Alcohol 101

Original Image by Lindsey G via Flickr
Original Image by Lindsey G via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

The consumption of alcohol (ETOH) has become a regular factor of American life. Whether it’s drinking a nice cold beer after a long day’s work, socializing with friends over wine and cheese or the customary blow out for one’s 21st birthday. The fact is, alcohol consumption is associated with relaxing and fun.

I’m sure you’ve heard you shouldn’t drink your calories and it sounds silly for me to say, but that includes alcoholic beverages as well. I’ve become so dependent on nutrition fact labels that if it’s there, I can’t help but look. However, how many of you know what the recommended consumption of wine and liquor is? When you’re out with friends are you counting the amount of calories and/or sugar content? No, you’re out to have a good time.

I have to admit my nutrition interest has seeped into other realms of my life. Last Wednesday I was out with my friend chilling at the local bar and she kept asking me why I wasn’t drinking the beer, saying she wished she knew I didn’t like Coors Light. I was too embarrassed to tell her, especially as a non nutrition major, that I couldn’t help, but wonder how many calories and grams of sugar I consuming with the beer and Long Island Iced Tea she ordered. Of course, I could’ve pulled that info up on my iPhone, but part of me didn’t want to know at the time.

I recently heard one should allot 10% of their calories to whatever pleasures they want. So, if one’s on a 2000 calorie diet, allotting 200 calories to whatever treats is allowed. I should be consuming around 1600 calories so the number of discretionary calories for me is less than 200 calories, however, without even looking up the nutrition facts I knew I’d be over my recommended caloric intake if I drank all the beer.

Different liquors have varying alcohol content. In fact, many light beers have almost as much alcohol as regular beer – about 85% as much.

I don’t value beer or alcohol as highly as my fellow college students. I would rather spend my discretionary calories on sweets. Yes, I know alcohol’s a form of sugar. For the future and to be more aware of my surroundings, I’ve created a cheat sheet of customary alcoholic beverages, how much one REALLY is consuming. These numbers might make you think again when ordering your next drink. How many of you only have one? It’s hard, right?

Calories Amount Grams of alcohol Mg of Potassium Gram of OH Grams of total carbohydrates Grams of sugar Mg of sodium
Vodka, 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 13.9 0.4 13.9
Vodka, 100 proof 123 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 17.7
Red Wine, burgundy 127 5 fluid oz. 15.2 5.5
White wine, 10% alcohol 121 5.2 oz. 105.1 15.2 3.8 1.4 7
Tequila, 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 13.9
Whiskey, 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 13.9
Vodka tonic, no lemon or lime wedge 169 8.5 fluid oz. 13.4 18.8 18.8 26
Champagne 78 4.1 fluid oz. 10.3 1.2
White wine, Riesling, 9.5% alcohol 120 5 fluid oz. 14.1 5.5
Bloody Mary 125 10 fluid oz. 13.2 6.8 5.1 461
Margarita 153 3.3 fluid oz. 17.7 7 4.3 583
Gin; 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 13.9
Sugar free Red Bull and vodka 74 1 fluid oz. of vodka; 1 can of Red Bull 2.9 197
Smirnoff Vodka; red label; 40% 97 1.5 fluid oz.; shot 13.9
Kahlua; 20% alcohol 91 1 fluid oz. 14.7 4.6 3

I really like this chart and breakdown on different wines.


Last, but not least, a little alcohol’s fine in moderation. What’s moderation? A standard drink’s considered on that contains 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol, which is equivalent to:


For men, moderate drinking’s considered two drinks daily daily, while for women it’s considered one drink a day.

Overconsumption of alcoholic drinks can cause nutritional risk and lifelong damage to one’s liver.

Impact of alcohol on one’s life:

  • Alcohol and body composition:
    • Incorporating alcohol in one’s diet can lead to obesity
    • Drinking instead of regular dietary intake can cause muscle loss or protein malnutrition
    • Men that drink 2 or more drinks are found to have higher BMI than their nondrinking counterparts
    • Higher incidence of drinking may result or be in addition to problematic eating behaviors
  • Alcohol and digestion:
    • Chronic consumption impairs pancreatic endocrine function and/or pancreatic enzyme secretion, furthering to fat and/or protein malabsorption
    • Common side effect: insulin resistance, causing energy store depletion and impaired glycogen formation
    • Excessive lactic acid production can occur because of anaerobic energy production
  • Alcohol and nutrients:
    • Alcohol consumption cab lead to impaired amino acid uptake and protein synthesis in liver
    • Increased protein oxidation due to cell regeneration
    • Leptin can be increased, which is pro-inflammatory and decreases appetite
    • Uptake of folate, vitamin B6, B1 and vitamin A may be decreased with alcohol
    • Common deficiency among drinkers: folic acid deficiency because of increased demand for nucleic acids needed for regeneration of injured liver cells
    • Alcohol’s an antagonists of vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B3 and vitamin K
  • Alcohol and tolerance
    • Alcohol metabolism converts LADH to other oxidizing system, which increases alcohol tolerance and lowers caloric output
  • Alcohol and hormones
    • Alcohol’s a strong mediator of sex hormones
    • i.e. ethanol—a testicular toxin, which coverts testosterone to estrogen
    • men may develop infertility, gonadal atrophy, feminization
    • Abusers tend to have lower LH and FSH levels
  • Alcohol and heart disease and oxidative stress
    • Moderate consumption’s been seen to have the lowest mortality rate
    • Often seen that moderate consumption of alcohol often consume moderately in other aspects of their lives


Photo Credit: NIAAA, Wine Folly and NBC News

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