Alcohol, Calories & Weight

Alcohol contains calories, but drinking alcohol doesn't lead to weight gain, according to extensive medical research, and some studies report a small reduction in weight for women who drink.1

The reason that alcohol doesn't necessarily increase weight is unclear, but research suggests that alcohol energy is not efficiently used.2 Alcohol also appears to increase metabolic rate significantly, thus causing more calories to be burned rather than stored in the body as fat.3 Other research has found that the consumption of sugar decreases as the consumption of alcohol increases.4

Whatever the reasons, the consumption of alcohol is not associated with weight gain and is sometimes associated with weight loss in women. The medical evidence of this is based on a large number of studies of thousands of people around the world. Some of these studies are very large; one involved nearly 80,000 and another included 140,000 subjects.5

The following list presents the calories, carbs and fat found in standard servings of both alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages.

Beverage Calories Carbs (grams) Fat (grams)
Alcoholic
Beer (regular) 146 13.13 .000
Beer (lite) 99 4.60 .000
All Distilled Spirits (rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, bourbon, etc.) 97 0.00 .000
Wine (red) 125 3.5 .000
Wine (white) 120 3.5 .000
Non-Alcoholic
Apple juice (unsweetened) 117 28.96 .273
Apricot juice 140 36.11 .226
Carbonated cola 155 39.77 .000
Grape juice (unsweetened) 155 37.84 .202
Grapefruit juice (unsweetened) 94 22.13 .247
Lemonade 131 34.05 .149
Milk (2% fat) 122 11.41 4.807
Orange juice (unsweetened) 112 26.84 .149
Prune juice 182 44.67 .077
Tangerine juice (unsweetened) 125 29.88 .098
Tomato juice 41 10.30 .122
  • Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16-1. Available at www.nal.usda.gov/.

The moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with better health and longer life than is either abstaining from alcohol or abusing alcohol. However, heavy drinking is associated with cirrhosis of the liver, breast cancer, and other health problems. The key word is moderation.

Learn more about
Alcohol and Health

What is Moderation?

Moderate drinking has been described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as a man consuming four drinks on any day and an average of 14 drinks per week. For women, it is consuming three drinks in any one day and an average of seven drinks per week.

Standard Drinks and Alcohol Equivalence

Learn what they are and why they'’re very important.

A standard drink is:

Remember that the alcohol content of standard drinks are equivalent [learn more about Alcohol Equivalence]. A drink is a drink is a drink. To a breathalyzer, they're all the same. For more, visit Standard Drinks.

Most countries define moderation at higher levels of consumption than does the US. For example, Australia, Italy and France consider from three to over four drinks per day for men to be moderate drinking. People are all different. To decide what level is appropriate for you, consult your doctor.

The material on this site is for information only and is not advice.

Readings on Drinking Alcohol, Calories and Weight

  • Breslow, R.A., and Smothers, B.A. Drinking pattern and body mass index in never smokers: National Health Survey, 1997-2001. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2005, 161(4), 368-376.
  • Colditz, G., et al. Alcohol intake in relation to diet and obesity in women and men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991, 54, 49-55.
  • Cordain, L., et al. Influence of moderate daily wine consumption upon body weight regulation and metabolism in healthy free living males. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1997, 16(2), 134-139.
  • Hellerstedt, W. L., et al. The association between alcohol intake and adiposity in the general population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1990, 132(4), 594-611.
  • Istvan, J., et al. The relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and body weight, International Journal of Epidemiology, 1995, 24(3), 543-546.
  • Jequier, E. Alcohol intake and body weight: a paradox. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999, 69, 173-174.
  • Kahn, H. S., et al. Stable behaviors associated with adults' 10-year change in body mass index and the likelihood of gain at the waist. American Journal of Public Health, 1997, 87(5), 747-754.
  • Klesges, R. C., et al. Effects of alcohol intake on resting energy expenditure in young women social drinkers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 59, 805-809.
  • Landis, W. E. M.. Alcohol and energy intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995, 62(suppl.), 11015-11068.
  • Liu, S., et al. A prospective study of alcohol intake and change in body weight among US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 140(10), 912-920.
  • Mannisto, E., et al. Reported alcohol intake, diet and body mass index in male smokers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1996, 50, 239-245.
  • Mannisto, S., et al. Alcohol beverage drinking, diet and body mass index in a cross-national survey, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 151, 326-332.
  • Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(Suppl. 5), S44-S50.

References

  • 1. Kahn, H. S., et al. Stable behaviors associated with adults' 10-year change in body mass index and the likelihood of gain at the waist. American Journal of Public Health, 1997, 87(5), 747-754; Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(Suppl. 5), S44-S50; Liu, S., et al. A prospective study of alcohol intake and change in body weight among US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 140(10), 912-920; Hellerstedt, W. L., et al. The association between alcohol intake and adiposity in the general population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1990, 132(4), 594-611.
  • 2. Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(Suppl. 5), S44-S50.
  • 3. Klesges, R. C., et al. Effects of alcohol intake on resting energy expenditure in young women social drinkers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 59, 805-809.
  • 4. Colditz, G., et al. Alcohol intake in relation to diet and obesity in women and men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991, 54, 49-55.
  • 5. Jequier, E. Alcohol intake and body weight: a paradox. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999, 69, 173-174; Kahn, H. S., et al. Stable behaviors associated with adults' 10-year change in body mass index and the likelihood of gain at the waist. American Journal of Public Health, 1997(5), 747-754; Mannisto, S., et al. Alcohol beverage drinking, diet and body mass index in a cross-national survey, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 151, 326-332; Cordain, L., et al. Influence of moderate daily wine consumption upon body weight regulation and metabolism in healthy free living males. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1997, 16(2), 134-139; Mannisto, E., et al. Reported alcohol intake, diet and body mass index in male smokers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1996, 50, 239-245; Landis, W. E. M.. Alcohol and energy intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995, 62(suppl.), 11015-11068; Istvan, J., et al. The relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and body weight, International Journal of Epidemiology, 1995, 24(3), 543-546; Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(suppl. 5), S44-S50; Liu, S., et al. A proscriptive study of alcohol intake and change in body weight among US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 140(10), 912-920; Klesges, R. C., et al. Effects of alcohol intake on resting energy expenditure in young women social drinkers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 59, 805-809; Colditz, G., et al. Alcohol intake in relation to diet and obesity in women and men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991, 54, 49-55; Hellerstedt, W. L., et al. The association between alcohol intake and adiposity in the general population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1990, 132(4), 594-611; Breslow, R.A., and Smothers, B.A. Drinking pattern and body mass index in never smokers: National Health Survey, 1997-2001. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2005, 161(4), 368-376.
  • Kahn, H. S., et al. Stable behaviors associated with adults' 10-year change in body mass index and the likelihood of gain at the waist. American Journal of Public Health, 1997, 87(5), 747-754; Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(Suppl. 5), S44-S50; Liu, S., et al. A prospective study of alcohol intake and change in body weight among US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 140(10), 912-920; Hellerstedt, W. L., et al. The association between alcohol intake and adiposity in the general population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1990, 132(4), 594-611.
  • Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(Suppl. 5), S44-S50.
  • Klesges, R. C., et al. Effects of alcohol intake on resting energy expenditure in young women social drinkers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 59, 805-809.
  • Colditz, G., et al. Alcohol intake in relation to diet and obesity in women and men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991, 54, 49-55.
  • Breslow, R.A., and Smothers, B.A. Drinking pattern and body mass index in never smokers: National Health Survey, 1997-2001. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2005, 161(4), 368-376;Jequier, E. Alcohol intake and body weight: a paradox. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999, 69, 173-174; Kahn, H. S., et al. Stable behaviors associated with adults' 10-year change in body mass index and the likelihood of gain at the waist. American Journal of Public Health, 1997(5), 747-754; Mannisto, S., et al. Alcohol beverage drinking, diet and body mass index in a cross-national survey, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 151, 326-332; Cordain, L., et al. Influence of moderate daily wine consumption upon body weight regulation and metabolism in healthy free living males. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1997, 16(2), 134-139; Mannisto, E., et al. Reported alcohol intake, diet and body mass index in male smokers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1996, 50, 239-245; Landis, W. E. M.. Alcohol and energy intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995, 62(suppl.), 11015-11068; Istvan, J., et al. The relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and body weight, International Journal of Epidemiology, 1995, 24(3), 543-546; Prentice, A. M. Alcohol and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 1995, 19(suppl. 5), S44-S50; Liu, S., et al. A proscriptive study of alcohol intake and change in body weight among US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 140(10), 912-920; Klesges, R. C., et al. Effects of alcohol intake on resting energy expenditure in young women social drinkers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994, 59, 805-809; Colditz, G., et al. Alcohol intake in relation to diet and obesity in women and men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991, 54, 49-55; Hellerstedt, W. L., et al. The association between alcohol intake and adiposity in the general population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1990, 132(4), 594-611.

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