When you plan a night of tipping back a few drinks with some friends, determining who will be the designated driver shouldn't be your only consideration. Alcoholic beverages are packed with calories, which is something you need to keep in mind if you're trying to lose weight or you just want to avoid weight gain. Although every type of alcoholic drink can be fattening in certain instances, small servings of spirits and wine are typically your best bets.
Alcohol and Fat Gain
For an alcoholic drink to lead to fat gain, it must contribute to elevating your caloric intake over your caloric expenditure, which is a state called a caloric excess. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, unlike carbohydrates and proteins, which have 4 calories per gram, and fat, which has 9 calories per gram. Despite the calories in alcoholic drinks, you won't gain any fat as long as you exercise frequently while closely monitoring your caloric intake to ensure that your expenditure exceeds your intake. Consuming alcohol occasionally in moderation increases your odds of avoiding alcohol-related fat gain.
You can't deem one type of alcohol less fattening than another without considering the standard serving sizes. Per serving, sherry has the fewest calories of any standard alcoholic drink, with 75 calories in 2 ounces, according to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. A 4-ounce serving of champagne is also low in calories, with 84. Port, with 90 calories per 2-ounce serving, is another low-calorie choice, while spirits such as vodka and whiskey have 97 calories per 1.5 ounces. However, the calories rise significantly when you add a soft drink or juice to make a mixed alcoholic drink. Alcohol, juice and soda do not contain fat, but if you mix your alcohol with cream then you may be taking in saturated fat in addition to the calories from alcohol.
Standard Alcoholic Drinks
If you aren't fond of sweet wines or spirits, you might typically order beer or wine. As its name indicates, light beer is a lower-calorie choice than regular beer, with 103 calories in 12 ounces, compared to 153 calories per 12 ounces of regular beer. The difference in calories between red and white wine is minimal; a 5-ounce serving of white wine has 121 calories, while the same serving of red wine has 125 calories.
High-Calorie Choices and Moderate Consumption
Several alcoholic drinks are packed with calories, which won't help your waistline. A 9-ounce pina colada, for example, has 490 calories, while mixed drinks such as a margarita, a Manhattan, a cosmopolitan and a mojito all have at least 140 calories per serving. To reduce the chance of fat gain that results from alcohol consumption, limit your daily intake to no more than two drinks if you're a man and one drink if you are a woman. A moderate intake of alcohol also reduces your risk of alcohol-related illnesses, such as liver disease.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.