Alcohol has been a large part of human history and dates back over 10,000 years. Alcohol has energy content, but unlike other macronutrients, alcohol cannot be stored in the human body. It can, in some sense be considered a macronutrient. This NutriWiki will discuss alcohol, how our body processes it, and how to view it in the context of your macronutrient needs.
The human body lacks the ability to store meaningful quantities of alcohol. When levels of alcohol exceed certain levels, it can be classified as a toxin. This, and for other metabolic reasons, the human body preferentially oxidizes alcohol over other macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats. This effectively can reduce the body’s ability to utilize stored body fat for energy for short periods of time. It is often considered a macronutrient, separate from protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Like the other macronutrients, alcohol contains calories, 7 calories per gram. However, it can be difficult to track super accurately using many popular food tracking softwares.
There are several ways to track alcohol, with all of them being viable, and some being marginally more accurate than others. The first way to track it is to simply use the entries of a commercially available food tracking app, such as My Macros+. The second way is to track your alcohol as one of your other macronutrients, with logging it as carbohydrates or fat being more accurate than logging them as protein. The reason for this is that when you consume alcohol, the human body puts the “brakes” on metabolizing carbohydrate and fats, which makes it logical to label alcohol as either a fat or carbohydrate in terms of a macronutrient.
When we follow the second way of tracking alcohol, there are a couple easy paths to go down:
- When tracking as a fat, divide the total calories of the drink by 9.
- When tracking as a carbohydrate, divide the total calories by 4.
- Or you can split the calories in half and then divide each half by 9 and by 4, respectively.
Here is a table that shows a few examples for a 300 calories drink:
|Carbohydrates||300 calories / 4 calories per gram||75 grams|
|Fat||300 calories / 9 calories per gram||33 grams|
|Split||300 calories / 2 = 150 calories|
150 calories / 4 calories per gram
150 calories / 9 calories per gram
In addition to the calories of the alcohol, make sure to include the calories of the carbohydrates and fats that are included in the drink.
Most commercially available forms of alcohol have relatively accurate nutrition facts. For example, Bud Light, Coors Light, Corona, and other major beers have publicly available nutrition facts. Below are generic nutrition facts for standard drinks and associated serving sizes.
Red Wine – 125 calories per 5 oz
White Wine – 120 calories per 5 oz
1 oz Tequila – 65-70 calories
1 oz Rum – 65-70 calories
1 oz Whisky – 65-70 calories