Alcohol and calories: the most important questions and answers about fattening

Alkohol und Kalorien: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten rund um den Dickmacher

Everyone knows this one self-lie only too well: "Never again alcohol!". You usually don't learn anything from this painful experience of the hangover, although you experience first-hand how bad excessive alcohol consumption can be. Whether it's a glass of wine for lunch or dinner, a drink or two at a party or a beer after work - for many, alcohol is simply part of it.

This article looks at alcohol calories, how they affect the human body, and why alcohol is a poor choice when trying to shed a few pounds.

the essentials in brief

  • According to the current yearbook Addiction 2020, every German over the age of 15 drank 10.5 liters of pure alcohol in 2017. The calorie content of alcoholic beverages is often completely underestimated
  • Alcoholic beverages contain some sugar and also energy-rich fat. Overall, even small amounts of alcohol result in a fairly high energy content
  • Ethanol and its breakdown result in physical changes that persist beyond the high. This effect is the real reason why you slowly lose weight with regular consumption of alcoholic beverages, but gain weight faster

Alcohol and calories: what you should know

Many people underestimate the calorie content of alcoholic beverages. A gram of alcohol, at 7 kilocalories, has almost as many calories as a gram of fat, at nine kilocalories, and more than a gram of sugar, at four kilocalories.(1)

According to the current yearbook Addiction 2020, every German over the age of 15 drank 10.5 liters of pure alcohol in 2017. The total consumption of alcoholic beverages in Germany in 2018 increased by 0.3 liters to 131.3 liters of finished goods per inhabitant. The Germans therefore drank 102 liters of beer, 20.5 liters of wine, 5.4 liters of spirits and 3.4 liters of sparkling wine.(2)

How many calories does alcohol really have?

A glass of wine with dinner or a beer after work - in our society, alcohol consumption is associated in many situations with joie de vivre and socializing as well as relaxation.

A study by the Department of Health in England asked 2,000 people about alcohol. They were asked to give an estimate of the calorie content in alcoholic beverages: Four out of ten respondents were significantly wrong in their estimates.

Many of those surveyed were not aware that a glass of white wine contains about as many calories as a small 100 g soft ice cream and that half a liter of beer is just as fattening as a donut.(3)

Higher alcohol consumption leads to an unbalanced diet, which is associated with specific deficiency symptoms, as we know them from the physical findings of alcohol-dependent patients.

If one gram of consumed alcohol contains 7 kilocalories, then two glasses of wine (2 x 125 ml) contain approx. 20 g alcohol, which corresponds to approx. 140 kilocalories. But in addition to the calories from the alcohol, wine also contains sugar and this provides additional calories. In total, two glasses of wine contain around 200 kilocalories.

Most other alcoholic beverages also contain some sugar and also energy-rich fat. Overall, even small amounts of alcohol result in a fairly high energy content.

Why is alcohol bad for weight loss?

Besides the fact that alcohol contains quite a bit of calories, it is also important to note that ethanol has some impact on the gastrointestinal tract and fat burning. This effect is the real reason why you slowly lose weight with regular consumption of alcoholic beverages, but gain weight faster.

Ethanol and its breakdown result in physical changes that persist beyond the high. Chemically, ethanol is a high-calorie reducing agent, the breakdown of which gobbles up large amounts of the oxidant NAD+, which boosts fat burning and lowers the NAD+/NADH ratio from 4:1 to 2:1.


When it comes to maintaining or losing weight, many forget that beverages also have calories - especially alcohol. Aside from the fact that too much isn't good anyway, alcohol tends to weigh heavily on the scale (Image source: unsplash / Siora Photography).

This decrease in the oxidation potential of the cells causes massive changes in metabolism, e.g. reduced synthesis of glucose, accumulation of lactic acid, increased fat synthesis and reduced breakdown of fats and proteins.(4)

Since alcohol slows down the burning of fatty acids for several hours, it increases fat deposits and increases the risk of obesity. Increased alcohol consumption promotes fat accumulation, especially in the abdominal area.(5)

Is it bad to drink alcohol every day?

Along with the reduced breakdown of fats and proteins, the increased fatty acid synthesis leads to fat and protein deposits in the liver.

This is reversible with occasional alcohol abuse, but with chronic consumption it leads directly to fatty liver, which, together with other alcohol-related damage to liver metabolism, can result in liver cirrhosis or carcinoma.(6)

If the body is supplied with more energy than it needs, it stores the excess energy in the form of fat. So if higher amounts of energy, in the form of alcoholic beverages, are consumed over a longer period of time, this could also be noticeable on the scales and in the mirror: you gain weight.

However, the intake of ethanol not only has disadvantages, because if the plasma concentration of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) increases, the blood's ability to clot decreases. Both may protect against heart attack and stroke, which may explain the lower incidence of fatal cardiovascular disease in some Mediterranean countries (Mediterranean diet).(7)

However, the red wine is sometimes drunk there in such large quantities that although the coronary heart diseases and strokes mentioned are fewer, liver diseases from fatty liver to carcinoma occur all the more frequently. As so often, the same applies here - moderate enjoyment should be the golden mean. (8th)

Which alcohol has the most and which has the fewest calories?

What many women don't realize is that two tall glasses of white wine not only exceeds the recommended daily alcohol limit, but also consumes nearly 20 percent of their daily calorie allowance, for a total of about 370 kilocalories.

It is wiser to drink a white wine spritzer instead of a glass of white wine, because that cuts the calories in half. And even a non-alcoholic beer has only about half the calories of a normal beer with just 75 kilocalories (0.3 litres).

Sweet cocktails and alcopops turn out to be real sugar and calorie bombs. A bottle (0.33 litres) of the mixed drinks popular among young people has around 200 kcal. A creamy Piña Colada can easily keep up with around 340 kilocalories per glass.

Alcohol Calorie Chart: How Many Calories Are In Alcoholic Drinks?

If we look at the calories of the cocktails per 100 ml, light and heavy weights can be recognized quickly:

alcohol variety Kilocalories per 100 ml
Alt beer (5% vol) 43
Alcohol-free draft beer (0.04-0.6% vol) 25
Pinot Gris (13.5% vol) 83
Red wine, Syrah (13% vol) 83
Sparkling wine (11-12% vol) 83
Grappa (38% vol) 242
Rum (40% vol) 231
Mijito 71
Long Island Iced Tea 127
bloody mary 86

Basically, it can be said that the calorie content increases with the amount of alcohol, the volume percentage, and other calorie-containing ingredients such as cola, fruit juices, milk, cream, etc.

Does alcohol consumption lead to increased hunger and food cravings?

Not only do the extra calories come from the alcohol consumed, but the desire to eat—especially fatty, high-calorie foods—increases with drinking because alcohol is responsible for lowering blood sugar levels.(9)

The body interprets a blood sugar level that is too low as an alarm signal for a lack of energy. He then reacts with ravenous hunger.

The current "Know Your Limits" numbers suggest that we eat even more calories the "morning after." Nearly two-thirds of drinkers who typically prefer a healthy breakfast will forgo it in favor of a less healthy breakfast to help survive the hangover afterwards.

More than a quarter grabbed a fried bread, bacon or sausage sandwich, or grab-and-go breakfast from a fast-food chain.

When you consider this behavior, you can add hundreds of calories to the alcohol calories you consumed the night before.(10)


Both the drinking behavior of individuals and that of society as a whole are largely determined by economic, political and cultural factors.

We know that every excess calorie is converted into body fat and stored. So if you are looking for a slim figure, you should take into account that alcohol provides a very high proportion of energy. 7 calories per gram, which is three more calories than one gram of sugar.

In addition, alcohol inhibits the burning of fat in the body. Fat metabolism slows down, which in turn means less body fat is broken down. Over time, regular alcohol consumption can lead to unwanted fat deposits in the body, especially in the lower abdomen.

Alcohol should therefore be consumed in moderation rather than in bulk. If you decide to go on the Mediterranean diet, you can definitely have a glass of red wine.


  1. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 1969; 94(23):1213-1217 DOI: 10.1055/s-0028-1111195
  2. Total consumption of alcoholic beverages in Germany
  3. 2000 people were questioned about alcohol. They were asked to estimate the caloric content of alcoholic beverages
  4. Roth, K (2007). The chemistry of hangovers: alcohol and its aftermath. Chemistry in Our Time, 41(1), 46–55. doi:10.1002/ciuz.200700409
  5. What happens to alcohol in the body? How does it affect the body and psyche? What physical harm can it cause? These and similar questions are frequently asked by young people and are not easy to answer.
  6. The path to healthy eating: Current answers to the 100 most important nutritional questions
  7. All studies carried out show that the Mediterranean diet fulfills important requirements that are placed on a healthy diet today.
  8. Roth, K (2005). A never-ending chemical story. Chemistry in Our Time, 39(3), 212-217. doi:10.1002/ciuz.200590038
  9. Alcohol in particular lowers blood sugar, so diabetics have to be very careful when drinking alcohol and follow a few rules of conduct.
  10. Regularly drinking more than our recommended daily limits can have a knock on effect on our health – including an expanding waistline. It's not only the calories in the drinks themselves that can help to pile on the pounds, we're also more likely to eat fatty foods when we've had one too many. To avoid piling on the pounds we should try to drink within the recommended limits, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
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