Drinking Alcohol While Dieting

With the holidays just around the corner a lot of people are asking the question; does drinking alcohol while dieting impact my ability to lose weight? And the short answer to that question is, no. As long as you hit your macros, you can drink alcohol while dieting.

You may also be wondering, what impact will alcohol have on my fitness goals? Well, that depends on how much and how often you’re consuming it.

Alcohol and macros aren’t as black and white as say, chicken and macros. So, let’s start by discussing the idea of flexible dieting and drinking alcohol while dieting to see where it might fit into your weight loss and fitness goals.

Alcohol and Macros

The key to drinking alcohol and hitting your macros is moderation. Just like eating a whole large pizza probably doesn’t fit your macros, neither will downing a case of beer. Adding a little alcohol to your macro diet doesn’t change the equation all that much though. It’s going to take a little bit of math to calculate your alcohol and macros, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.

Drinking alcohol while hitting your macros

Let’s start with a little refresher on macros. First, it’s important to know that there are actually four categories of macronutrients that are apart of flexible dieting. Carbs, protein, fat, and alcohol. Yes, technically alcohol is a macro! Tracking these macros allows you to efficiently manage the amount of intake which ensures that you only eat the amount of food your body needs and enables the fat-burning process to begin.

Understanding how alcohol fits your macros is where things get a little complicated. Alcohol is often categorized somewhere between carbs and fats. It contains about seven calories per gram and is not usually explicitly listed on nutritional labels. Instead what you’ll see is something like this: A beer contains 250 calories. It has 15 grams of carbs, 0 fat, and 0 protein. Calculating the calories from the carbs, fat, and protein adds up to 60 calories. Since 1 gram of carbohydrates contains four calories, 15 grams of carbs equals 60 calories. So, the other 190 calories come from alcohol.

So how do you calculate alcohol and macros?

When calculating your macros using your alcohol intake you can approach it in three ways. Count them as carbs, count them as fat, or split them. So what you want to do is divide the total calorie amount by four (if you are counting it as carbs) or 9 (if you’re counting it as fat).

Here’s an example:

Let’s say one glass of beer contains 250 calories.

Macros in Alcohol

Alcohol and Macros

Beer to drink on a diet

So, depending on how you want to track your macros, you may record 62.5 carbs, 27.7 fats, or 45.05 total carbs and fats (31.25 carbs and 13.8 fats). As you can see, alcohol is a flexible macro when it comes to your diet. Too bad Ice Cream isn’t as flexible, right?

The other way to track alcohol if you are unsure of the calories is to measure it as four carbs per oz, or 9 fats per oz. You can mix these also and do half and half. This only applies to hard alcohol, beer, liquor, or wine and NOT mixed drinks. Remember, mixers need to be tracked as well unless you are using a calorie-free mixer like diet soda or sparkling water.

What’s the best alcohol to drink while dieting?

Now that we’ve cleared up some of the misconceptions surrounding alcohol and macros let’s discuss some macro friendly alcoholic drinks. The best alcohol to drink while dieting comes in a variety of forms and boils down to personal preference. From beer to wine, and yes even liquor, whatever alcohol is at your corporate Christmas party can fit your macros.

Generally, you’re going to apply all of the same rules to each one of these calories to ensure that you are hitting your macronutrient goals. The fewer calories involved, the less math you have to do when calculating your macros.

Best wine to drink on a diet

One thing that’s important to consider when having a glass of wine is whether it’s a red, white, sweet, or dry; and how many ounces are in your glass. Generally speaking, a 5oz glass of wine, which is considered a single serving of most wines, contains roughly 120-125 calories.

To calculate this, you just take the percentage of alcohol in the entire bottle and multiply it by 12. So, a bottle of wine with 10% alcohol volume contains about 120 calories per one 5oz glass. The same formula applies to calculating calories for champagne, though a typical serving size is only 4 ounces.

Best beer to drink on a diet

When it comes to drinking beer on a flexible diet stick with a light beer if your palette allows it. Typically, light beers like have a calorie range of between 55 and 110 calories. In contrast, an IPA may contain up to 200 calories. The low-calorie count of light beers makes them the better choice for a beer to drink on a diet. Don’t forget: Divide that calorie count by 4 to track it as carbs, or by 9 to track it as fats.

Best liquor to drink on a diet

If the holidays seem like a good time to sit in front of your fireplace with a nice scotch, there’s good news. Scotch contains 60-80 calories, depending on the brand and the alcohol content (100 proof has more calories than 80 proof). If Scotch isn’t your drink of choice, don’t worry. Most alcohol has a caloric range similar to scotch, so vodkas, rum, bourbon, and other spirits can fit in your macros. Prefer mixed drinks? Try substituting your drink mixer with alternatives like tonic water and water enhancers while avoiding drinks with high-sugar and carbs. Sparkling water and diet soda are also great calorie-free mixers. Remember, a hot buttered rum is going to eat into your macros more than a gin and tonic.

The adverse effects of alcohol and dieting

Generally, it’s not the alcohol that will throw people off of their diet. It’s the snacking and lack of inhibition (oh hey, that whole cake looks good) that gets people into trouble. And if you’re doing this every week, it will be tough to make any progress at all.

If you’re able to have a drink or two and not get the munchies for snacks that don’t fit your macros, great! Consuming alcohol in moderation is entirely doable for you. If you tend to overeat every time you drink, however, you may want to steer clear of alcohol when trying to reach a specific goal and add it back in after some time.  

Alternatives to Alcohol

Many of us like to partake in a glass of wine or old fashioned more for the social aspect of it than the actual ‘drinking’ part. It can feel strange to be the only one sipping on a glass of water and annoying to deal with the peer pressure of having a drink just because everyone else is. So what else can you do?

Hot tea, sparkling water, kombucha, and sugar-free hot chocolate are all great low-calorie options to help you feel like you are a part of the “social scene” while not drinking alcohol. If you have the calories to spare, you can always whip up some mocktails to enjoy also!

Getting back on track with your flexible diet

The holidays are a tough time for anyone on a diet. Always remember it’s ok to give in to temptation and missing your macros one day, or even a few times, doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. What truly matters is what you are doing the majority of the time over a long period. And if you do over-do it, know that you can always decide with your next meal or the start of the next day to get back on track.

Enjoy the holiday season and do your best. If you do need help resetting, we’re here to help. On our Instagram @theflexibledieting, we also have fantastic resources to offer you that you can save on your phone. Refer back to these posts as you need to be successful! If you would like more individualized help, contact us, and we’ll help you find the best way to get back on track.

On the right track, but still hit a plateau with your weight loss or fitness goals? Maybe it’s time for a custom macro map. Our custom macro maps are on sale for the holidays, but hurry, the deal won’t last long.

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2 thoughts on “Drinking Alcohol While Dieting”

  1. I think you meant Soda water, not tonic. Tonic water is loaded with sugar (I was sad when I learned this!). Diet tonic/sugar free exists if you search for it too.

    1. Thank you for the info. We made a change to that earlier along with modifications. Please re-read and let us know what you think 🙂

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