Compared with beers, ciders, and wines, vodka is fairly low in calories. It is also free from carbohydrates, which may appeal to some people who are dieting.
However, this does not necessarily mean that vodka is a good choice for a person looking to lose weight.
In this article, we compare the nutritional profiles of vodka and other types of alcohol. We also describe how drinking alcohol can interfere with weight loss.
Standard, plain vodka only contains water and alcohol (ethanol), aside from trace amounts of impurities and nutrients.
All of the calories in vodka, therefore, come from the alcohol.
As the concentration of alcohol in vodka increases, so does the calorie count.
The percentage of alcohol in this type of liquor is called the proof. A person can roughly determine the concentration of alcohol by halving the liquor’s proof value. For example, an 80-proof vodka will contain about 40 percent alcohol.
The following are the caloric contents of 1.5-ounce servings of vodkas of different proofs:
- 115 calories in a serving of 94-proof vodka
- 123 calories in a serving of 100-proof vodka
Beyond calories, vodka contains no nutrients, such as fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals. This is why many people refer to vodka and other types of alcohol as sources of “empty” calories.
In fact, the body metabolizes alcohol completely differently from the way it metabolizes the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Vodka contains zero carbohydrates.
Though it is made from foods rich in carbohydrates, such as potatoes or wheat, the fermentation and distillation process strips these foods of nearly all of their nutrients, including carbohydrates.
Most of the sugars and starches in the original foods are converted into ethanol.
While vodka is considered a low-calorie type of alcohol, it contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates.
Protein and carbohydrates both contain roughly 4 calories per gram, while ethanol contains 7 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram.
Alcohol also interferes with the liver’s ability to break down and remove fats.
How does the body respond to alcohol?
When alcohol enters the body, it takes precedence — the liver metabolizes it before fats and sugars.
This causes fatty acids, the basic components of fats, to build up. The body often stores them for later use.
Because alcohol is metabolized first, the body burns calories from alcohol before it burns those from fats. This process is called fat sparring.
The liver also stores glucose, in the form of glycogen, as a backup energy source. However, the liver breaks down alcohol before it provides glucose to the body, which often results in low blood sugar. This makes drinking alcohol particularly dangerous for people with diabetes.
Can alcohol inhibit weight loss in other ways?
Yes. Drinking alcohol can increase cravings for rich, fatty foods, which people looking to lose weight usually try to avoid.
Alcohol also increases most people’s appetites. Drinking alcohol can promote eating habits that encourage weight gain, such as late-night snacking and overeating.
How many calories are in mixers?
Many people mix vodka with calorie-rich beverages, such as juices, sodas, or other liquors. A mixed drink that includes vodka will often have two-to-three times the calorie count of the same serving of vodka alone.
An 8-ounce serving of the following popular mixers contains:
- orange juice: 111 calories
- regular soda: 100 calories
- regular tonic water, ginger ale, or quinine water: 80 calories
Below are average calorie counts of popular cocktails and coolers that often contain vodka:
- 2.25-ounce martini: 124 calories
- 2.75-ounce cosmopolitan: 146 calories
- 12-ounce Smirnoff ice: 241 calories
A person may prefer a flavored or infused vodka to combining plain vodka with a calorie-rich mixer.
Anyone counting calories should read the labels of flavored vodkas carefully. If nutritional contents are not clearly labeled, the company’s website may have more information.
Most infused products contain no additional calories, but products that contain syrups will have a much higher calorie count than regular vodka.
Club soda, plain water, and ice contain no calories or sugar, and adding slices of lemons or limes can enhance the flavor of a drink with vodka.
Vodka has a similar nutritional profile to other distilled spirits, including:
Most distilled spirits contain roughly 96–98 calories per 1.5-ounce serving and no carbohydrates.
As with vodka, the precise number of calories per serving varies between brands and proofs.
Most other types of alcohol contain more calories per serving than vodka.
While exact calorie counts depend on the brand and presence of flavoring, other popular types of alcohol contain about:
- 153 calories per 12-ounce serving of beer
- 103 calories per 12-ounce serving of light beer
- 165 calories per 1.5-ounce serving of most liqueurs
- 125 calories per 5-ounce serving of red wine
- 121 calories per 5-ounce serving of white wine
- 165 calories per 3.5-ounce serving of sweet wine
- 75 calories per 2-ounce serving of sherry
- 90 calories per 2-ounce serving of port
- 84 calories per 4-ounce serving of champagne
- 140 calories per 3-ounce serving of sweet vermouth
- 105 calories per 3-ounce serving of dry vermouth
A person can reduce the number of calories in an alcoholic beverage by:
- using calorie-reduced or calorie-free sodas or juices as mixers
- using plain water or club soda as a mixer
- adding ice to drinks
- flavoring drinks with a squeeze of citrus, such as a lemon or lime
- flavoring drinks with mint or sage leaves
- adding zero-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia, to drinks
- measuring mixed drink ingredients carefully
Certain strategies can help a person to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume. Some tips include:
- drink water between each alcoholic drink
- avoid drinking shots
- focus on sipping drinks slowly
- avoid drinking late at night
- avoid drinking on an empty stomach
- avoid mixing alcohol with drinks that contain caffeine, such as energy drinks, coffee, and tea, as these can prolong periods of drinking
- try cutting back to one drink a night, then skipping alcohol for a few days at a time
The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women no more than one.
One drink is considered:
- a 1.5-ounce serving of 80-proof spirits
- a 4-ounce glass of wine
- a 12-ounce beer
It is important to remember that mocktails and alcohol-free coolers can also contain high amounts of sugar and calories, so be sure to check labeling.
Compared with other types of alcohol, vodka contains relatively few calories and no carbs.
A standard serving of vodka contains 96 calories, according to the USDA.
It is important to remember that alcohol can impede weight loss in a variety of ways, including postponing the metabolism of fats and sugars.
Anyone who drinks alcohol and wants to lose weight should choose low- or zero-calorie mixers. Certain strategies, such as drinking water between alcoholic beverages, can also help.