Calories and alcohol

How many calories do we actually consume when drinking?

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The UK loves booze. Unfortunately, the UK also has a bit of a weight problem. These two characteristics could be quite closely related. Pure alcohol, despite not tasting very nice, contains seven calories per gram, making it the second most calorie-dense thing after fat, which has nine calories in a gram. In other words, it’s impossible to have an alcoholic drink with no calories.
According to a UCL study, the average English person drinks 21 units of alcohol each week. A unit’s worth of alcoholic drink contains roughly 85 calories on average. This means they also consume about 1,815 calories from alcoholic drinks each week – more calories than three Big Macs. Since a pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories, this also means that the average person could lose 27 pounds (12kg) in one year by going teetotal.
Alcohol consumption varies significantly between genders and age groups, so alcohol calorie consumption does as well. And different drinks contain different amounts of calories – a pint of lager has far more than a small glass of wine, for example. See the tables below for stats for your own demographic, and for calories per drink type.

Weekly calories consumed from alcoholic drinks

Age group Men Women Average
16-24 2,337 1,462 1,900
25-34 2,286 1,198 1,742
35-44 2,524 1,445 1,985
45-54 2,788 1,462 2,125
55-64 2,626 1,275 1,951
65-74 2,269 960 1,615
75+ 1,547 569 1,058
Average 2,405 1,224 1,815

1,815 calories

drunk by the average English person each week.

How aware is the UK?

It seems many people are unaware of how many calories they’re taking in this way. We commisioned a survey where we asked 2,000 British adults to state how many calories they thought were in some popular alcoholic drinks, and found that on average almost half (46%) of people had simply no idea. Only a third of people could estimate the calorie content of drinks within 50% of the correct value.
Alarmingly, 5% of people thought that a pint has less than 40 calories in it. That equates to 2.7 million people in the UK! Our results also suggested that this blind spot is more common the younger you are, as millennials and generation Z were four times more likely to think this than baby boomers. In fact baby boomers tended to overestimate the calorie content of drinks. When asked how many calories they thought were in a shot of vodka, their average answer was 112, which is more than double the correct answer of 54.

How many guessed calories of alcoholic drinks to within 50% of true figure

Interestingly, women are significantly more clued up on the subject than men, even though they drink about half as much. In our study, women were 24% more likely to guess the number of calories in a drink, within 50% of the true value.

How accurate were the guesses?

Drink Total calories Calories per unit of alcohol Percentage of people who had no idea of calorie content
Pint of Lager 230 85 65%
Pint of Cider 216 83 59%
Pint of Guinness 218 88 61%
Small glass of wine (175ml) 159 69 59%
Shot of vodka (25ml) 51 54 79%
Shot of gin (25ml) 52 55 80%
Shot of tequila (25ml) 55 55 81%
Shot of sambuca (25ml) 80 84 73%
An alcopop (275ml) 170 155 64%
A double gin and tonic (standard measures) 160 85 63%
A double vodka and red bull (standard measures) 171 91 64%
A double rum and coke (standard measures) 167 84 64%

Drinks with the most and fewest calories

Drink Volume (ml) ABV (%) Units Calories Calories/unit
Champagne 125 12 1.5 89 59
Spirit 25 40 1 61 61
Wine 175 13 2.3 159 69
Beer 568 4 2.3 182 79
Cider 568 4.5 2.6 216 83
Beer 330 5 1.6 142 89
Alcopop 275 4 1.1 170 155
Average 85
If you love drinking but want to minimise the calories it adds to your body, it’s worth looking into the calorie content of different types of alcohol. Spirits are generally the best bet, as most of their calorie content is from the alcohol itself, rather than adding extra on top in the form of carbs (as long as they’re drunk with a sugar-free mixer such as soda water, or no mixer at all). Vodka, for example, has 54 calories per unit of alcohol, much less than, for example, cider’s 83. Champagne, surprisingly, is a reasonably good option too, with 59 calories in one unit’s worth. Avoid alcopops, as they’ll have you taking in far more sugar than you need.
Drink Calories/unit
Champagne 59
Spirit 61
Wine 69
Beer 79
Cider 83
Beer 89
Alcopop 155
The calories in a pint of beer can vary significantly as well. While most brands are in the mid 200s, Coors Light and Carling contain 170 and 195 calories per pint respectively. Guinness, despite often being referred to as a “meal in a glass”, has 218 calories in a pint, the third least out of this sample.
Beer brand Calories
Carling 182
Carlsberg 210
Guinness 210
Coors Light 199
Foster's 204
Budweiser 222
Stella Artois 227
Grolsch 227
Heineken 239
Peroni 239
Corona 239
Kronenbourg 1664 245

Calories per 25ml shot of different spirits

Spirit ABV (%) Units Calories Calories/unit
Rum 40 1 52 52
Vodka 38 0.9 51 54
Whiskey 40 1 55 55
Tequila 40 1 55 55
Gin 38 0.9 52 55
Brandy 36 0.9 50 56
Sambuca 38 1 80 84
Spirits are, for the most part, equally fattening, putting 50-60 calories into your body with each 25ml measure. This amount depends mostly on the spirit’s strength: the higher the alcohol content, the more calories it contains. Sambuca, however, is the shocking exception to this, containing almost double the amount of calories per shot, without having the common decency to at least contain more alcohol. This is likely due to its high sugar content.
Alcohol Calories
Brandy 50
Vodka 51
Rum 52
Gin 52
Whiskey 55
Tequila 55
Sambuca 80

Calories in popular mixed drinks (double measure + 150ml mixer)

Drink Total calories ABV (%) Units Calories/unit
Rum and Diet Coke 105 10 2 53
Gin and diet tonic 107 9.4 1.9 57
Whiskey and Diet Coke 111 10 2 56
Vodka, lime and soda 112 9.4 1.9 60
Screwdriver 157 9.4 1.9 84
Gin and tonic 160 9.4 1.9 85
Vodka cranberry 165 9.4 1.9 88
Rum and Coke 167 10 2 84
Vodka Red Bull 171 9.4 1.9 91
Whiskey and Coke 173 10 2 87
Unsurprisingly, if you want to minimise your caloric intake, you should go for calorie-free mixers such as Diet Coke and soda water. Less obvious, however, is that a standard gin and tonic, despite often getting recommended as a healthy choice, isn’t actually much better calorie-wise than other spirit-mixer combos. Per unit, it contains about the same number of calories as beer. Gin with diet tonic, of course, is a different story, as almost all of the calories come from the gin.
Drink Calories
Rum and Diet Coke 105
Gin and diet tonic 107
Whiskey and Diet Coke 111
Vodka, lime and soda 112
Screwdriver 157
Gin and tonic 160
Vodka cranberry 165
Rum and Coke 167
Vodka Red Bull 171
Whiskey and Coke 173
Calories calculated for 50ml of spirit and 150ml mixer.

Sources used

  • Drink Aware
  • USDA
  • Sainsbury’s
  • DRINKiQ
  • Tesco
  • Asda

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK Communications Manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

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