Alcohol & Weight Loss

If you like to enjoy your glass of wine or spicy margarita, this post is for you!

There is a significant amount of calories in most alcoholic beverages which can add up fast and potentially prevent you from being in a calorie deficit, especially if you are drinking multiple times during the week.

This means that you SHOULD be tracking alcohol calories.

The confusing thing about alcohol is that labels often don’t have calorie information.

Ordering mixed drinks like a mojito or a Moscow mule at restaurants adds a whole other layer of confusion because we aren’t visually seeing what’s going into these cocktails.

So what qualifies as “one drink”?

One drink, according to the Dietary Guidelines, is based on how much alcohol is in a certain size of beverage.

The references for one drink is as follows:

12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol)

5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol)

1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)

Not all wines are 12% alcohol and not all beer is 5% alcohol.  You may be drinking a 12 fluid ounce beer that’s 7% alcohol, which is about 1.4 drink equivalents (because it has a higher concentration of alcohol in it).

The way to calculate how many drink equivalents are in your beverage is to multiply the volume in ounces by the alcohol content in percent and divide by 0.6 ounces of alcohol per one drink equivalent.

For example, 4 oz of champagne with 12% alcohol will contain 0.8 drink equivalents [(4 oz)(0.12)/0.6].

What about the calories?!

Each of the drink references that I listed above has 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol and 1 gram of alcohol is 7 calories!

So this means 12 fluid ounces of beer (5% alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol) and 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol) will at LEAST have 98 calories in the beverage.

And this doesn’t even account for the sweeteners, sodas, and juices that can be added.

Most people are not only drinking one drink during a sitting, making it easy for calories to add up.

That’s why it’s best to limit your drinking to one day per week, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Photo credit: Karl Tate @

As we can see, the alcoholic beverages that are the most calorie dense are the mixed drink cocktails such as margaritas, pina coladas, cosmos, mojitos, lemon drops, sangria, etc.

Here are some helpful ways to cut calories when drinking:

  1. Instead of adding soda or juice to your drinks as mixers try flavored carbonated club soda or diet sodas. 
  1. Cocktails usually have some type of sweetener in it, whether it is simple syrup, triple sec, flavored liqueur or just plain sugar. Some sugar is needed to balance the flavor of the drink. I usually ask the bartender to make my cocktail “skinny” or with half the sweetener.
  1. Add fresh herbs such as mint or basil to give your drinks refreshing distinct flavors.  You can also add a few chopped strawberries, blackberries or kiwi to your beverage.
  1. In addition to adding fresh herbs, try squeezing fresh lemon, lime or orange in your drinks.

Remember, above all, moderation is key here!

Alcohol is not intended to be a part of a healthy eating plan but is usually a huge part of social interactions.

Save it for special gatherings and be mindful of the number of drinks you’re enjoying!


  1. 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines
  2. Karl Tate @

Leave a Reply