Archive for June, 2014

A Better Way to Determine Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

Monday, June 16th, 2014

A while back I reported a table of the approximate calories in an average (115 ml or 4 oz) glass of wine (also see here and here). However there is a more accurate way to calculate how many calories alcoholic beverages contain which actually contribute towards your body’s use of calories. In other words how will the alcoholic beverages you consume affect your weight?

Wine contains about 13% alcohol by volume (actually I’ve seen one that reports 16.5%) and beer any where from 3.2% to 10% or more, and distilled spirits vary widely. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. So you might assume the more alcohol you consume the more weight you will gain. It turns out that many studies have determined that calories from alcohol do not necessarily lead to weight increase. The reason is unclear but the research suggests that alcohol is not effectively metabolized and that alcohol can increase overall metabolic rates causing more calories to be burned rather than stored. (Read this). For scientists the “calories” reported in foods are actually kilocalories but we will just call them “calories” here.

So for a correct comparison of the “metabolic calories” in various alcoholic beverages you have to back out the calories due to the alcohol. Note for comparison: one gram of fat contains about 9 calories; complex carbohydrates and protein each contain 4 calories per gram; and as above pure alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. So if you know the total (T) calories in a given volume (Xoz) of a drink and the percent alcohol (P) it’s simple to calculate the net (N) metabolic calories you will consume:

N = T – 7(cal/gm alcohol)*0.28(gm alcohol/oz%)*P*X = T – 1.96*P*X

  • N = Net calories in your drink of X ounces
  • T = Total calories in your drink of X ounces
  • X = Number of ounces of the drink
  • P = Percent alcohol of the drink


There are a number of sources that report the calories and percent alcohol in various drinks. The values differ quite a bit from source to source, but below I have selected some wines and beers to provide a few examples:

Calories in Wine

  Total Calories Net Calories
Non-Alcohol Wine 4oz, 0% 37 37
Champagne 4oz, 12% 105 11
Dry Red 4oz , 13% 115 13
Dry White 4oz , 12.5% 120 22
Dry Rose 4oz , 12% 100 0

Calories in Beer

  Total Calories Net Calories
Non-Alcohol Beer 12oz, 0% 60 60
Beer 12oz, 5.5% 150 21
Light Beer 12oz, 4.0% 100 6
Stout 12oz, 4.3% 153 52
Double Dock 12oz, 9.5% 323 99


There are many references but these will get you started if interested: