University of Rochester

University Health Service (UHS)
Health Promotion Office

Caloric Values of Alcoholic Beverages

We have all seen it attached to the front of our once thin and athletic friend - the infamous "beer belly". Commonly misattributed to excess alcohol calories being stored as fat, the "beer belly" is actually a result of alcohol's more complex effects on the body's metabolic system. Simply put, alcohol reduces the amount of fat the body burns for energy. This occurs for the following reason:

  1. A small portion of the alcohol consumed is converted into fat.
  2. The liver then converts the rest (ie: majority) of the alcohol into acetate.
  3. The acetate is then released into the bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.

Coupled with the high caloric value of alcohol, the resulting effect is that body is forced to store an excessive amount of unburned fat calories, often in the form of a 'beer belly".

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity puts individuals at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, respiratory problems, and some forms of cancer. Poor diet and physical inactivity lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans annually, and costs the nation close to $100 billion. Knowing the facts is the first step in making healthy change.

A commonly held misconception is that light beer is like diet coke - calorie and fat free. Although light beer does have fewer calories that the regular variety, the average light beer still contains upwards of 100 or more calories per 12 oz can, and regular beer ranges from approximately 140-200 calories.

Despite the small quantity of liquid, a single shot of liquor (1.5 oz) can contain anywhere from 115-200 calories. In comparison, a 4.0 oz glass of wine contains anywhere from 62-160, with 160 being on the high end of the spectrum. Mixed drinks are where the calories really add up, ranging from approximately 280 calories for a gin and tonic to over 800 calories for some of the frozen, creamy drinks.

Referring to the combination of alcohol and "pop or "fizz" from a carbonated drink, alcopops first appeared in the United Kingdom in the summer of 1995 and have since taken off in markets around the world. Essentially an alcoholic form of the traditional soft drink, alcopops come pre-mixed in 12.0 oz glass bottles and can be purchased in the common convenience or grocery store. Unless an artificial sweetener is used, most alcopops average slightly over 200 calories per 12.0 oz bottle.

Calorie Reducing Tips


Weight Loss Resources

Alcohol: Problems and Solutions

Alcopops FAQ

For more information, contact Linda Dudman in the UHS Health Promotion Office at (585) 273-5770 or

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Last modified: Thursday, 26-May-2011 16:38:02 EDT