How many calories are in alcohol?
How many slices of pizza in a pint? And how long would I have to run to burn off two glasses of wine? If you don’t know, then you’re not alone.
Balance is encouraging people to think about the “empty calories” in alcohol as a nationwide drive encourages people to get healthy and lose weight. Alcohol contains around 7 calories per gram, which is almost as many as a gram of fat. BUT research suggests around 8/10 people are unaware of calorie content in many drinks and underestimate the true content. 
A major problem is that many alcohol producers don’t list on their packaging the number of calories contained in drinks, let alone low risk drinking guidance. The Government has announced that it will consult before the end of the year on placing calorie information on all alcohol product labels – something that is not yet required by law.
The Better Health campaign is encouraging people to get fit and lose and not drinking too much is an important part of that. Many people who have given Dry January a go mention weight loss as one of the best parts.
Many of us don’t think of alcohol as being high in calories – but while we might avoid a dessert, we might not think twice about a couple of drinks.
Did you know?
If you drink wine:
- A standard glass of 13% red or white wine can contain around 160 calories (Alcohol Change) – that’s around four Jaffa cakes (Fitbit)
- A large glass of 13% red or white wine can have around 225 calories (Alcohol Change) – similar to a jam doughnut (Fitbit)
- You’d need to do a 45 minute walk to burn off one large glass of wine
- If you drink four large glasses of wine a week, you’d need to do over 4 x 30 minute swims or 4 x 30 minute high impact step workouts a week to burn it off
- if you’re a couple sharing a bottle of 13% wine, you could be consuming 340 calories each – the same as a chocolate croissant each.
If you drink lager or beer:
- A pint of 5% lager can have around 220 calories (Alcohol Change) – the same as a Mars Bar and nearly as many as a McDonald’s hamburger (Fitbit)
- That means if you drink four pints a week, you’d need to play football for over 90 minutes or nearly three hours of cycling https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities)
If you drink gin
- a double gin & tonic can contain 149 calories – the same as a chocolate pancake.
- It would take a 30 minute walk to burn off the calories from one double G & T, while it would take a half-hour circuit training session or a 30 minute run to work off the calories from two double G&Ts (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities)
It’s scary over time how drinks mount up – that means if you drink two glasses of wine or two pints a night, that’s similar to two Big Macs, two fries and two McFlurries each week.
And drinking 4 bottles of wine a month adds up to a yearly consumption of around 27,000kcal, which is equivalent to eating 48 Big Macs per year. Drinking 5 pints of lager each week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.
Alcohol is estimated to account for nearly 10% of the calorie intake of those who drink, with around 3.4 million adults consuming an additional day's worth of calories each week– totalling an additional two months of food each year.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “It is clear that when it comes to alcohol, many people don’t consider the calories it contains. So for anyone losing weight, it is important to consider what you drink as well as what you eat, and remember that home-poured measures are often more generous and contain even more calories.
“It is clear that people need more information on alcohol labels and alcohol firms have been dragging their heels for the best part of two decades about providing this. The Government has promised it will consult on calorie information on alcohol this year and we are calling Ministers to make this happen.
“But we need to go further and ensure people see all the relevant health advice on product labels – something which producers are failing to do. We all need to keep ourselves fit and healthy in these times and that includes not drinking too much. People need the right information to make informed decisions to be able to look after their health.”
For more information on the forthcoming government consultation, visit: https://ahauk.org/government-announces-consultation-on-calorie-labelling-for-alcohol-products/