You may wonder whether liquor is off the list when you're trying to lose weight. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, which is more calorie-dense than protein and carbs, so it's wise to limit your intake. But certain liquors make better choices than others when you're counting calories.
Dietary guidelines suggest you drink alcohol in moderation, which means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men -- where one drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Liquor Calories and Your Diet
Given that alcohol is calorie dense, liquor with a higher percentage of alcohol, referred to as proof, is also higher in calories. That means a 100-proof alcohol has more calories than an 80-proof alcohol. This goes for wine and beer, too, except alcohol is measured as a percentage in wine and beer, not as proof. However, it's important to note that, while alcohol content is a good indicator of calories, it doesn't count the extra calories from added sugar, such as those in liqueurs and cordials.
While you might be able to have a drink or two at a party, liquor can make it harder for you to lose weight. When you have a drink, the liver metabolizes the alcohol first, which can inhibit fat metabolism and burning. Alcohol also increases your appetite and may weaken willpower, possibly leading to poor food choices and overeating.
When you're trying to save calories on your adult beverages, go with 80 proof liquor. A 1.5-ounce serving of 80 proof vodka, gin, rum or whiskey has 75 calories, while the same serving of 100 proof has 90 calories. That 15-calorie difference may not seem like much. But if you have one drink of the 100 proof liquor every day for a year, the extra 15 calories may turn into an added 1 1/2 pounds. All calories count when you're trying to lose, especially empty calories from liquor.
Most cocktails are high in calories, but a few might fit into your low-cal diet, such as a 2-ounce martini made with gin and dry vermouth, which has 120 calories. A Manhattan made with whiskey, dry vermouth and bitters also makes a low-cal option with about 130 calories per 2.1-ounce drink. The minty mojito -- with rum, lime juice, mint and a touch of sugar -- may also fit the bill with about 140 calories per 6-ounce serving.
Calories in Drink Mixers
Liquor is one part of the calorie equation, but when you're trying to cut calories, also consider the mixers you use in your drinks. Adding 8 ounces of pineapple juice to your 1.5 ounces of liquor adds another 130 calories. Even 8 ounces of tonic water adds an extra 80 calories to your drink. Instead, add water with ice or club soda to your liquor -- all zero calories. Use a spritz of lemon or lime for flavor. Or, go half and half with your juice and seltzer water if you need a little sweetness. As a rule, though, it's best to avoid sweet mixed drinks such as an amaretto sour or a margarita, which may have 300 to 400 calories in a 6-ounce drink.
Beer and Wine Calories
If you can't drink your liquor without one of your favorite mixers, consider instead a glass of light beer or wine. A 12-ounce light beer has 110 calories, and a 5-ounce glass of white or red wine contains 100 to 105 calories. Be careful with sweet dessert wines, however, which pack more than 300 calories per 5-ounce serving. Dry dessert wines are a little better, but still not low-cal at 200 calories per 5-ounce serving.
- University of Georgia: Alcohol Facts
- Middle Tennessee State University: Analyzing the Beer Belly
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Estimated Caloric Content of Alcoholic Beverages
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Pineapple Juice, Tonic Water, Club Soda
- American Council on Exercise: Fit Facts: The Caloric Expense of Alcohol During the Holidays
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol Calorie Calculator