The Alcohol Regimen: Part 4 – How Many Calories in Your Drink

In Part 1 we introduced the series, Part 2 discussed strategies to let loose without packing on fat, and Part 3 covered the effect drinking has on hormones and recovery from training.


Today, we’ll wrap things up with a detailed look at the alcohol and calorie content of various beverages.  There is a lot of information here, so sift through the charts and bookmark the article for your future “should I drink this?” type questions.

One Drink

Each “drink” contains 14 grams of alcohol.  All of the following are considered one drink:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% abv)
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1 shot (1.5 ounces) of 80 proof liquor


Your standard bottles of booze – vodka, whiskey, etc – all have the same caloric content.  Their only macronutrient is alcohol, so the “strength”, or ethanol concentration, is the only factor driving total calories.

There are a few liquors and many liqueurs that do contain carbohydrates, as you’ll see below.



A lowball glass holds eight ounces of liquid: ~4 ounces between the booze and the ice, and ~4 ounces of mixer.  A highball will have roughly eight ounces of mixer.

Choosing a smart mixer is the easiest way to reduce the calories in your drink.



The beer list was pulled somewhere off the internetz and sent to me by a friend.  I’m not sure of the source, but I double checked most of the numbers (against other websites on the internetz), and they check out.

These numbers are for 12 ounces of beer, one bottle or can.  A tap beer is generally poured in a pint glass which is 16 ounces.  While possibly irrelevant to managing your alcohol calories, this reminder might save you a dooey on the road.

There are two lists below: (1) Make the Calories Count and (2) Alphabetical.  Make the Calories Count ranks the beers by alcohol per calorie, from highest to lowest – a bang for your buck ranking, so to speak.  Generally, the fewer carbs a beer has, the higher it will appear on the list.

Make the Calories Count





Spotted Cow, a delicious cream ale popular on the UW-Madison campus, wasn’t listed (and I forgot to add it) which is criminal.

150 Calories, 14g of alcohol, 13g of carbs.


Make the Calories Count





While the drinks list is by no means all-encompassing, it should give you an idea of what’s a good mixed drink or shot and what’s not.

  • We assumed 70-80 proof alcohol was used unless otherwise specified. ex: Flaming Dr. Pepper is made with either grain alcohol or 151. 
  • There is no protein column because so few drinks have a meaningful amount; if a drink had any protein (ex: milk), it was added as a carb to keep total calories accurate.

Make the Calories Count







Rules for the Non-Calorie Counter

If you don’t count calories and would benefit from some qualitative guidelines, well, I’m shocked you made it through that sea of numbers to this part of the page, but here you go:

Rule #1:  During the day, eat high protein sources and non-starchy vegetables only.

Rule #2:  At night, drink either hard alcohol with a zero-calorie chaser or dry wine.

This will keep you relatively full during the day, given the size of the deficit, and minimize calories from drinking.


  • Chicken Breast
  • Egg Whites
  • Lean Ground Beef
  • Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Skim Cottage Cheese
  • Turkey Breast
  • Whey/Casein Protein Powder


  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushroom
  • Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

The Alcohol Regimen: Conclusion

Hopefully you learned something.  We want to be able to go out and have fun without turning our bodies into haggard piles of rot.

Now, do you have to drink vodka when you really just want a cold beer?  Plan your nights out around your training schedule?   Skip your favorite late night pizza? Of course not.

It’s really all about moderation.  I provided optimal strategies; you should apply whatever principles you find useful, and don’t take the rest too seriously.

After all, the reason most of us care about this stuff is to better our lives.  So if you’re skipping your cute neighbor’s BBQ or good friend’s birthday because you plan to hit chest and shoulders the next day, you’re probably doing it wrong.

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