Thank you for your confession. Sometimes it takes a few drinks to transform a Type A athlete into a social butterfly who can chat about more than his VO2 Max and chaffed nipples. But know this: There are no health-conscious alcoholic drinks. “The body recognizes alcohol as a poison, or as a toxin,” says Jim Schaefer, an alcohol and metabolism expert and anthropology professor at Union College. Not to mention, alcohol is highly calorific at seven calories per gram, and unused alcohol calories are stored as fat.
That said, if you’re going to drink and are concerned purely about the calories in your drinks, check out this chart of drinks and their caloric content to see how your favorites stack up. The National Institutes of Health has also created this handy calculator that will help you determine the total number of calories you consume per week in alcoholic beverages.
If you’re more interested in buzz per calorie, consider these discoveries:
Carbonation can increase the rate of alcohol absorption. In a 2007 study, 21 subjects consumed alcoholic drinks on three separate occasions. On the first, they drank a vodka neat. On the second, they drank vodka mixed with still water. On the third occasion, they drank vodka mixed with carbonated water. All but one of the subjects absorbed the diluted alcohol faster than the concentrated alcohol. And 14 of those subjects absorbed the alcohol in the carbonated drink faster than the alcohol in the still mixer.
Artificially sweetened mixers (like diet cola) can increase the rate of alcohol absorption compared to similar non-diet mixers (like cola). In a 2006 study, researchers found that people who consumed diet mixed drinks absorbed the alcohol 15 minutes faster than those who drank regular mixed drinks. The diet drinkers also had a higher blood alcohol concentration. It’s possible that the sugar in the regular mixed drinks slows alcohol’s absorption.
Drinking caffeinated diet cola mixed drinks may make you drink more in general. While you’ll get a quick buzz for relatively few calories, as demonstrated above, you might also wind up drinking more throughout the night if you sip drinks mixed with caffeinated diet cola rather than their sugary counterparts, according to studies published in 2011 and 2012. So choose wisely. A 12-ounce drink made of three ounces of Jack Daniels and Diet Coke has about 195 calories, while the same drink with regular Coke has 308 calories. Clearly, two of those diet drinks will have more calories than one of the regular drinks.
So there you have it. Fitness Coach is not enthused about your drinking, and would like to remind you to please drink responsibly. If nothing else, it will keep you from kicking off 2012 with the beginnings of a gut.