Macros + Alcohol

Thursday, August 24, 2017


"Can I still drink while counting macros?" 

This is one of the most (if not THE most) asked question from my clients. Everyone wants to lose some weight but no one wants to give up their wine! LOL

This article is for those who are trying to lose weight or keep a healthy lifestyle, but still want to have a social drink here and there. I am in no way promoting drinking alcohol! Just simply trying to educate 😊

In this post I am going to talk about:

  • Alcohol metabolism
  • Why we see weight fluctuation with increase and decrease of alcohol intake
  • Common alcoholic drinks and their macros
  • The best alcoholic drinks to have while trying to lose weight, and which to avoid
  • How to make alcohol fit into your macros
Alcohol Metabolism

FUN FACT: alcohol (ethanol) is actually a separate macronutrient. It has 7 calories per gram! It isn't seen on nutrition labels because it's not considered "essential", like the other three. 

If you're unfamiliar with macros or need a reminder, the other 3 macronutrients are Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates.

Protein has 4 calories per gram
Fat has 9 calories per gram
Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram

So, how does your body metabolism alcohol? There are rumors that it gets stored as fat...let's break that down. 

Ethanol is not used as energy, as opposed to protein, fats and carbohydrates. With the metabolism of the 3 major macronutrients, your body signals a release of certain hormones (insulin/glucagon, leptin, thyroid hormones, etc.), but not in the metabolism of ethanol. Instead, ethanol is metabolized by enzymes from the liver (alcohol dehydrogenase) and remains in the body water until eliminated/excreted. It is NOT stored. 

Now, some of you might be thinking at this moment that that's a GOOD thing that the body doesn't store ethanol as fat like the rumors say. IT'S NOT! The more alcohol you drink, the harder your liver has to work. Your liver can only produce so many enzymes at a time, and therefore your body can only excrete so much alcohol at a time, leaving it in your body water in the meantime. Having liver damage (from excess alcohol intake) decreases the function of your liver and therefore the production of alcohol dehydrogenase, leaving alcohol in your body water longer. 

Take home point from above: Alcohol (ethanol) is not stored in the body as fat. It stays in your body water until eliminated/excreted.

So, why do we see such a fluctuation with weight when increasing or decreasing alcohol intake?? It's true, beer belly's ARE a thing! And individuals can see significant weight loss when they decrease/eliminate alcohol in their diet. There are a couple reasons why weight gain is associated with alcohol intake (IMO):

1. While alcohol might not get stored in our body or signal hormone release, carbohydrates do. And most drinks are high in carbohydrates (sugar), like heavy beer, and mixed drinks. This causes you to go over your daily caloric intake need, and therefore gain weight. 

2. The drinking atmosphere. Drinking usually involves unhealthy eating. Think about the traditional bar foods like chicken wings, french fries, burgers, mozzarella sticks (personal fav 🙋 )...all full of trans fats and carbohydrates! Eating these types of foods regularly will cause weight gain themselves. 

3. Drinking usually results in lack of sleep. You stay up late, and have trouble falling asleep and often wake up throughout the night. Lack of sleep has been proven to cause weight gain due to the imbalance of hormones. (topic for another blog post?? 😄)

4. A combination of numbers 2 and 3. Staying up late and being hungry and eating even more. Why does fast food always sound SO GOOD after a night of drinking?? Well you probably ate dinner around 6, started drinking and hanging out until 12-2am thats 6-8 hours of being awake and not eating! I don't know about you, but I get hungry every 2-3 hours during the day. So this makes sense to me.

So, cutting out alcohol not only cuts out calories from the ethanol, but also the extra carbohydrates in the drinks, and the processed foods that are usually associated with drinking. Boom, weight loss!

Common alcoholic drinks and their macros:
Here I will break down common drinks and their macronutrient content. Prepare to be shocked!

THE BAD:

Lagunitas IPA (12 oz): 190 cals 0gP/0gF/17gC
Angry Orchard (12 oz): 210 cals 0gP/0gF/30gC
Margarita (8 oz): 300 cals 0gP/0gF/35gC 
(Margaritas will vary greatly depending on the mix used)
Mike's Hard Lemonade (12 oz): 235 cals 0gP/0gF/35gC
Moscow Mule: 200 cals 0gP/0gF/16gC
Gin and Tonic: 145 cals 0gP/0gF/14gC
Vodka and Cranberry juice: 170 cals 0gP/0gF/18gC
Whiskey and Coke: 180 cals 0gP/0gF/20gC

THE BETTER:

Michelob Ultra (12 oz): 95 cals 0gP/0gF/2.6gC
Bud Light (12 oz): 110 cals 0gP/0gF/6.6gC
Chardonnay (5 oz): 114 cals 0gP/0gF/2.5 gC
Pinot Noir (5 oz): 120 cals 0gP/0gF/5gC
Champagne, dry (5 oz): 95 cals 0gP/0gF/1.5gC
Spiked Seltzer (12 oz): 140cals 0gP/0gF/5gC
Vodka and club soda: 100 cals 0gP/0gF/0gC

All mixed drinks are calculated to have 4oz of mixer and 1 shot of alcohol

How to make alcohol fit into your macros/how to track:
The thing is, if you plug 1 glass (thats just 5oz, people) of Chardonnay into My Fitness Pal the nutrition facts say: 114 calories, 0g Protein, 0g Fat and 2.5g Carbohydrates. But, we know that 1g carbohydrates is 4 calories, which would mean that only 10 calories of the 114 come from carbs...where are the rest of the 104 calories coming from?? Ethanol! And we need to track these somehow. So, what I suggest is to do is to account for those calories in your macros. So if you have 10g protein, 22g carbs and 2g fat left for the day, that's 146 calories. So you have enough for about 1 glass of wine! 

Now, that being said, I wouldn't suggest making this a nightly occurrence. Alcohol has been proven to increase the risks of a lot of preventable diseases, and will hinder your weight loss progress (if that's your goal). BUT, as y'all know I am a preacher of moderation. And some days just call for a glass of wine, or celebratory champagne! 

I hope this helped answer some questions about alcohol nutrition as it relates to weight gain and loss. As always, let me know if you have any questions! 









Source: 
Cederbaum, Arthur. (2012, Nov 16). Alcohol Metabolism. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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