Alcohol and Weight Loss: Bartender, Give Me Another Round of Calories

Millions of Americans are involved in some sort of weight loss diet and between 65-75% of them are drinking alcohol.  A vast majority of them are not counting those calories.  The simple truth is that calories from alcohol are absorbed faster than from any other source.

This is not an anti-alcoholic article, but it is time that you take a closer look at what you are putting into your mouth.  Current research shows that a small amount of wine consumed every day actually lowers the chance of breast cancer among women, but over a certain amount, the effects are reversed.

When you consume alcohol, the associated sugar usually is absorbed even before it gets to your stomach.  Ethanol is absorbed quickly into our system, along with it is many of the associated sugars in that fancy drink you are holding. Some athletes will mix a small amount of alcohol with their carbohydrates during actual long duration events to expedite the absorption of the calories.

The liver filters all alcohol, it is then processed through the bloodstream further and then it passes through the kidneys for waste.  Right there is another proof positive that it is processed quickly.  Think about how long after you drink, until you have an overwhelming desire to use the restroom.

The US has been drinking alcohol since the first settlers set foot on Plymouth Rock.  Presidential campaigns literally use to solicit votes by enticing voters with free alcohol.  Medicinally the use of alcohol has been tossed back and forth, but it still remains as the number one used drug today.

It’s no wonder how we all get sucked into consuming more liquor than we should.  You can literally get it about anywhere and so called; “blue laws” banning the sale of alcohol on Sundays is getting scarce.

Add to that the fact that most Americans “hide” their alcohol consumption in many ways, including calorie counting.  I see people starve themselves all day long only to slam down several drinks at a bar after work.  Then I hear, well I don’t understand why I’m not losing weight.  So let’s do some calorie calculation and find out what is really happening.

Starting with the lowest calorie of any alcohol is vodka at a basic 65 calories per ounce.  Now if you have to drink, this is the smartest way to start.  A smart trick is to take some zero calorie artificially flavored sweeteners to your favorite local pub.

Ask for a vodka and water and add your own secretly stored mixture and watch the questions fly from your local bartender. Blue coloring is very popular and really stumps everyone.  You are still consuming 65+ calories, but at least, you aren’t getting the additional calories from all the normally added flavoring such as cola, grenadine, sour mix, lemon sour, eggnog, half and half, juices, hot toddy, margarita, daiquiri, mojito, etc.

Here is a table of the more common liquors and wines and their common calorie contents.

Drinks Amount Calories
Vodka 1 shot (1 ounce) 65
Scotch 1 shot (1 ounce) 65.5
Rum 1 shot (1 ounce) 66
Tequila 1 shot (1 ounce) 68
Brandy 1 shot (1 ounce) 69
Whisky/Moonshine 1 shot (1 ounce) 69
Champagne 1 glass (5 ounce) 97
White Wine n/a 70
Red Wine n/a 105
Beer 12 ounce 95-110
Whiskey sour 1 glass (5 ounce) 125
White Wine Sweet 1 glass (5 ounce) 135
Margarita 1 small glass (5 ounce) 157
Screwdriver 1 glass (5 ounce) 180

Now let’s “get real” for a second.  I have been to the bars and I’ve bounced many of them in my younger years, so I’ve seen you all drink and the average consumption of nightly alcohol is roughly between 500-1500 calories.  That margarita, for example, I’ve seen it delivered in a 20-ounce glass and that is 628 calories and that is a loaded cheeseburger.

Also, consider that once you pass the blood alcohol level of .01, not only are intoxicated and unsafe to drive, but also your protein metabolism grinds to a halt, just like what happens with a poisonous snake bite.  That is the complete opposite of what any healthy athlete or fitness-minded person wants.  Worse yet, it can take several days to reverse the damage.  So is it worth it?

About the Author: Dr. David Ryan

Dr. David Ryan has an extensive background in both coaching and playing professional sports, and has been the team physician for several highly ranked teams. Dr. Ryan now serves as the current Co-Chairman of the Arnold Sports Festival ( and is a former Medical Director of this internationally acclaimed event.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.