You may wonder whether liquor is off the list when you're trying to lose weight. According to UCLA, alcohol has 7 calories per gram, which is more calorie-dense than protein and carbs, so it's wise to limit your intake. Consider your options when choosing the lowest calorie liquor.
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, according to the American Heart Association.
Liquor of any type (gin, vodka, whiskey and rum) has roughly the same caloric content. However, 80-proof alcohol has fewer calories than 100-proof. Calories also vary based on what the liquor is mixed with.
Liquor Calories and Your Diet
Liquor calorie content is similar across all types — calories in gin are the same as those in vodka. 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.
Read more: How Bad Is Alcohol for Weight Loss?
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 97 calories, while the same serving of 90 proof contains 110 calories and 100 proof has 124 calories. These calorie differences may not seem like much, but 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 2.5-ounce Cosmopolitan which has 146 calories, or a 2.25-ounce traditional martini clocking in at 124 calories, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
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 125 calories. Even 8 ounces of tonic water adds an extra 84 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 a piña colada, which can supply almost 500 calories in a 9-ounce drink, according to the NIAAA.
Read more: Alcohol and Fat Burning
Consider Lowest Calorie Alcohol Options
If you can't drink your liquor without one of your favorite mixers, consider one of the lowest calorie alcohol options, such as a glass of light beer or wine. Although regular beer contains approximately 150 calories, a 12-ounce light beer has closer to 68 calories, and a 5-ounce glass of white or red wine contains 120 to 125 calories. Be careful with sweet dessert wines, however, which pack more calories than their red and white counterparts.
- UCLA: "Calories Count"
- American Heart Association: "Alcohol and Heart Health"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Alcoholic Beverage, Distilled, All (Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey) 80 Proof"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Alcoholic Beverage, Distilled, All (Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey) 90 Proof"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Alcoholic Beverage, Distilled, All (Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey) 100 Proof"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Pineapple Juice, Canned, Not From Concentrate, Unsweetened, With Added Vitamins A, C and E"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Premium Tonic Water"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Alcoholic Beverage, Beer, Regular, All"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Alcoholic Beverage, Beer, Light"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Alcoholic Beverage, Wine, Table, Red"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Alcoholic Beverage, Wine, Table, White"
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Alcohol Calorie Calculator"