June 30

Carbs and calories in your booze of choice

32  comments


The Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America just published a report showing the amount of carbohydrate and the number of calories in the 26 best selling alcoholic beverages.
The report is in chart form in pdf format. You can download it here.
Put it on your refrigerator or keep it some place handy, so that you’ll at least know how many carbs and cals you throw back when you quaff one or five or your favorite drinks during the hot dog days of summer.
And remember as you’re trying to lose weight the oh-so-true quote (from I don’t know whom – I’ve seen it attributed to several, including Mark Twain):

Will power lasts about two weeks and is soluble in alcohol.

Truer words were never spoken. My will power last night became soluble in the alcohol found in two margaritas. It became way soluble in the Johnny Walker Blue generously provided by my brother in South Carolina at his daughter’s wedding a couple of days ago. Had I had this nifty chart with me, I could have calculated the damages in real time.


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  1. Hi Dr Mike,
    Yes, but what about the beers that really MATTER, like Hoegaarden, Leffe and Chimay? The rest of the world wants to know!
    Michael
    Hey Michael–
    Sadly, I think these are the 26 drinks that sell the most in the US to us Seppos, not the 26 best selling in the world. I guess the rest of the world will have to get on the stick and come up with their own chart.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  2. It’s interesting to find on this list that white wine has significantly less carbs per serving than red. I always thought they were about the same (I actually tend to prefer red). Another glass of Pinot Gris, please!

  3. Interesting! The dry white wine had far lower carbs than the crappy reds. I knew those $5 reds were evil. (Never had the guts to try them.)
    So why the difference in carbs I wonder. Something from the maceration process? Something in the grape skins.
    Ahh, I know… must be from the box they come in.
    ..Todd

  4. Hi Mike,
    Hope this isn’t detected as spam as a couple of attempts yesterday were, because a thought occurs to me (yes it does happen occasionally!)
    I have often wondered why US databases have wildly different carb counts for wine than those in other countries (including mine). Not a fibre issue clearly, but perhaps another shortcoming of the ‘carbohydrate by difference’ method is that it is counting the glycerol/glycerine content of the wine (which AFAIK has minimal impact on blood sugar) as (digestible) carbohydrate?
    For the record our labs put dry red wine as having negligible carbs, a glass of dry white at about 0.5cg and only when you get into the sweeter styles or fortified numbers like port are the carbs of significant concern – as you would expect.
    What do you think?
    Cheers,
    Malcolm
    Hey Malcolm–
    The USDA nutritional info site shows both white and red wines (non-fortified ones) as containing about 4 g carb per 5 ounce serving. I don’t know where the guys who made the chart I posted got their data.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  5. >>Gross! Mikes Hard Lemonade makes me sick thinking about it. I’ve seen people drink twelve in about an hour.
    Yes, but the Light version of Mike’s has only 5-6g. Much more managable. And pretty tasty.

  6. these things never tell you how many carbs/calories are in draft Guiness from an honest to goodness keg. Nobody drinks “draft” Guinness from a bottle, and one has to be in a desperate state of mind to consider drinking “draft” Guinness in the can. Most of my Guinness consumption is done as it should be done, at a bar, in a 20 oz. curvy glass, with a good thick foamy head that leaves a moustache on my lips.
    I’d love to know what the carb count is for the real stuff, but I’ve never found it. Sigh.

  7. Thanks, this is really helpful as I move to my next six month. I have lost a pound a week since the first of the year. Now I need to cut the alcohol to keep this up for the next six months. I have posted the chart in living color in the kitchen.

  8. Hi Dr Mike,
    Over this side of the pond (UK) I have always clung to the figure for red wine listed in the dietician’s “bible” over here : McCance and Widdowson’s (the original authors) ‘The Composition of Foods’ later revised by A.A.Paul and D.A.T.Southgate , published by HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, i.e an official govt publication)namely only 0.3g/100ml, a whole BOTTLE of 750ml would be somewhat less than 2.5 g ! . This also says 68kcal/100ml so our “standard” 125ml glass would come to 85 “calories”.
    The figures for white wine on the same 100ml measure ,start at 0.6g for dry rising to 5.9g for sweet.
    I do accept that I drink rather too much (red) wine and that although the carbs certainly seem low from this source, it’s the alcohol itself which will get you in the end.
    Neil

  9. Is there any truth to the notion that alcohol metabolizes much like carbohydrate? I wonder why the stuff causes so many of us to stall in our efforts to lose weight by eating low carb.

  10. What kind of impact does alcohol itself have on insulin/glucagon, fat storage/burning, overall metabolism, etc, etc?
    Even though hard spirits have no carbs, I still don’t think of them as ‘diet’ drinks for a low-carb approach, even without any mixers.

  11. I thought I read somewhere that the liver converts alcohols to ketones, and so those low-carbers who substitute too many distilled drinks for their beer can stall their weight loss by providing the body a ready source of energy.
    Plus, as you quoted, they also reduce their will power to avoid the pretzels they have been denying themselves…

  12. I know this is dumb, but the spirits have no carbs, but about 100 cals per serving. So… how many can I drink per evening if low carbing? Do they provoke an insulin reaction and promote fat storage? Or do the calories just add up and make you fat insofar as they contribute to caloric excess?

  13. Thanks Dr. Mike! This will be very useful at my sister’s when her alcoholic fiancee (of 10 years) entices me to have yet another miller Lite. Have gone through a 12 pack in the course of a long long day sitting in the yard there. I guess I should stick this list on her refrigerator.

  14. “The USDA nutritional info site shows both white and red wines (non-fortified ones) as containing about 4 g carb per 5 ounce serving. I don’t know where the guys who made the chart I posted got their data.”
    Yes but the point is (as Neil’s post shows) when carbohydrate is measured directly, rather than by difference, the carbs are much lower and (again as others have said) the carbs in dry red wine are less than slightly sweeter whites such as chardonnay … as you would expect.
    The question is whether if glycerol is the answer/reason whether we as low carbers are justified in clinging to ‘our’ laboratory analysis … over ‘yours’ ?
    Cheers,
    Malcolm
    PS Mr Freddy, I have it from the horse’s mouth so to speak, that sadly the carbs in your 20oz draft Guinness come in at 15. The lowcarbluxury article claiming otherwise is nonsense. Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news!

  15. @mrfreddy,
    I can find no consistent figure for true draft Guinness (i.e. from keg) for the standard pint in the proper glass. It was once given as 4.5g. Then it turned out to be about 20g. Where does the truth lie? And why is it so hard to measure? (I guess the chemists cannot resist sampling the product??)
    And same for the Belgium beers I listed above. Leffe must be drunk from the keg in the proper glass. Hoegaarden: from the keg in its famous hexagonal glass. Chimay Grande Cuvee from its amazingly expensive bottle with the champaign cork in the proper Chimay challis. Chimay!!! Made by trappist monks!! They mightn’t talk to each other, but their brew is a gift from heaven. Of course Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit is only available from the bottle (9% alcohol!), as is Leffe Radiuese (8.4%), but these are special treats. You can buy these by the crate at my local supermarket. Are they easily available in the States?
    Dr Mike: another example of my local dialect for you linguistic pleasure. Here, wine in casks is referred to as “Chateau Cardboard”.
    Michael

  16. Michael, when I first started low-carbing, I’d heard 5g for a proper Guinness pint – the 20oz. royal kind – but that always seemed unlikely. Judging from the funny way I feel after downing 3 or 4 (not the buzz, I feel that of course, but I also get a funny, icky, carby rush kinda feeling), I’d guess 20g is closer to the mark.
    I recognize some of the brand names you mentioned, but I couldn’t tell you if the specific beers you mentioned are available here. The Chimay sounds interesting, tho.

  17. A number of people wrote asking about how alcohol affects metabolism. It is metabolized similarly to fats and contains about 7 kcal per gram as compared to 9 for fat and 4 for both carbs and protein. The real problem occurs because much of the liver’s capacity for detoxification is occupied by dealing with alcohol, making it difficult for the liver to then break down (i.e, metabolize) insulin, allowing levels to remain higher than they should.
    I’m not talking about the occasional drink here – I’m talking about the situation in which people drink a fair amount. The alcohol increases the level of fatty liver and decreases the liver’s capacity to break down insulin while adding a fair number of calories and, often, a large number of carbs to the mix.
    It’s tough to lose weight while continuing to drink large amounts of booze on a regular basis.

  18. The alcohol increases the level of fatty liver … ”
    Fatty which?
    Thank you for the clear explanation. I’m curious now what insulin levels are for people who take in zero carbs–say, those on the vodka and skinless broiled chicken breast diet. (I just made that up and never will try it, though I can see the attraction of vodka to someone eating nothing but broiled skinless chicken breast.) It probably varies among individuals, but in general would you expect people to lose at zero carbs if they’re still consuming alcohol?
    Sure people can lose eating boiled, skinless chicken breasts and vodka. I worry about alcohol intake (as an impediment to weight loss) only when weight loss stalls.

  19. Hi Dr Mike,
    Oh those Margaritas are hard to resist. Bartenders will make them sugar free but I suppose you know that.
    Quick question –
    Looking at spirit in this chart, it seems wrong that gin at 40 proof would have the same carbs (none) but 20% more calories than the other spirits listed. The http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp site gives the same carb and kcal counts for all spirits at the same proof. Gin equals vodka equals scotch etc.
    Do you have an explanation?
    Thanks,
    Susan
    The only explanation I have is that the chart is incorrect. I, too, would assume that all spirits that are 40 proof would have the same number of calories.

  20. there HAS to be carbs in some of that stuff! what about Cpt. Morgan’s? Jack Daniels? Those guys HAVE to HAVE carbs!
    i don’t believe it. you should read some of the processing steps for these alcohols. Jack Daniels gets filter through maple sugar charcoal…umm…hello?
    zach
    I wouldn’t think that Jack Daniels would have carbs but I don’t know about Cpt. Morgan’s spiced stuff. Doesn’t sound like anything I would put in my mouth.

  21. I saw someone mention Mike’s Hard Light Lemonade. I’ve also read about Long Beach Brewing having a new product called Thin Ice that uses sucralose and allegedly has 1g of carb per 12oz. Haven’t tried either but will be keeping my eyes open for them. (Right now I’m on a tour of light beers. Current stop: Corona Light. Not bad, but I liked Amstel better.)

  22. I’m eating grass-fed beef only and walk 12,345 steps RT to the pub for a few (not over 6) 20 oz. Guinness draft….so far BG not over 99 using advocate TD-4223 meter…must be good carbs in the beer or the walking…

  23. COMMENT SPACE IS NOT INCLUDED PREVIOUS TO THIS JUNE 2008
    ALTHOUGH THIS POST SAYS COMMENTS STIL OPEN TO JUNE 2010????
    Do you read, notice comments this far back?
    If I commented directly to another commenter, is the comment sent on to them?
    Are all comments emailed to other commenters?
    I tried to sign the petition re glucosecontrolstupidity but couldn’t add my name so it wouldn’t work.

  24. what can you tell me about vodka? I drink sky vodka, but heard that belvedere has less calories and carbs. I could not pull up the carb count on my computer maybe you could send it ot my email. thank you

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