An Inconvenient Truth: The Caloric Value of Alcohol
by Jillian Brown


According to the Princeton Review’s 2007 edition of The Best 361 Colleges, a sample of 115,000 ranked UCSB as the number one party school in the United States.

Another point of pride on the social scene for UCSB students in addition to the party-school ranking is the population of fit, good-looking students who attend school here.  This is certainly the reason for the “Our girls are hotter!” chant at sporting events.

But looming over students’ heads is the dreaded “freshman 15,” a phenomenon few are able to avoid throughout their college careers. Could excessive alcohol consumption be the reason for this weight gain and the self-image issues that often lead to harmful behaviors including eating disorders?

In the words of one second-year student, “Girls here have really nice, toned arms and legs, but they have a [beer/alcohol] belly. They work out hardcore, but they also party hardcore.”

Anyone who’s been out to notorious Isla Vista on a Friday or Saturday night knows that booze is flowing, and it’s usually free. But for the health-conscious student, how many calories are in a shot, exactly? And how much do chaser calories add to the evening’s total calorie count?

Diet sodas, of course, have 0 calories. However, options are limited in Isla Vista, and often include higher-calorie choices. For example, red or orange Hawaiian Punch totals 80 calories per eight-fluid-ounce serving, and Dole pineapple juice and Minute Maid orange juice are both 110 calories per serving. Just one can of Coke or Sprite sums up to 170 calories. None of these chasers have nutritional value; their calories are mostly from sugars and sodium.
Chasers have blatantly displayed nutritional labels, but has anyone noticed how difficult it is to locate the caloric values for liquor?

An interesting comparison can be made between a common chaser’s caloric value and that of a shot of hard liquor or a can of beer.  A can of ever-delicious Keystone Light beer is 140 calories; Miller Light is 110. And a can of beer only contains 4.2 percent alcohol. It takes about three beers for a light-weight to get tipsy, and that is already 330-420 calories consumed from light beer. Heavy-weights who consume 5 beers are taking in between 550 and 700 calories.

A shot (1.5 fluid ounces) of 80-proof, or 40 percent, alcohol is 97 calories. A light-weight who can become inebriated from 3 shots will have already consumed 291 calories. Those who can handle 5-6 shots are consuming 485-582 calories, and heavy weights who can throw back 10 shots consume 970 calories. Multiply these amounts by two if you’re one to party on two consecutive nights.

While it’s true that those who chase with diet beverages aren’t adding any extra calories, most people chase with “regular” beverages when out in I.V.  If you add a serving of a 110 calorie chaser to a 5-shot, 485 calorie evening, then you’ll be consuming a grand total of 595 calories. That means that you will have drunk a meal’s worth of calories, completely devoid of any real nutritional value.

Perhaps taking a weekend off from partying in I.V. isn’t such a bad idea.  Maybe students should try going bowling, shopping with friends, or playing a pick-up game of basketball every once in a while. There are ways to have fun in Santa Barbara without alcohol, many of which will actually help you burn calories instead of pack them on.