Watching your weight doesn't have to mean that you can't have any fun. Here's everything you need to know about the carbs in vodka and its calorie content.
One drink (1.5 fluid ounces) of 80 proof vodka contains 97 calories and zero carbohydrates, according to the USDA.
Carbs in Vodka
Vodka is made from fermented grains like wheat, rice, rye, corn or sorghum, although it can actually be distilled from any other plant that contains sugar or starch, like potatoes, grapes or sugar cane.
Despite the fact that it's made from foods that are rich in carbohydrates, vodka itself doesn't contain any carbohydrates. The fermentation and distillation process removes all the carbohydrates and what's left is just ethanol (alcohol) and water. Flavored varieties of vodka contain added flavorings but those usually don't affect the carbohydrate or caloric value of vodka.
Vodka can be compatible with low-carb or no-carb diets like the paleo diet or the Atkins Diet, provided it is not mixed with sugary drinks or accompanied by junk food like fries or chips.
Read more: Which Is Healthier: Beer or Hard Alcohol?
Calories in Vodka
Though it doesn't contain any carbs — or any protein, fat, vitamins, minerals or fiber for that matter — vodka does have calories. This is because alcohol itself has calories. One gram of pure alcohol has 7 calories, per the USDA.
To help you put that in perspective, the USDA states that 1 gram of fat has 9 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories and 1 gram of protein has 4 calories as well. So pure alcohol contains almost double the number of calories in carbohydrates and protein and almost the same number of calories as fat.
Read more: How Bad Is Alcohol for Weight Loss?
So how many calories does your drink have? One drink, or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof vodka, contains 97 calories. This calorie count tends to be similar across most brands of vodka and applies to most flavored varieties of vodka as well.
Because the calories in vodka are derived from alcohol, the number of calories in your vodka drink depends on the potency of the vodka, which is based on the ratio of ethanol and water in the drink. Alcohol bottles list the potency of the drink in either percentage terms or proof terms.
For example, 80 proof alcohol is 40 percent alcohol, whereas 100 proof alcohol is more potent because it is 50 percent alcohol. The rest of the fluid is water. You can figure out the percentage of alcohol in the drink yourself by dividing the proof value in half.
Alcohol bottles also sometimes list the percentage of alcohol using a unit called "ABV" which is "alcohol by value." A label that says the bottle has 30 percent ABV means it contains 30 percent pure alcohol and 70 percent water.
Keep in mind that higher proofs or percentage values of alcohol not only have more calories but also have a greater effect on your blood alcohol levels.
Read more: Does Drinking Alcohol Slow Your Metabolism?
Comparing Vodka to Other Spirits
Vodka is a lower-calorie choice than other alcoholic beverages like wine and beer because it contains fewer calories per serving. The USDA defines one serving of distilled spirits, like vodka, with 40 percent alcohol as 1.5 fluid ounces, one serving of wine (12 percent alcohol) as 5 fluid ounces and one serving of regular beer (5 percent alcohol) as 12 fluid ounces.
One serving of vodka has 97 calories and zero grams of carbs, notes the USDA, whereas one serving of beer has 153 calories and 12.6 grams of carbs. One serving of red wine has 125 calories and 3.84 grams of carbs, and one serving of white wine has 121 calories and 3.82 grams of carbs.
When it comes to distilled spirits, however, vodka is on par with the other spirits like whiskey, gin, tequila and rum, according to the USDA. These spirits don't have any carbs either and their calorie content is derived from alcohol as well. This means there are the same number of calories and carbs in gin, whiskey, rum and tequila as there are in vodka.
However, some brands of rum add spices and sugar to the drink to flavor it, and that can lead to a higher calorie content and a higher number of carbs in the rum.
Read more: Calories in Beer, Wine, Vodka and Whiskey
Vodka and Weight Loss
The calories you consume every day are expected to deliver the nourishment that your body needs in terms of macronutrients like carbs, fats and proteins and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. The calories in alcohol are considered to be empty calories because they deliver no nutrition, notes a study published in April 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health.
The study found that alcohol consumption was linked to weight gain and obesity; the chances of obesity were significantly higher with increased consumption of alcohol. However, the authors of the study note that they didn't take into account the calorie content of the mixers, which may have played a significant role.
The British Nutrition Foundation recommends making your drinks with mixers that don't have sugar to help limit the number of calories you're consuming. Water and club soda are zero-calorie options, and you can add either a dash of lemon or a slice of cucumber or orange to your drink to give it some flavor.
Read more: How Many Calories in a Vodka Soda?
Flavored vodkas can also be a good alternative since they have the same number of calories as regular vodka. You can just add a little water or club soda to them and you're all set. That way, you don't need to add mixers like soda, tonic water or fruit juice, all of which have additional calories.
Grapefruit, raspberry, cranberry, blueberry, lime, orange, pear, peach, pepper, cherry, mango, apple, pineapple, peppermint, grape, vanilla, coconut and caramel are just some of the many flavors of vodka that are available.
The USDA recommends limiting your alcohol intake to up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. The guidelines state that any calories you consume from alcohol should be budgeted for within your daily allowance of calories.
- USDA: “Alcoholic Beverage, Distilled, All (Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey) 80 Proof”
- USDA: “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans”
- USDA: “Alcoholic Beverage, Beer, Regular, All”
- USDA: “Alcoholic Beverage, Wine, Table, White”
- USDA: “Alcoholic Beverage, Wine, Table, Red”
- American Journal of Public Health: “Association Between Alcohol Calorie Intake and Overweight and Obesity in English Adults”
- British Nutrition Foundation: “Calories in Alcohol”