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Alcohol, Calories and Health

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 21 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Alcohol Calories Weight Calorific

Becoming aware of the effects of alcohol on your body includes being alert to the calorie content of what you drink, because many of us forget to calculate in the calories that are contained in our daily tipple when we consider our overall dietary intake.

Hidden Calories

One of the problems with alcohol is that the calories are ‘hidden’. All alcohol is created by fermenting, and often distilling, natural starches and sugars to produce alcohol and although it doesn’t always taste that way, all alcohol is high in sugar. Pure alcohol has seven calories per gram.

The ‘hidden’ effect comes in because that sugar isn’t sweet in the way that we perceive sweetness. A good dry sherry doesn’t taste sweet, and nor does a malt whisky, but both are astonishingly high in calories. A gram of distilled booze (any spirit) contains at least seven calories, while a gram of carbohydrate generally contains around four calories – you can see how the weight soon piles on at that rate!

Cocktails are the worst culprit for swift weight gain because the combination of liqueurs with spirits, and blended with often high-sugar fruit juice and some kind of carbonated liquid to make it taste fizzy (and incidentally, to deliver the alcohol more swiftly to the bloodstream) is a disaster zone for those who are hoping to lose weight.

Why Alcohol Causes Swift Weight Gain

The calories in alcohol are also empty calories – while our bodies need almost everything else that we eat or drink, because it contains protein and fats as well as carbs and vitamins and minerals., alcohol contains almost none of these necessary nutritional elements. Also, alcohol consumption encourages the body to store fat and sugar rather than burning it up in healthy ways.

Calorie Contents Of Common Alcoholic Drinks

These are approximate calorie contents – remember that any drink depends on the actual alcohol by volume and what you mix it with, which can add a lot of calories too.

  • 1 glass of red wine (150ml at 10% ABV) = 82 calories
  • 1 glass of white wine (150ml at 11% ABV) = 105 calories. White wine is often higher in calories because a special blend of sugars from ‘fortified’ grapes may be added to give depth to the flavour
  • 1 Bloody Mary (150ml) = 211 calories
  • 1 glass of champagne (150ml) = 105-180 calories if it’s dry or ‘brut’ (remember, the sweetness of a drink actually is no indication of its calorie content, sweet champagne could actually be less high in calories than dry champagne)
  • 1 bottle of beer (330ml) = 125-200 calories
  • 1 measure of gin (80ml) = 177 calories
  • 1 measure of whisky (40ml) = 100 calories

Calculating Alcohol And Calories

You won’t always know what the calorie content of your drinks might be. There is a way of working it out, but it might be easier to do the sums when you’re not drinking, as it requires quite a lot of concentration.

To find out the amount of calories in a drink, establish the ABV (alcohol by volume)percentage which must be listed on the bottle by law and volume of the drink and perform the following equation: Find the alcohol content in grams = (ABV multiplied by 0.8 multiplied by the volume in centilitres) then divide it by 10 to establish the grams. 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. So 20 cl of wine at 15% ABV (15 X 0.8 X 20) divided by 10 = 24g alcohol. Multiply by the calorie level of 7 per gram and you get 168 calories

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