The best weight loss diet, weight loss tips and slimming products
The best weight loss diet, weight loss tips and slimming products

Lowest Calorie Alcohol

low calorie alcoholic drinks

Most diets ask you to avoid alcohol with good reason – alcohol packs a lot of calories. Just one gram of alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) provides 7 kilocalories of pure energy. According to the World Health Organisation, a unit of pure alcohol is 10g although this varies from 8g to 14g in different countries. If we stick with the W.H.O definition, then each unit you drink provides around 70 kcals energy. As a large glass of wine typically provides two units of alcohol, this soon mounts up. On top of that, many alcoholic drinks also contain sugar which provides additional calories.

Alcohol and weight

Another problem with alcohol is that it’s converted to a substance called acetate which your cells can readily converted into fat for storage when you drink more calories than you need.  What’s more, this conversion is highly energy efficient so few of the calories are wasted as heat.

Researchers have also found that when counting calories, many people miscalculate the number in alcoholic drinks, or forget to include them when calculating their daily energy intake. The World Cancer Research Fund believes the hidden calories in alcohol are a major factor in why many people fail to lose weight on a diet, and can also sabotage your efforts to maintain your current weight by causing a slow and insidious weight gain.

Weight gain linked with alcohol becomes an increasing problem as you get older. This is partly due to increased activity of an enzyme, Aldh1a1, which causes visceral fat to build up around your internal organs. For women, the female hormone, oestrogen, supresses this enzyme before the menopause, but after middle age, as the menopause approaches, oestrogen levels fall and the alcohol starts to pile on weight around the waist. Excess alcohol can also contribute to skinny fat syndrome. Men don’t have the advantage of high levels of oestrogen, so men who drink a lot of alcohol can develop a so-called beer belly at a younger age.

Unfortunately the visceral fat that builds up around the waist is what increases your long-term risks for developing metabolic syndrome whichis associated with high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Low calorie alcohol drinks

Beers have a lower calorie count per 100 millilitres (ml) than most other alcoholic drinks because they contain a lot of water. However, they are also served in larger quantities – typically in amounts of half a pint (300 ml) or 1 pint (600 ml). Pale ale and lager can slightly fewer calories than bitter and stout, while shandy is lower still as it is diluted with lemonade.

Typically calorie counts per 100 ml, and per drink are included in the following calories in alcohol chart:

Calories in alcohol chart

Alcoholic drink

Calories per 100ml

Calories per drink

Shandy 24 kcals ½ pint = 72 kcals

1 pint = 144 kcals

Pale ale 28 kcals ½ pint = 84 kcals

1 pint = 168 kcals

Lager 29 kcals ½ pint = 87 kcals

1 pint = 174 kcals

Beer, bitter 30 kcals ½ pint (300ml) 90 kcals

1 pint (600ml) 180 kcals

Brown ale, bottled 30 kcals ½ pint = 90 kcals

1 pint = 180 kcals

Stout, Guinness 30 kcals ½ pint = 90 kcals

1 pint  =180 kcals

Best bitter, premium 33 kcals ½ pint = 99 kcals

1 pint (= 198 kcals

Strong ale, barley wine 66 kcals ½ pint = 198 kcals
Cider, dry 36 kcals ½ pint = 108 kcals

1 pint = 216 kcals

Cider, sweet 42 kcals ½ pint = 126 kcals

1 pint = 252 kcals

Cider, vintage 101 kcals ½ pint = 303 kcals

1 pint = 606 kcals

Red wine 68 kcals 125 ml = 85 kcals

250 ml = 170 kcals

White wine 66 kcals 125 ml = 83 kcals

250 ml = 165 kcals

Rose wine 71 kcals 125 ml = 89 kcals

250 ml = 178 kcals


Sparkling wine, dry Champagne 74 kcals 125 ml = 106 kcals
Sparkling wine, sweet Champagne 94 kcals 125 ml = 118 kcals
Port wine 157 kcals 70 ml = 110 kcals
Sherry, dry and medium 116 kcals 70 ml = 81 kcals
Sherry, sweet 136 kcals 70 ml = 95 kcals
Vermouth, dry 109 kcals 70 ml = 76 kcals
Vermouth, sweet 151 kcals 70 ml  = 106 kcals
Cream liqueurs eg Baileys Irish Cream 325 kcals 35 ml = 114 kcals
Sweet liqueurs, high strength eg Pernod, Drambuie, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Southern Comfort 314 kcals 35 ml = 110 kcals
Sweet liqueurs, low-medium strength eg  cherry brandy, Tia Maria, Crème de Menthe 262 kcals 35 ml = 92 kcals
Spirits eg brandy, gin, rum, whisky, vodka 222 kcals Single (35 ml) = 78 kcals

Double (70ml) = 156 kcals

Can you drink alcohol on a diet?

Cutting out alcohol is one of the quickest ways to lose weight. If you don’t mind a slower weight loss, then you can have a small amount of alcohol – for example one glass of wine on Friday and Saturday nights. You can also:

Mix chilled white or red wine with equal quantities of sparkling mineral water to make a refreshing spritzer – this instantly cuts the calorie count of an alcoholic drink in half.

Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of mineral water plus a dash of lime, or a soda water plus angostura bitters to cut the number of calories you drink.

Select drinks that have a lower than average alcohol content. A typical wine supplies 12% to 16% alcohol by volume, but brands designed for those who are watching their weight are available with an 8.5% to 9% alcohol content.  These allow you to enjoy a glass or two on occasion without risking a hangover or gaining weight.

When it comes to wine – size matters

Large fish-bowl sized wine glasses are fashionable but do they make you drink more at home or at a party, or do you just top them up fewer times? Researchers from Cambridge University have found that drinking wine from a large glass does, in fact, increase the overall amount that you drink. It seems you tend to drink more quickly when using a large glass, even if the volume is the same. Psychologists suggest this is because your brain is tricked into thinking there is more to drink so you drink more quickly. If you’re trying to cut back on the amount of alcohol you are drinking on a diet, swap to using a smaller sized glass!

What is a unit of alcohol?

A unit of alcohol depends on where you live – it’s equivalent to 10ml or 8 grams of pure alcohol in the UK, 14grams pure alcohol in the US, and 10g alcohol according to the W.H.O.

Half a pint (300ml) of beer, lager or cider that is 3.5% alcohol in strength contains one unit. But many lagers now contain 5% and some versions supply as much as 9% alcohol. One small (100ml) glass of wine that is 10% alcohol in strength contains one unit. But most wines are now much stronger (12% to 15% alcohol) and many pubs sell wine in 250ml glasses.

Depending on its % alcohol, a bottle of wine typically contains between 8 and 11 units of alcohol. A 25ml pub measure of 40% spirit contains one unit, but most pubs now serve 35ml measures as standard, and will often serve a double unless you specifically say you want a single.

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