Sake Is high in calories and fattening; Truth or lie!? Ways to drink sake and stay in shape

Lately,  here in Japan, refreshing, sweet, slightly easier-to-palate sakes are all the rage, leading to an increase in young female fans of the beverage; in today’s society, the demographic that is normally most health conscious or concerned about their weight.

Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice, it’s sweet — in short, it screams “calories!” at you — it comes with the words “I will make you fat!” on the label; there are no doubt people trying to avoid the beverage for precisely this reason.

“does drinking sake really put on the pounds?”
“is there a way to drink sake without having to worry about the calories?”

In today’s article we will try to give you the answers to these questions.

Just How Many Calories Does Sake Contain?

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To determine whether sake puts on the pounds or not, we need to look at the calories. Where does sake rank on the scales compared to other alcoholic beverages?
The below data shows various alcoholic beverages and their average calorie contents.

Type Calorie
Beer 40kcal
Champagne / Carbonated Alcohol 45kcal
Wine 73kcal
Sake 103kcal
Shochu (Korui) 146kcal
Plum Wine 156kcal
Shochu (Otsurui) 206kcal
Whiskey 237kcal
Brandy 237kcal
Vodka 240kcal
Gin 284kcal

In the case of sake, every 100ml contains 103Kcal. Compared to wine and beer, that definitely feels a bit on the high side.

However, before we can reach a proper conclusion, other factors must be taken into consideration. For example, people will drink comparatively higher volumes of beer than they will sake because it is lower in alcohol. Or to put it another way, the more alcoholic spirits etc might be higher in calories, but you can’t really drink them in such high volumes because of their alcohol content. There is more to it than just counting calories.

The Calories in Sake Make it Less Likely You Will Put on Weight

The calories found in sake are called empty calories which is basically — as the name suggests — calories that contain… well, nothing. That is to say, they contain very little nutrients but the body will give them priority over sugars and fats and burn them up quicker. This is why you get hungry after drinking alcohol. Have you ever wondered why some people turn the colour of a tomato or get really hot when they drink? Well, this is caused by the instantaneous burning-up of empty calories by the body.

Things to Remember if You Want to Drink and Stay in Shape

Even though the calories in sake alone will not make you fat, just like with every type of food and drink, too much can be a bad thing. In actual fact, people who drink often tend to have a higher percentage of body fat.

And so, without further ado, below we introduce 3 tips to help you drink it healthily.

1. Choose Your Side Dishes Wisely

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Not just sake, but with all alcohol beverages, a lot of the time, the main causes of weight gain are what you eat with them.

Alcohol gives you a ravenous appetite, one that makes you eat too much.

“We all know that fry-ups and takeaway food look so appealing after drinking. Why? A research in the UK [1] came up with an answer. Appetite is controlled in the hypothalamus. And alcohol triggers this part of the brain into action – making us crave for high calorie/carbs food.”
Source: Sake Talk

In Japan, a night out with copious amounts of alcohol often ends up with ramen at 3am the next morning.

But when you eat fatty foods with or after sake, you are ingesting fat.

So, the trick is to opt for dishes that are low in calories.

Lightly seasoned Izakaya staples like Edamame, Sashimi, Hiyayako, Oden etc are all good options.

If you opt for Yakitori, choose salt over sauce.

2. Drink Less Alcohol!

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We know, we know! Delicious sake just keeps you coming back for more. But too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Let’s try and remember that. Too much sake will lead to weight gain, so it’s important to stagger your drinking. The trick is to use smaller drinking vessels as this naturally limits the amount you can drink in one sitting; drinking soft drinks or water in between takes is also advisable.

3. Warm It Up!

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When humans are cold, their metabolism shrinks and the body starts to stockpile fats. To avoid this, try warming your sake up a notch. The fact that you can drink sake at a warmer temperature is one of its unique selling points over beer and other beverages. Especially if you are on a diet — warm sake is the way to go!


And that wraps up our tips — and today’s article.

So to answer the question is sake fattening? Like everything in life, you should enjoy it in moderation. A tipple every now and then will certainly not make you fat. And if you are one of the people who, up until now, has been trying to avoid sake because of its fattening image, as long as you follow the above guidance, there is really no need to avoid is completely. Why not give it a try!

Some like it hot! Is Sake Best Served Warm?

This is an adaptation of an earlier published Japanese article.

Hello everyone,

Welcome to the magazine that brings you little nuggets of information about sake. In this article we tackle that age old question: is sake best served warm or chilled?

FOREWORD

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To answer the question from an overseas-experience perspective. There have so far been 3 phases.

Phase 1. Sake is best served warm
Phase 2. Premium sake must always be served chilled
Phase 3. Every sake has an optimum temperature

Phase 1. Sake is best served warm

In the U.K. and U.S for example, for a long time the trend was definitely to drink it warm. For some people it became an obsession, an obsession that developed from a misconception which was partially engineered by the industry itself.
Due to the high price of importing sake a large portion of the first sakes were lifeless, dull, boring and in the worst — although thankfully really rare— cases, undrinkable mush. Such sakes are much more amenable at around 70-80 degrees, at the point when the sake starts to bubble like a volcano and almost burns your tongue. To make matter worse, a lot of importers simply didn’t know or have the facilities to properly look after the sake after it had made land. Of course, there was a small stream of premium sakes that would make its way into the higher-end eateries — the eateries with the customers who were willing to pay what it cost to import better quality sake, and among these the Japanese expat run establishments — eateries that knew how premium sake should be served. And then there were the Chinese restaurants which would serve something like Shaoxing wine and rather audaciously refer to it as Japanese sake. A lot of suppliers jumped on the bandwagon of course — who can blame them— and saw an opportunity to flog warming machines for the task. This of course, only served to cement the trend into the consciousness. And thus, the misconception was born.

Phase 2

A sense of desperation to promote more premium sakes and stop people from serving them warm and destroying their flavour lead to phase 2, in effect the complete opposite scenario to phase 1. Yes, you’ve guessed it, we started to tell people that premium sake must always be served chilled. Well actually, this was not entirely incorrect information, just a little narrow minded. This trend should not be overlooked though because it was as hard to shake as the warm-sake trend once it took root.

Phase 3

Well this is where we are now, the answer to the question at hand—perhaps the best phase: every sake has an optimum temperature. Actually, phase 3 is a relatively new development, a revolution, not just overseas, but here in Japan too.

That being said, locating each sake’s unique optimum temperature is not as realistic as it sounds in practice, at least without a professional to guide you.

Which brings us to the main subject of this article: how temperature affects the flavour of sake.

The Traits of Sake Served Chilled

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Chilled sake refers to sake at a temperature of about 5-10 ℃. In general, the Ginjo type with its strong floral aroma tends to get drunk at this temperature: doing so enhances the aroma and from the minute the sake touches your tongue you can feel it gently melting away. Another welcome effect is the masking of off flavours. On the other hand, chilling sake also makes the flavour too uniform, taking away the thrill of such types. A low temperature can also put strong aromas to sleep, wastefully concealing them in the process.

The Traits of Sake Served at Room Temperature

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You might think that room temperature is something between warm and chilled, but you would be wrong. It is actually much more challenging to serve sake at room temperature than the term would suggest. The general assumption is that 15-20℃ is room temperature, but it is actually much more like a mid-point between not being lukewarm and not being cold. This is also the temperature of choice in most professional tasting events and competitions. The best way to serve sake at room temperature is: to let the sake sit for a couple of minutes at ‘room temperature’ after taking it out of the fridge before serving.

The Traits of Sake Served Warm

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One of the real thrills of sake and something that sets it apart from other libations has got to be the fact that you can serve it warm. The best temperature is between 30-40℃. This serving style is called Nurukan (lukewarm / shower water temperature) in Japanese. Anything higher than this is called Atsukan. Sake tends to develop a noticeable change in 10 degree intervals which offers up a myriad of different taste experiences. Generally speaking, when you warm sake the quantity of amino acids and lactic acid multiplies. Kimoto in particular is a very good style to try this way as it develops more body as a result of warming. You might feel the alcohol more with warm sake, but you can also cut out the bitterness and off-flavours, making it a perfect drinking style for the less accustomed drinker.

Kanagari

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There are two types of sake that really aren’t suitable for serving warm.

Sweet Sake

Sweet sake just becomes sweeter and sweet sake that was once silky smooth becomes coarse and sticky.

Aromatic Sake

Serving this type of sake warm simply destroys it delicate aroma. Every now and then, an exception pops up but in general it is best to steer clear of this faux pas.

Note: Sake that is suited to be served warm is called Kanagari in Japanese.