Calories In Alcohol

November 12, 2012

Calories In Alcohol

Many people are under the misapprehension that beer causes weight gain but other alcoholic drinks are alright. They think that taking a hard spirit with a slim line mixer is fine. Well it may have fewer calories than a pint of beer or lager but it still has a lot of calories. Did you know that a standard serving (25ml), such as vodka or gin (37.5% ABV) is about 55 calories. Drink three of them and it’s the equivalent of a small sausage roll or a chicken drumstick. So if you like a few drinks before your evening meal then you’ve eaten an extra drumstick every day. That’s an extra 365 chicken legs you have consumed every year! If you do not have a zero calorie option mixer then you can add to that.

If you are a wine drinker then you should realise that one standard 175 ml glass of white wine weighs in at 130 calories, red wine is slightly better at 120 calories. If you are a wine buff who drinks four glasses in an evening, then you have just ingested over 500 calories. That’s over a quarter of a women’s recommended daily calorie intake according to the UK Government. That’s the equivalent of 2 beans on toast and a chicken drumstick every day. To use up these calories every day you would have to cycle for over an hour or run at 8 miles per hour for 40 minutes.

If you only drink one glass of red wine per day then at the end of the month your body has taken in 3,600 calories from alcohol. A beer drinker consuming one pint of beer a day would intake 5,700 calories, that’s the same as having an extra sticky doughnut everyday.

In the UK the NHS recommends:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day

  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day

They further define regularly as “drinking this amount every day or most days of the week”. The table below shows the relationship between drinks and units.



Lager (standard) 1 pint (4% ABV)


Beer (standard) 1 pint (4% ABV)


Red wine 175 ml (11% ABV)


White wine 175 ml (11% ABV)


Spirit 25 ml (37.5ABV)


Cider (pint) (5% ABV)


Alcopop (330ml) (5% ABV)


In addition to drinking, many tipplers have snacks too. Pubs in the UK are renowned for unhealthy, but very tasty snacks at the bar. Crisps and roasted peanuts are very high in calories too and are commonly eaten whilst drinking.

Some myths have sprung up such as brewing or distillation causes all of the sugar to turn into alcohol. Hence the drink is, if not healthy, at least not fattening. This is a misunderstanding. To understand the process one must first realise that all drinks such as beer, cider, wine and spirits are made from natural starch and sugar, very high calorific values. The fermentation and distillation processes do produce alcohol from the sugar but the alcohol now contains all of the calories. This clarifies why alcohol has lots of calories. It’s actually seven calories a gram that is nearly the same as pure fat.

How to Avoid Gaining Weight

The most obvious way to avoid gaining weight is to keep to the government recommended daily limits. If you are finding that too hard then the British Nutrition Foundation has produced some tips. Don’t drink more than the daily recommended units and don’t drink regularly will save lots of calories. To stop snacking whilst you drink ensure that you’ve eaten before going out, and eat a healthy meal. If you do need to eat when you are in the pub then avoid crisps and nuts and try a chicken sandwich but avoid the mayo and sauces.

Other tactics to avoid gaining weight if you are a drinker are to alternate your drinks, have one alcoholic drink and then a water, this slows down your alcohol intake and has the benefit that it will help to stop you becoming dehydrated. Don’t drink in rounds, you can end up drinking more than planned and don’t be a “binge drinker”. Your recommended units are per day they cannot be saved up for the Friday or Saturday night! If you drink wine then add soda to make ‘spritzers’. This way you can limit your alcohol intake without cutting back on the drinks. Try to slow yourself down by taking small sips and finally, if you really are determined to cut down then enlist the help of a friend. You will be more likely to succeed with moral support.


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