...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What Are You Drinking? -- Part Three

This is the third installment of a three-part series.  Part One is here.  Part Two is here.  I'm including a link to the Google Docs file on which the table screenshots are based.

Part 3:  A Slender Bender

Looks like Saturday's spoken for. What'd you get for Sunday?

You will hear from every fitness maven, nutritionist, diet guru, and many other well-intentioned but spiritually-confused experts that alcohol is nothing but empty calories.

They are correct.

But, you don't drink so that you look sexy.  You drink so that I look sexy.

And may I say we're all looking quite fine tonight.

Here's the truth that the sad people are referencing:  Ethanol = 7 calories per gram.  Carbs are 4 cal/g, proteins 4 cal/g, and fats 9 cal/g.  You can hit the gym to burn off those nutrients.  Alcohol doesn't make it so easy.  Due to the depression of the drinker's synaptic transmission (mentioned in Part One), the booze doesn't promote activity.  Instead it slows things down.  A canter along the beach isn't a bad idea, but drunken sprinting on the treadmill would be a poor decision.  And lifting weights would be downright hazardous.

Those calories that are neither burned by exercise nor processed in your body's daily needs are stored up as Tubby molecules.  Happily, due to the laws of physics, energy still exists in the Tubby.  So nothing (except life) is stopping you from exercising vigorously when you're sober.

What most of the diet folks are not divulging is that caloric value between drinks varies considerably.  Two-and-a-half shots of tequila still has fewer calories than one serving of Baileys.  And don't get me started on whiskies.  Sweet sweet whiskies.

The table!

Orange = beers; Purple = wines; Pink = liqueurs; Blue = spirits; Brown = whiskies

As you may note, the caloric differences in this chart quickly become significant at the bottom.

"Why do spirits and whiskies fare so well, calorically?"
Hello again, Blue Text.  Due to distillation processes, liquors are just ethanol, water, and microscopic natural favor and aromatic compounds.  No lesser sugars, no proteins, and no fats.  So their calories come from alcohol, nothing else.

Beer contains a small amount of sugars from the barley and hops needed in its production.  For instance, Budweiser has 10g of carbs and Miller Lite has about 3g.  Those carbs exist because they haven't been distilled into ethanol.  Wines still have a little sugar left from their grapes.  Liqueurs like Amaretto are generously sweetened with sugar.  Bailey's has been fattened and sweetened; that 2oz serving has 8g of fat and 10g of sugary carbs.

"What about mixers?"
Here's about mixers:

Sour mix (4oz) - 107 calories (water, high fructose corn syrup & chemical additives)
Coke (8oz) - 100 calories (water, high fructose corn syrup & chemical additives)
Ginger Ale (8oz) - 84 calories (water, high fructose corn syrup & chemical additives)
Tonic (8oz) - 88 calories (water, high fructose corn syrup & chemical additives)

A wise Wonka once whispered, "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker."  If you're adding mixers, they almost always have more calories than your booze.  More calories in the tonic than the vodka.  Many more calories in the sour mix than the tequila.  If you're tarting your tipples (drinking mixed beverages) every night, consider what the double-barreled blast of corn syrup and ethanol is doing to your liver.

Here are the ingredients to the real skinny Margarita: tequila, shot glass.

Thus ends my health-nut-style diatribe.

"Getting a little amorous with the hyphens today?  Next thing you know, I'll be Blue-Text."
Do you have something meaningful to contribute?

"Club soda, ice, or lime squeezes make healthier mixers."
Thank you.

So let's pull this all together:

  • Alcohol content:  Wine, and strong liquors (like gin, vodka, and whiskey) have more alcohol in their single servings than sparkling wines, light beers, and liqueurs.
  • Cost per serving of alcohol - Strong liquors (especially gin) and beer provide more buzz for the buck.  Liqueurs, not so much.
  • Calories per serving of alcohol - The spirits win again, thanks to the magic of the distillation process.  While beers and liqueurs get to be on the heavy side.

In the end, drink what you enjoy.  Take pleasure in the unmeasurable.

Now, let us return to our regularly scheduled drink.

(Sources: my liquor cabinet; Tap 'n Track App by Nanobit Software;
beveragewarehouse.com; beer100.com; caloriecount.about.com;
American Medical Association; Indiana Prevention Resource Center;
Feller, Robyn. The Complete Bartender. New York: Berkeley Books, 1990.
Pendell, Dale. Pharmako/Poeia. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2009.)