lose weight?

Alcohol And Weight Loss: The Moderate Drinker

The relationship between alcohol and weight has more to do with how often and how much we drink. A 2010 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found women who had one or two alcoholic drinks a day were less likely to gain weight than those who didn't drink. These women lost weight despite consuming more calories overall from food and drinks than both heavy drinkers and nondrinkers.

The researchers suspect the bodies of long-term moderate drinkers somehow adapt to metabolize alcohol differently than others.

“They use more energy, burning the calories in the drink—or even more than that—while digesting it,” Dr. Lu Wang, lead author of the study and an instructor in medicine Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston told Women’s Health.

She believes the body adjusts metabolically to the amount we drink, so if we don’t drink regularly, our body is unable to adjust. Rather than disregarding alcohol’s nutritionally empty calories, the body automatically stores it as fat. Meanwhile, moderate drinkers will gain the least weight, regardless of their alcoholic beverage of choice.

Moderate drinkers also tend to be more conscious of what they eat, or have more weight control. The study found these women also tend to exercise more, which negates the additional calories they consume and eat when drinking.

Glass Shape

Researchers are still trying to figure out how and why this happens, but they also noted these women drank no more than two four-ounce glasses of wine or two 1.5-ounce shots of alcohol a day. By comparison, we’re likely to be served more alcohol than that either poured by ourselves or a waiter/bartender. Previous research found when people pour into short-wide glasses, they generally pour about 30 percent more than in tall-slender glasses. On average, people consume 92 percent of what they serve themselves. Glass shape can influence our perception.

Alcoholism-Induced Weight Loss

Unsurprisingly, alcohol abuse can lead to an unhealthy, significant amount of weight loss.

One of the main causes of weight loss with alcohol abuse is the impact the alcohol has directly on the body.

Alcohol can trick the stomach to feel full, therefore this makes us less likely to consume food and nutrients. Therefore, consuming more than one drink daily, on a regular basis, can lead to an increase in stomach acid. This may result in dyspepsia, and possibly include isolated or chronic vomiting or upset stomach, according to the Healthline. Alcohol also targets the liver, so if the liver becomes inflamed, enlarged, or fails to secrete toxins, it can shut down and stop working.

In short, yes alcohol can help us lose weight, but not in the way we think.

The problem is not drinking, but how often and how much of it we have.