Chronic ethanol consumption disrupts whole-body lipid metabolism. Here we tested the hypothesis that regulation of triglyceride homeostasis in adipose tissue is vulnerable to long-term ethanol exposure. After chronic ethanol feeding, total body fat content as well as the quantity of epididymal adipose tissue of male Wistar rats was decreased compared with pair-fed controls. Integrated rates of in vivo triglyceride turnover in epididymal adipose tissue were measured using (2)H(2)O as a tracer. Triglyceride turnover in adipose tissue was increased due to a 2.3-fold increase in triglyceride degradation in ethanol-fed rats compared with pair-fed controls with no effect of ethanol on triglyceride synthesis. Because increased lipolysis accompanied by the release of free fatty acids into the circulation is associated with insulin resistance and liver injury, we focused on determining the mechanisms for increased lipolysis in adipose tissue after chronic ethanol feeding. Chronic ethanol feeding suppressed beta-adrenergic receptor-stimulated lipolysis in both in vivo and ex vivo assays; thus, enhanced triglyceride degradation during ethanol feeding was not due to increased beta-adrenergic-mediated lipolysis. Instead, chronic ethanol feeding markedly impaired insulin-mediated suppression of lipolysis in conscious rats during a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp as well as in adipocytes isolated from epididymal and subcutaneous adipose tissue. These data demonstrate for the first time that chronic ethanol feeding increased the rate of triglyceride degradation in adipose tissue. Furthermore, this enhanced rate of lipolysis was due to a suppression of the anti-lipolytic effects of insulin in adipocytes after chronic ethanol feeding.