Many 22-year olds consider themselves to be veteran drinkers but few of us really ever contemplate the amount of calories we consume when we meet up with coworkers after a long day, binge drink on a Saturday night, or when we check out the newest hip microbrewery in town. Good times also come with consequences related to regretful and forgetful drunk mistakes, lengthy hangovers, and added pounds associated with the empty calories from alcohol. The possibility of being tinged with pain and bitterness is never weighed evenly.
Recently celebrating a best friend’s 21st birthday, she confided in me that alcohol was a major influence in her life, if not the biggest (disregarding the legal drinking age of course). At midnight, she gave her fun birthday toast to alcohol; the partygoers and I all cheered to the liquid substance that we all bonded over since high school. I spent the Saturday preparing for birthday festivities, the biggest challenge happened to be collecting 21 mini bottles of UV Cake vodka to stuff in a tri-colored burro piñata that was to be busted into around 12-midnight that evening.
Never personally trying the cake-flavored vodka, I wasn’t too anxious to try it. My boxed wine habits, of course bad, prevent me from ever stepping outside of my comfort zone, especially with liquor. Yes, I am of Irish heritage, however, I am one to slur my words after one drink with matching bright red cheeks in tow. I never believe in Irish stereotypes anyways. After three attempts at busting the burrow open, our birthday girl pulled him off of his string and kicked it open. We all individually grabbed one of our own mini bottles, and the chugging began. There is no denying the UV cake was vanilla cake flavored, however, there was a large denial in the idea that the vodka was tasty.
These little baby bottles of liquor inspired me to write a blog on the actual calories provided by alcohol and the lack of nutrients that our drink of choice provides. I may not be a connoisseur of fine wines (despite taking a course in college), but I aspire to be one on the calorie contributions of alcohol.
The pinata aftermath…
My favorite picture from the night!
I’ve learned most of my alcohol-calorie information from the book, “Why Calories Count”, by the acclaimed author, Marion Nestle. The book is a wonderful read if you’re interested in food science as well as learning a basic understanding of what a calorie really is, can you actually answer that yourself?
The definition of a calorie that is used by chemists is:
One calorie is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree centigrade, from 14.5 degrees to 15.5 degrees, at one unit of atmospheric pressure.
The furthest derived definition given by Nestle, which I prefer is:
100 calories is the amount of heat needed to bring a quart of water to the boiling point.
The famous food scientist, Wilbur Atwater and his colleagues in 1902 discovered by use of bomb calorimeter, that alcohol contributed 6.9 (7.0) calories per gram. They also discovered that alcohol calories were also metabolized differently than calories provided by food.
Calories, in a nut shell, are units of heat energy.
No history lesson can be taught without a math lesson in there as well, right?
If the percent of alcohol (proof) is known, it is easy to determine the alcohol calories in your favorite wine, beer, or hard liquor.
Calories = Percent alcohol x number of ounces x 30 ml/ounce x 0.8 g/ml x 7 cal/gram
For practice, I will calculate the amount of calories in UV Cake vodka. This may not be the best example because it is higher in sugar than most hard liquors and lower in alcohol percent, but just for fun.
UV Cake is 30% alcohol or 60 proof (hard liquors normally are 40% or 80 proof). I am calculating the amount of alcohol calories in one shot or 1.5 ounces.
Alcohol calories = 0.30 x 1.5 ounces x 30 ml/ounce x 0.8 g/ml x 7 cal/gram
Alcohol calories = 76,
Mind you, this does not account for total calories related to the carbohydrate in the shot. Traditional hard liquors have no calories from carbohydrate but 5 oz. of wine has on average 20 calories and 12 oz of beer normally has 50 calories from carbohydrate.
|Drink||Total Calories||Calories from CHO||Calories from Alcohol|
|12 oz of Beer||150||50||100|
|5 oz of Wine||120||20||100|
|1.5 oz Hard Liquor||100||0||100|
Drink alcohol in moderation! However, many of us know this can be difficult for some.Not all of use are lucky enough to be woken up at 11 am the next morning by their best friend with a lox-bagel sandwich (hey, it was my day to sleep in!). A good hearty breakfast always does the trick!
Be safe and smart with your alcohol choices; white wine may be lower in calories than red, but whites do not have the same proven heart-boosting effects as reds. Weigh your options, and have fun while staying hydrated!