Alcoholic Drinks and Weight Loss: Where Do the Calories in Vodka Come From?

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Vodka is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world. Although this drink originated in Russia and the northern countries of Europe, it is used in mixed drinks all over the United States. This beverage is more popular than bourbon, which actually originated in the U.S. This beverage has an alcohol content of 30 to 50 percent. You can even find a vodka with 40 percent alcohol (80 proof) in a local supermarket or liquor store.

How is Vodka Made?

Vodka is made from the fermentation and posterior distillation of any sugar source: wheat, rye, molasses, corn, sorghum, grapes, sugar beets, soybeans, etc. Vodkas made from rye or wheat or any combination of these grains are considered to be of superior quality, although good quality vodkas can be made from any sugary source. Basically, starches from any source are broken down to sugars by natural enzymes contained in the raw materials. Then, the sugars are fermented to produce alcohol. Finally, the alcohol content is separated from the rest by a process of distillation. Distillation can be carried out many times until the desired alcohol content of the drink is reached. In traditional vodka production, alcoholic content may be increased to up to 90-95% and then cut up to the final concentration with water.

Where Do the Calories in Vodka Come From?

Vodka in pretty much “pure alcohol.” It is basically water and ethyl alcohol. A look into the Database for Nutrients of the United States Department of Agriculture confirms this affirmation. In fact, vodka has no protein, fat or carbohydrates. Contrary to other alcoholic drinks, vodka has zero carbs (see below). So if vodka has no fat, proteins or carbs where do the calories come from?

Carbohydrate content of some alcoholic drinks:

  • Beer, regular (12 fl oz) has 13g carbs
  • Beer, light (12 fl oz) has 4.5g carbs
  • Wine, red (3.5 fl oz) has 1.75g carbs
  • Cider, dry (1 pint) has 15g carbs
  • Vodka, (1 fl oz) has 0g carbs
  • Gin, Rum, Whiskey (1 fl oz) has 0g carbs

Calories in vodka come from its main component: ethyl alcohol. The same alcohol that gives people the intoxicating sensation of the drink is giving the drink calories - and a lot of them. In fact, alcohol (ethyl alcohol) gives 7 calories per gram, much more than the 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and proteins, and just below the 9 calories per gram of fats. So if you think that a zero-carbohydrate drink will give you no calories at all, think again. Vodka has, in fact, more calories than most alcoholic drinks containing carbohydrates (beers or wines). More specifically, 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof vodka (40% alcohol) has the following “nutritional composition”:

  • 97 calories
  • 0 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 0 g carbohydrate
  • 14 g alcohol

Now you know the answer to the question, “where do the calories in vodka come from?”

Sources:

https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

William Pokhlebkin (1992). A history of Vodka. ISBN 0860913597