When seeking to lose weight, a really common point of confusion is whether or not alcohol contains calories. Is alcohol consumption going to inhibit your weight loss progress?
You may have heard that beer and wine contain excess carbohydrates (which they do)...but what about the alcohol content? What about a mixed drink? What about a shot of vodka?
Well the answer is, yes, alcohol does contain calories. A lot in fact. Here's a comparison of how dense alcohol is in calories relative to carbohydrate, protein and fat:
- Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Fat: 9 calories per gram
- Alcohol: 7 calories per gram
So in effect, alcohol is nearly double the caloric density of carbohydrate and protein...almost equivalent to that of fat! When it comes to weight loss (which is a function of consuming less calories than what you expend), alcohol is a very significant inhibitor to the realisation of this goal.
You may have heard that certain drinks are better or worse for you to consume if you are losing weight, due to varying calorie densities. Whilst the alcohol itself is quite dense in calories, often the carbohydrate and fat content can be significantly heightened from additives in your cocktail. For example, the addition of soft drink, juice, cream or cordial will significantly increase the total calories in your drink. Here are a few actual examples of how many calories are contained within each alcoholic drink:
- 1 glass of red wine = 69.4 cal
- 1 schooner of beer = 155.5 cal
- 1 shot of vodka = 60.8 cal
- 1 corkscrew (vodka orange, short tumbler) = 134.1 cal
- 1 tequila sunrise = 173.8 cal
- 1 vodka cruiser = 176 cal
- 1 Baileys/Kahlua/Frangelico & cream based cocktail = 931 cal
To put these numbers into perspective, a schooner of beer is similar to two slices of bread. A schooner of beer and a glass of red wine is a sandwich with a generous portion of meat and plenty of salad. Just one creamy cocktail is about 4-5 sandwiches worth!
But don't be fooled - there are many more high-quality nutrients contained within a meat and salad wholegrain sandwich as compared to two drinks! Your body can actually use these nutrients effectively, whereas the majority of calories contained within the beer and wine will be "empty" calories.
These figures from above were pulled off our food nutritional information database and you can search up all other types of alcoholic drinks here to compare.
If you are drinking, ensure that you drink sparingly. I often suggest to my personal training clients that they enjoy a few drinks every now and then, but in conjunction with a well balanced nutritional intake. It is important to recognise that whilst alcoholic drinks are extremely dense in calories and will inhibit weight loss, you also need to consider your general lifestyle (including the social aspects to your life) when seeking to lose weight.