Many of us enjoy a few drinks when we go out for the night – but how do alcoholic beverages fit into a healthy, balanced lifestyle? How many situps would it take to burn off the calories in a gin and tonic? And how many miles would you have to jog to shed a mojito?
To find out the nutritional cost of a night of drinking, we did the math on the calories, sugar, and carbs in your favorite alcoholic beverages.
Even if you’re on a cheat day, a couple of beers could have a big impact on your health. Read on to top off your knowledge when it comes to burning off the calories you might be consuming on a night out.
Whether you like to kick back with a Jack and coke or sip a sweet cocktail, your favorite alcoholic beverage could be loaded with calories.
Mixed drinks may contain between 75 and 568 calories. The cocktails included in our analysis averaged 233 calories per drink – the equivalent of a small bag of milk chocolate M&M’s!
Given that the recommended calorie intake for a woman is between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day, one average cocktail could eat up around 10% of your allowance.
Spirits are far less calorie-packed, but it still takes the average woman 27 minutes of weightlifting to burn off one shot.
Wines and distilled alcohol tended to contain the fewest calories. The average man could burn off a glass of wine with 29 minutes of yoga. Downward dog with a hangover? Yep, we’ve all ridden that struggle bus!
Gin ‘n’ Jog
There’s no need to become a teetotaler if you want to crush your fitness goals – provided you know what’s in your glass.
To highlight the caloric content of alcohol, we worked out how many miles you’d have to run – at a steady 10-minute pace – to burn off your favorite tipple.
The average man would have to run about eight miles to burn off the calories in a piña colada, while a woman would have to go more than nine miles.
Prefer a tangy margarita? Be prepared to pound the pavement for around 2.5 to three miles to burn off its caloric content.
To minimize the caloric load of a night out, opt for a refreshing mimosa – you can burn it off by running just over a mile.
Wines and light beers tend to be comparatively low in calories, too. The average man could run off a glass of rosé in just 1.2 miles, while the average woman could run off a Miller Lite in 1.7 miles.
Comparing Food and Drink Calories
Who doesn’t like to spice up their weekend with a crunchy taco or three?
Speaking of crunches, we thought it would be fun to measure the caloric content of your favorite drinks … in tacos.
Like to wash your taco down with an ice-cold margarita? One salt-rimmed cocktail can up your calorie intake by the equivalent of 1.2 tacos.
We found that a piña colada is the caloric equivalent of eating 3.8 tacos, while slurping a Long Island iced tea is the same as wolfing down 2.6 tacos.
One lighter option is a thirst-quenching Mexican beer such as Corona Light – it contains the calories of just 0.7 tacos. Bueno!
Chugging a few beers with your meal could send your carb count soaring and, in some cases, could be equal to the carbs in a regular cheeseburger!
Beer is made using fermented yeast. It’s the residual sugar generated by this process that makes beer high in carbs.
Two servings of Sam Adams beer, for example, contain the same amount of carbohydrates as a cheeseburger. The same can be said of drinking three Pabst Blue Ribbons.
Plan on skipping the gym tomorrow? Consider drinking light beer if you usually go for heavier craft beers. For instance, you’d have to consume almost 14 bottles of Michelob Ultra to take on board the same amount of calories in one cheeseburger (although we don’t advise testing this theory).
Sweet Treats and Drinks
What’s healthier: a daiquiri or a doughnut? One may “look” healthier than the other, but, when it comes to sugars, your body doesn’t discriminate.
The average daily recommended sugar intake for a woman is 25 grams. To put that in perspective, a chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut contains 20 grams of sugar.
Apply that math to drinks, and you’ll see that one piña colada has the same amount of sugar as two chocolate Krispy Kremes!
Nonalcoholic drinks can be just as sugary. A Grande Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks is loaded with the sugars of nearly 2.5 Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
There’s no need to be puritanical when it comes to sugar, but it’s wise to keep tabs on your intake. Too many sweet treats can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and even heart disease.
Guinness – the world-famous Irish stout – is affectionately known as “a meal in a glass.” But plenty of other drinks can be compared to a meal in terms of their caloric content.
A White Russian or piña colada can contain more calories than a large portion of french fries.
Opting for a chocolate martini is the same as chowing down on a plate of spaghetti marinara. Follow up with a mai tai for dessert, and you’ll bump your calorie intake by the equivalent of an ice cream sundae topped with hot fudge sauce.
Even vodka isn’t as innocent as it appears. When mixed with a Red Bull, it can contain the same number of calories as a slice of pepperoni pizza. Mamma mia!
How hard do you need to exercise to burn off the calories in your favorite drink? Tap in what drinks you enjoyed last night and input your vital statistics to find out.
Should You Choose Booze?
Cutting down on calories, sugars, and carbs doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out alcohol.
A healthy lifestyle takes time, dedication, and a good balance of nutrient-rich foods – it doesn’t mean simply skipping the cocktail menu.
But with knowledge of what’s in your glass, you can enjoy an occasional drink and still reach your health and lifestyle goals. As in all things, drinking in moderation is key, and it’s not entirely without risk.
If all that talk of doughnuts and burgers has given you an appetite for an energizing workout, FitRated.com can help. We provide honest, unbiased reviews that’ll help take the stress out of buying the latest and greatest fitness equipment.
Whether you’re already shredding it in the gym or just want to boost your well-being, let FitRated.com help you find the fitness equipment to help you reach your goals.
For this project, we analyzed the calorie and sugar contents of popular drinks and foods. Sources for calorie data can be found here.
To estimate the amount of activity needed to burn the calories from your night out, we used a well-known equation that takes into account the energy cost of different activities, as well as a person’s weight and the amount of time they are involved in the activity. We used the average weight for American men and women from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We also used the following equation to find the energy cost of various activities, represented by the constant METS, which denotes the activity’s “metabolic equivalent.
Calories = METS (calories/kg*hours) x Weight (kg) x Time (hours)
To find the hours of activity needed to equate with the calorie intake during an average night out, we rearranged the above equation to solve for hours:
Time = Calories/(MET x Weight)
For the calculations involving distance running, we used a 10-minute mile time and the number of hours from above to solve for distance in the following way:
Distance = Time x Average Speed (10 min)
To determine the equivalent calories and grams of sugar in drinks, tacos, and doughnuts, we based our calculation on a regular crunchy beef taco from Taco Bell, which has 140 calories. We based our doughnut calculation on the grams of sugar in one chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. Finally, we divided the grams of carbohydrates in a variety of drinks by the grams in a cheeseburger (35.5 grams) to determine the equivalency.
Variations may exist in calories of the food items we included in our analysis. Variations also exist in the MET scores of exercises performed based on intensity level, age, and weight, among other factors.
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