Calories in Alcoholic Beverages: Stressing Them Counter-Productive?

A common way of trying to discourage alcohol drinking among college students is to emphasize the calories in alcoholic beverages. However, this may have dangerous outcomes.


I.   The Study

II.  Calories in Beverages

III. Resources

I. The Study

A study of 4,271 undergraduate college students from ten universities participated in the study. Thirty-nine percent of the students had consumed alcohol within the previous 30 days. They reported that they restricted their eating on days they planned to drink alcohol. Of these, 67% said they ate less on those days because of weight concerns.

Eating less on days they drank led to a greater risk of intoxication. Women who ate less were more likely to report undesirable outcomes. These included blackouts, being injured, sexual assault, and unprotected sex while drinking. Men who ate less were more likely to get into physical fights.

calories in alcoholic beveragesThe practice of eating before and while drinking is highly desirable. That’s because it reduces intoxication. However, many college students reduce their eating on days they drink. And they do so because of a fear of the calories in alcoholic beverages.

Ironically, most alcohol beverages contain fewer calories than most non-alcohol beverages. And alcoholic beverages contain no fat or cholesterol and are very low in carbs.

II. Calories in Alcoholic Beverages vs Non-Alcoholic


BeverageCaloriesCarbs (grams)Fat (grams)
Beer (regular)14613.13.000
Beer (lite)994.60.000
All Distilled Spirits (rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, bourbon, etc.)970.00.000
Wine (red)1253.5.000
Wine (white)1203.5.000
Apple juice (unsweetened)11728.96.273
Apricot juice14036.11.226
Carbonated cola15539.77.000
Grape juice (unsweetened)15537.84.202
Grapefruit juice (unsweetened)9422.13.247
Milk (2% fat)12211.414.807
Orange juice (unsweetened)11226.84.149
Prune juice18244.67.077
Tangerine juice (unsweetened)12529.88.098
Tomato juice4110.30.122

Source: USDA Nutrient Data Lab.

In addition, many studies have shown that consuming alcohol tends not to increase weight. Also, among women, it is often leads to slight losses in weight.

So the use of the “alcohol will make you fat” tactic appears to be counter-productive and undesirable.

III. Resources: Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

Web Pages


Giles, S. et al. Calorie restriction on drinking days. Drinking consequences among college students. J Am Coll Health, 2009, 57(6), 603-610.


This website is for information only. Therefore, it makes no suggestions about nutrition or calories in alcoholic beverages.