Drinking your calories

We have a close friend who always says, "No dessert for me; I'd rather drink my calories." Now she's fairly slender and doesn't drink to excess, but today I heard a story from another writer about a visiting relative and her drinking and eating patterns that made me look up data on calories in alcoholic beverages.

I do drink, almost always wine and very rarely more than two to three standard-sized glasses a week. I've had reaction to Cabernet in the past and don't like dry white wines, so these days I usually prefer sweet Riesling or, if I'm elsewhere and the only white wine offered is Chardonnay, I'll have a glass of Merlot or Shiraz.

There are some medical data I've read in the past few years that talk of health benefits from wine, especially red wine. The term "in moderation" is always attached; there are obviously lots of medical concerns with excess alcohol consumption.

The story I heard today is of a woman who typically has at least two or three drinks, gets a little tipsy and then starts munching on snacks. She's not going to be driving, so that at least is something positive, but I wondered about her calorie intake.

Let's start with wine. Five ounces of Chablis is 120 calories, according to several references I found. A dessert wine, sweeter by a considerable measure, may weigh in at 165 calories. Twelve ounces of a light beer gives you 100 calories; a regular beer 150 calories.

Then there are rum, vodka, tequila and gin, all offering at 80 proof (40% alcohol), 100 calories per ounce and a half shot. Mixed drinks up the ante. A frozen margarita is 246 calories and a Daiquiri 314 calories.

In one of my posts I talked about cutting your calorie intake by 50 calories per day. That adds up, over the course of a year, to losing five pounds. If you add 50 calories of exercise (and don't eat extra) you can lose ten pounds in a year. Those numbers are approximates, as 3,500 calories is the equivalent of a pound. So 100/day x 365 days equals 36,500 calories or somewhat over ten pounds.

Now go the other direction. If you eat the same amount as usual, but add a glass of wine a day, you can gain ten pounds or more in a year. If  you typically have a mixed drink or two, we're talking weight gains of twenty pounds or more. And that's before the snacks. No wonder some people who think they eat a fairly healthy diet and complain they can't lose weight, turn out to be "drinking their calories" and still eating dessert as well.

4 Responses to “Drinking your calories”

  1. Matt says:

    I'm not so convinced that a glass of wine would lead to the weight gain suggested. There was a study of red-wine drinking women that suggested alcohol calories are not the same for weight gain as non-alcohol calories. What do you think?

  2. Peter Springberg says:

    Matt, can you let me know where that study was published so I can try to find a copy and read it. I used to proofread and critique articles (this was many years ago when I was a research fellow) for two highly regarded journals. I quickly learned that making a statement wasn't the same as showing it was true.
    I've always thought a calorie is a calorie, but I'd like to see the data that says it's untrue in some cases.

  3. Matt says:

    Here's the abstract:


    Looking into the more detailed write-up, it seems like the non-alcohol calories show a much stronger correlation to weight gain than do the alcohol calories.

  4. That makes sense to me and I've seen similar comments elsewhere since. Again we're talking about light to moderate alcohol consumption in people without an alcohol problem.


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