Did you know that alcohol is actually classed as its own macronutrient?
Yes – there are 4 macronutrients, not just the 3 you already knew about in protein, carbohydrates, and fat. In this article, we’re going to show you how to calculate macros for alcohol.
I know – fitness coaches, facilitating alcohol consumption? We don’t actively recommend you going out and drinking excessively, but the reality is that there will undoubtedly be social occasions in which alcohol is present. Instead of never going out to dinner with friends and family, avoiding all parties, and becoming a social hermit, we’d rather give you the tools to navigate situations involving alcohol with confidence.
3 of the most common alcohol questions we get from clients:
Can I drink alcohol and still lose weight?
Can I drink alcohol and still build muscle?
Do I have to quit alcohol on a diet?
So you’ve tried using a macro tracking app for alcohol before, and it never adds up…
This is because alcohol contains calories, but the most common macro tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal and My Macros+ don’t have a way of factoring in an alcohol ‘target’ in the same way as the other macronutrients. That’s why you’ll often be faced with the confusing scenario of having met your calorie target for the day, but still having macros left to eat.
Luckily, there’s a way around this – and it’s easier than you think!
- Protein has 4 kcal per gram – i.e. a 30 gram serving of protein contains 120 kcal.
- Fats have 9 kcal per gram – i.e. a tablespoon of oil (approximately 15 grams) contains 135 kcal.
- Carbs have 4 kcal per gram.
Alcohol? Alcohol is somewhere in the middle, at 7 kcal per gram.
Here’s how it looks in real life:
Let’s say you have a limit of 2,000 calories per day, and your custom macro breakdown is 251 grams of carbs, 150 grams of protein, and 44 grams of fat. You’re going out on Friday night to your favorite restaurant, and you’ve decided you want to fit a bottle of Sam Adams Boston Lager into your day. The first step is to look up the nutritional information for a bottle of Sam Adams. You find the following:
Sam Adams Boston Lager:
- 18 grams of carbohydrates
- 2 grams of protein
- 14 grams of alcohol
This means a bottle of Sam Adams contains 178 total calories, with 98 of those calories coming from the alcohol. Since you don’t have an alcohol allotment towards which to apply those 98 calories, you have to ‘count’ them as either carbs or fats.
Never take alcohol calories out of protein – protein is going to be what helps you retain muscle.
There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates, so if you want to take those 98 calories out of your carbohydrate goal simply divide 98 by 4. Rounding up, this means you would take out 25 grams from your carb goal to fit the alcohol.
Adding those 25 grams to the 18 grams of carbs the label already indicated would yield a total of 43 grams of carbs. To take the 98 calories out of your fat goal, you will divide 98 by 9, which gives you 11 grams if you round up.
So here are your two options for counting your bottle of Sam Adams:
- Take 43 grams out of your carb goal for the day
- Take 11 grams of fat and 18 grams of carbs away for the day
What if I don’t know how many grams of alcohol are in a drink?
This actually makes this easier – unless you like math, that is.
Let’s say you’d like a glass of wine with dinner.
You look up your 5 oz glass of wine and find out it has 125 calories.
Simply use the following equations:
125 ÷ 4 = 31.3, so take 32 grams of carbs out.
125 ÷ 9 = 13.8, so take 14 grams out of your fat goal.
Now have fun, but don’t forget to be smart!
Like I said, learning how to calculate macros for alcohol is pretty simple! You just have to use some basic math. Be responsible, though. As we all know, drinking can lead to, umm… let’s just say “poor judgment”. So the more you drink, the easier it becomes to go overboard both with alcohol and food. Poor choices can lead to blowing your calories out of the water, not to mention the dreaded hangover the next day, which may prevent you from having a good, effective workout.
Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can blunt the muscle-building effects of resistance training and other types of exercise. Knowing your macros means you can fit whatever you’d like, which gives you control and power, but as the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”