Should you entirely avoid alcohol while trying to reach your fitness goals?
With so much conflicting info about how to track alcohol, how many calories it has and whether to entirely avoid it, it can be overwhelming!
We wanted to give you some solid facts about alcohol and how to track it so you can stay on track towards burning fat.
Is alcohol the same as other macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein or fat)?
No! Our bodies don’t break it down or process it in the same way. Most alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, which is created as a byproduct of yeast through fermentation.
Alcohol is absorbed by the body, but the absorption rate can be affected by the presence or absence of food in GI tract. The vast majority of alcohol (around 90%) is processed in the liver.
How many calories does it have per gram?
While protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9, alcohol has 7 calories per gram. It’s common for people to refer to alcohol as “empty calories” as alcohol does not typically carry micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) though it is energy dense and certainly not “empty” at 7 calories per gram!
Part of the problem with alcohol is its toxicity. If we wanted, we could calculate the calories in a gram of gasoline. All a calorie really is is a measure of potential energy.
But just like drinking that gram of gasoline won’t burn in your body like a gram of sugar, neither will the alcohol you drink. The calories do not convert exactly over as usable energy due to processing needed in the body and toxic byproducts.
So if it doesn’t burn like a regular calorie, how do I track it in a tracking app?
While not all of the calories convert to usable energy, some does.
We recommend tracking by converting the listed calories on the nutritional label to carbohydrates by using total calories divided by 4 calories per gram (of carbohydrates).
For example, if you drink a 100 calorie beer, this would convert to 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Create a new entry in your tracking app to account for the drink as labels will not scan correctly.
The listed calories will not correspond properly to the macronutrients within the drink.
Your tracking will be misleading and skewed if you scan the label alone!
Create a new entry for the beverage you drank and use the formula above to calculate the correct macronutrients.
Be sure to account for mixers when tracking, like soda, juice etc. These can add up!
Judgement can also be impaired while you drink, so be realistic with amounts consumed and snacks/meals consumed while not 100% present in your surroundings.
Our suggestion is to not eat and drink alcohol at the same time. See below for some quick tips:
-Track or at least loosely track meals and snacks leading into the drinks to stay on track.
-Be sure to incorporate protein into your meals leading into your drinks to preserve muscle and keep you feeling full and satisfied.
-Don’t forget to stay hydrated before, during and after drinking.
On a bigger scale in regards to fitness goals
Alcohol can affect protein absorption rates and muscle gain/retention. It can also lead to a minor decrease in hormones.
You can look at this two ways! If we told you some new product would boost your testosterone or ability to burn fat by 2%, most of you would take it.
Conversely, if having a drink and staying sane, staying on your diet, and getting to enjoy life with your friends and family every now and then can help you reach your goals, a short term 2% hit to your hormone levels really is a drop in the bucket when overall consumption is moderate.
Get started by calculating your macros with our calculator and learn how to incorporate alcoholic beverages and continue to burn fat while you “diet”. 😉
Take home points about alcohol
With everything, moderation is key. Track alcohol correctly so you have a clear, honest picture of your intake. We are in no way advocating getting all of your carbs through alcohol, or making it a daily habit.
Knowing you can fit alcohol into your diet can help you stay on top of your tracking and make your diet more sustainable.
When you eat something or drink something that is hard to track, its easy to slip into an “untracked” meal or day. Learning to track alcohol can help prevent that.
Remember, your body is always counting your macronutrients whether you try to “cheat” your tracking app or not. 😉
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