People trying to lose weight can benefit from knowing how many carbohydrates are in their favorite alcoholic beverages. Calories are important to consider, as well. The good news is that plain, clear vodka has zero carbohydrates.
A Carbohydrate-Free Beverage
Low carbohydrate diets continue to be very popular, but knowing what foods have no carbs isn't enough for optimal success. It is important to consider beverages as part of your daily intake, a notion that may get past many dieters.
The plain, clear variety of vodka has zero carbohydrates. However, the answer becomes a little more complicated when you consider other elements that come into play with drinking vodka while trying to stay on a low carb diet.
It is peculiar that a beverage traditionally derived from potatoes could be carbohydrate-free, especially since many modern vodkas are actually made with wheat, rye, rice, or other grains. Either way, vodka starts out its life pretty starchy.
How, then, can these ingredients produce something that is free of carbohydrates? Yeast - the microorganism responsible for fermentation - actually eats most of the carbs and converts them into alcohol.
As as side note, even when vodka is made with wheat, it's gluten-free. During the distillation process, which removes other compounds to increase the alcohol concentration, gluten is also taken out.
Calories in Vodka
Alcohol, regardless if the source, is pretty high in calories - packing about seven calories in each gram. Because vodka is fairly high in alcohol, then, it's also got plenty of calories. Most vodkas are 80 proof (about 40 percent alcohol), but some get close to 200 proof (around 95 percent alcohol). This latter group is sometimes referred to as "rectified spirits" and includes brands like Everclear. The most common vodka is 80 proof. The remaining volume is typically water, which adds no carbohydrates or calories. This may vary slightly by brand, though.
On average, a 1.5oz shot of 80 proof vodka has around 97 calories. One shot of 100 proof vodka, however, has 124 calories.
Types of Vodka
Not all vodkas are created equal when it comes to ingredients and nutrition. Some companies carefully select their ingredients and still produce traditional vodka. However, some companies may use sugary syrups for flavoring after fermenting and distilling the vodka. This can translate into higher calories and carbohydrates.
Many people assume flavored vodkas have higher carb or calorie counts than their unflavored counterparts. In truth, the high-quality flavored vodkas contain calorie and carb counts that are virtually the same as traditional vodka. This is because the flavoring agents (such as citrus peel or vanilla bean) are added at the start of the distilling process. Once the liquor is distilled, the essence of the flavor remains but not its carbohydrate or calorie counts. Some lower quality flavored vodkas may follow a different process that includes adding sugar or flavoring agents, so always read the labels carefully.
Another consideration is the mixer that you choose to use with the vodka. Many dieters use the following to create a low-carbohydrate drink:
- Soda water
- Crystal Light
- Diet soda
Avoid using fruit juices, tonic water, and sugary mixers. They can make the calorie and carbohydrate content of the drink skyrocket very quickly.
Alcohol and Weight Control
The University of Berkeley Wellness Letter notes there are no clear-cut answers to the question about weight control and alcohol consumption. Many alcoholics are underweight, but people who have addictive personalities may overindulge in alcohol, just as they may tend to overindulge in food.
The problem is conflicting results in various studies when it comes to weight control and alcohol. Some considerations to make before drinking while on a weight loss program of any sort include:
- Alcohol contains empty calories. While many low-carb diets do not focus on calories, the basic premise of weight loss is taking in fewer calories than you use. The calories in alcohol are empty because the substance offers no other nutritional value. This means that you have to eat less food and take in fewer nutrients if you plan to add alcohol to your diet.
- Willpower is lessened when you are under the influence of alcohol. It is more likely that a dieter will make poor decisions about food after a few drinks. Not only are you taking in extra calories with the beverage, you are also less likely to stick to your diet.
- Alcohol is a priority fuel in your body, meaning that it must be burned first. Although people don't always think about it in these terms, alcohol is a toxin. And, just like any other toxin, your body wants it out as soon as possible. So, rather than metabolizing the calories from protein, carbs or fat that you've taken in, your body stores these as fat and focuses its attention on the alcohol. Unfortunately, your body can't actually get any energy from alcohol. All of that effort, then, produces no benefits.
Vodka and Diets
It is important to discuss any diet plan you adopt with your physician, especially if alcoholic beverages are involved. Chances are, one or two drinks per week won't interfere with your progress. However, your physician can offer the best advice about drinking and dieting.