What’ll ya have?
So a guy is trying to lose weight and is looking for ways to cut calories. While he doesn’t want to give up alcohol completely, he knows his weekend six-pack isn’t doing his gut any favors. The solution? He switches to liquor because beer, as everyone knows, is sky-high in calories because of all the carbs. Problem solved!
Sound familiar? Over the years, I have heard this one over and over again. In an effort to lose weight, dieters switch from ‘fattening’ beer to wine or hard alcohol, believing the latter options are more diet-friendly. But are they?
Though alcohol is not a nutrient–something our body requires–it does provide calories. While carbohydrate and protein each provide 4 calories per gram and fat provides 9 calories per gram, alcohol provides 7 calories per gram. This means that while there may be a few calories from carbs, the bulk of the calories in your favorite nightcap are coming from the alcohol itself.
Different drinks have higher or lower percentages of alcohol by volume. Beer, for example, might have around 4-7%; the Merlot on my counter has 13.5%; Jack Daniels has 40%. This also explains why the suggested serving size decreases as the alcohol percentage increases. Furthermore, as the percentages go up, so do the calories. This is why a single serving of beer (12 oz), wine (5 oz), or spirits (1 1/2 oz) all have a similar calorie count–more alcohol, more calories. Below is a short list of a few alcoholic beverages alongside their percentage of alcohol and calorie content.
- 12 oz Bud Light (4.2%) – 110 calories
- 12 oz Hefeweizen (4.9%) – 150 calories
- 12 oz Guinness Extra-Stout (6%) – 176 calories
- 5 oz Champagne (12%) – 95 calories
- 5 oz Sauvignon Blanc (13.5%) – 120 calories
- 5 oz Merlot (13.5%) – 120 calories
- 1 1/2 oz Jack Daniels (40%) – 98 calories
- 1 oz Distilled Vodka (50%) – 82 calories
Now if you’re going to stick to just one or two servings (the definition of moderation) regardless of type, your caloric intake will be roughly equal. But imagine our fellow above decides to swap his usual hefeweizen for a mixed drink, like a Long Island Iced Tea; though both drinks are about the same in volume (12 oz), the latter has more than 500 calories! (So much for saving on calories…) Cocktails, which often have multiple shots of alcohol, are also often high in sugar thanks to the various added mixers, juices, and sodas. Bottom line? If you’re trying to cut calories but still want to raise a glass, limit yourself to just one or two servings and watch-out for those high-calorie add-ins!