Three beers, two wine coolers and a McDonald’s Big Mac have one
thing in common.
They all contain about 450 calories.
“First thing people think is, ‘It’s a liquid’,” said Dawn
Clifford, a registered dietician at Hartshorn Health Service. “They
think of it like water, so sometimes people just don’t realize that
alcohol has calories.”
Whether students choose to drink to escape a stressful week or
just as a social gesture, they could be packing on additional body
“Alcohol calories can get inverted into fat easily,” Clifford
said. “Alcohol is metabolized in the body similar to the way fat
While alcohol differs from a Big Mac in that it does not contain
fat, it is calorie dense.
Fat is the most calorie-dense substance, consisting of nine
calories per gram, while alcohol follows with seven calories per
gram and carbohydrates and protein only include four calories per
Still, Thomas McGinley said he drinks to relax and has never
worried about the calories in each gram of alcohol.
When McGinley drinks with his friends he consumes four to eight
regular beers, adding up to 600 to 1,200 calories.
“I’ve been an athlete for a super long time and I know that as
long as you stay fairly active you’ll burn off anything that you
take in, beer included,” said McGinley, a junior natural resources
Conversely, the calories in alcohol give Krista Kolesar one more
reason not to drink.
“Where do you think the term ‘beer belly’ comes from? It’s all
those calories that you’re not really thinking about when you
consume it,” said Kolesar, a sophomore human development major. “If
you’re trying to workout and stay slim it doesn’t help to
While the potential for substantial weight gain because of
moderate alcohol consumption is debated among experts, Clifford
said that increased calories do inhibit an increase in weight.
“If the total number of calories consumed during a day is more
calories than you’re burning off, you’re going to gain weight – it
doesn’t matter if you get it from alcohol or food,” Clifford
Yet, for students like Jon Slinger, drinking sometimes replaces
“If I miss dinner and I’m drinking I just drink more to make up
for the calories I miss at dinner,” said Slinger, a graduate
student studying mathematics.
Alcoholic beverages are categorized as “empty calories,” meaning
they have no nutritional value. Therefore, problems may occur when
alcohol is consistently substituted for meals, said Pam McCracken,
the director for CSU’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Education.
“The more alcohol-dependent, students are not going to be as
healthy,” McCracken said. “They will get more colds and be more
susceptible, their body will not be able to fight things off.”
McCracken also said that when people who are trying to lose
weight drink alcohol, calories may be more easily consumed.
“Once we drink we tend to take more risks,” McCracken said.
“We’d be more apt to not stick to the goals we have for ourselves,
more apt to throw them out the window.”
Even drinkers who consume “light” alcoholic beverages are not
exempt from increased calorie consumption.
A regular 12-ounce beer has about 150 calories, while a light
12-ounce beer is reduced to about 100 calories.
Still, a light beer contains less alcohol than a regular beer,
so drinkers would need to increase their consumption of the light
beer to obtain the alcohol amount in the regular beer, thus
“I don’t see the advantages to (light) beverages except for a
marketing scheme,” Clifford said. “Calories add up, but mostly
people should drink what they enjoy and do so in moderation.”