How To Track Alcohol Macros: A Step By Step Guide (with examples)

Today, we’re diving into a topic that’s often a bit hazy – tracking the macronutrients in your favorite alcoholic beverages. Whether you’re enjoying a casual glass of wine or celebrating with a margarita, it’s important to understand how these drinks affect your health and wellness journey. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to track alcohol macros, with examples for different types of alcoholic drinks.

Why Track Alcohol Macronutrients? 

Tracking macros is a helpful tool that allows us to feel good and lose fat or build muscle based on our individual goals. However, alcohol is like the fourth macronutrient. Unlike proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, it’s not essential for survival, but it does provide calories – 7 calories per gram, to be exact. This is almost as calorie-dense as fats (9 calories per gram) but without the nutritional benefits that fats provide. Alcohol lacks nutrients, minerals or vitamins. 

When alcohol is in your system, your body prioritizes metabolizing it instead of fat so if you are looking to lose fat, alcohol may inhibit your bodies ability to do so. Your body breaks down the alcohol first instead of fat.  

That being said, I love a glass of wine and skinny margarita and I get that for many people, alcohol is part of celebratory times, hello Champagne toasts! If you know me in real life, you likely know that I have a love hate relationship with alcohol. I love the taste of any fancy curated cocktail. However, I get super hungover and a single glass of wine gives me anxiety. As a result I have cut back significantly in recent years. 

So how do we manage alcohol consumption into our lives *if* we also want to lose weight? 

First, I recommend not drinking every night. Give your body a break from breaking it down. 

Second, keep your drinks low sugar and I recommend 2-4 max a week if you’re looking to lose weight. 

Some low sugar favorites of mine include tequila, soda with lime juice or glass of red wine. I also love High Noon seltzers. I don’t love vodka soda personally, but something like that would also be low sugar. 

How To Track Alcohol Macros

Ok, so if you were to enter a beer or glass of wine into MyFitnessPal or other macro tracking app, you would notice that it almost goes unnoticed. Here’s what we do to track it properly:

First, you gotta know the total amount of calories in the beverage. For a list of averages, check below!

We then will choose if we want to track it as a carb or a fat. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and 9 calories per gram of fat. If you are a FASTer Way client of mine, you’ll choose fat on a low carb day and carb on a regular macro day. Divide the total number of calories by 4 if tracking as a carb and 9 if tracking as a fat. 

For example, we would track a glass of wine as having about 120 calories, divide by 4 if counting as a carb and you get 30g! Just a simple calculation. So we manually would enter 30g of carbohydrates into our macro tracking app manually. I have saved in my macro tracking apps a glass of wine that I created titled WINE (CARB) and WINE (FAT).  

Here’s a general guide to the total calories per serving for various types of alcoholic beverages.

It’s important to note that these are average values and can vary depending on specific brands, ingredients, and serving sizes. If your drink has a nutrition label, use that:

  1. Regular Beer:
    • Standard Serving: 12 ounces (355 ml)
    • Calories: Approximately 150 calories
  2. Light Beer:
    • Standard Serving: 12 ounces (355 ml)
    • Calories: About 100 calories
  3. Red Wine:
    • Standard Serving: 5 ounces (148 ml)
    • Calories: Roughly 125 calories
  4. White Wine:
    • Standard Serving: 5 ounces (148 ml)
    • Calories: Around 120 calories
  5. Champagne:
    • Standard Serving: 5 ounces (148 ml)
    • Calories: Approximately 85 calories
  6. Hard Liquor (e.g., Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, Gin):
    • Standard Serving: 1.5 ounces (44 ml)
    • Calories: About 97 calories for 80-proof spirits
  7. Liqueurs (e.g., Baileys, Amaretto):
    • Standard Serving: 1.5 ounces (44 ml)
    • Calories: Typically 165 calories and up, depending on the sweetness
  8. Cocktails:
    • The calorie content can vary widely depending on the ingredients. For example:
      • A Margarita might contain around 200-300 calories per serving.
      • A Pina Colada could be over 300 calories per serving.

Potential Impact of Alcohol on Your Fitness Goals

When it comes to achieving fitness goals, whether it’s building muscle or losing fat, the role of alcohol consumption can’t be overlooked. While a casual drink here and there is often considered harmless, regular intake can significantly impact your fitness journey, especially after 35 when our bodies respond differently to both exercise and alcohol.

Impact on Muscle Building: Building muscle requires not just consistent workouts, but also adequate nutrition and rest. Alcohol can interfere with this in several ways. First, it inhibits the synthesis of protein, which is crucial for muscle repair and growth. Second, it can disrupt testosterone levels and other hormones vital for muscle development. So, if you’re lifting weights and working hard in the gym, understand that frequent alcohol consumption might slow down the muscle-building process.

Effect on Fat Loss: Alcohol is calorie-dense, providing 7 calories per gram without any nutritional value. These are ’empty calories’ that can easily lead to weight gain, especially when consumed in excess. Additionally, alcohol can alter your metabolism, making it more challenging to burn fat. It often leads to poor food choices and increased appetite, both of which are detrimental to fat loss goals.

Sleep Quality and Recovery: One of the less discussed but critical aspects of fitness is recovery, which largely happens during sleep. Alcohol, despite its initial sedative effects, drastically reduces sleep quality. It disrupts the REM cycle, which is vital for both physical and mental recovery. Poor sleep leads to inadequate recovery, higher stress levels, and can even affect your willpower to stick to a healthy diet and exercise routine.

So, while moderate alcohol consumption can be a part of a balanced lifestyle, it’s essential to be aware of its potential impacts on your fitness goals. Remember, the key to incorporating alcohol into your life is moderation and mindfulness, especially as we navigate our 30s, 40’s and beyond, where our bodies require more care and attention to stay fit, healthy, and happy.

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