You and some friends decide to go out to a local brewery and enjoy the summer weather with a nice cold beer. While driving to the brewery, you are thinking about all the hard work you put into training and your "diet" and wondering how you're going to get away with avoiding beer at a brewery. Upon arriving at the brewery, your friends get in line and you turn to them and say "You all go ahead and get your beers, I'm not having anything today but I'll just go ahead and grab us a table." After you say that, all of your friends give you this look:
Hear me out. I'm not saying that you have to have a drink when you go out with your friends. That's ridiculous. If you ever get a drink knowing you don't want to, but you feel you're going to be judged if you don't so you order one anyway, there are some other issues that need to be addressed. This article isn't for those of you having trouble sticking your ground. This is for the individuals who enjoy the social drink with friends and just need to know how to make that fit within their macros.
Before we go into the details of plugging your alcoholic beverages into you macronutrient budget, we need to quickly discuss how alcohol is processed by the body.
When consumed, alcohol is going to be the first thing your body uses before fat and other forms of stored energy. Our bodies also recognize alcohol as a toxin, so it will work hard to eliminate it as quickly as possible through metabolism, breath, sweat, and urine. Since our bodies use alcohol as a short-term use for energy, it is fair to say that we can substitute the calories in our beverage for some carbohydrates in our macros. But how?
Believe it or not, although the calories in alcohol are "empty", they do count. They can easily cause you to go over your daily calorie goal in no time. This is not a good thing especially if you're aiming to be in a caloric deficit for fat loss. Similar to fats (9), carbohydrates (4) and protein (4), alcohol carries 7 calories per gram and it must be accounted for whenever you are drinking it.
Since alcohol contains calories just like carbohydrates do, we can treat this like an exchange with some simple math. Let's say you have a light beer that has 100 calories. If you want to exchange your alcoholic beverage for carbohydrates in your macronutrient budget, all you have to do is divide your total calories by 4 (because carbs have four cals/gram) and enter that final number as grams of carbs into your budget. In this case, that light beer would equal 25 grams of carbohydrates. Easy. Now your calories are accounted for in your macronutrients and you don't have to go over on your budget.
"What if I Don't Have Carbs Left?"
If you don't have any carbohydrates left in your budget, that's ok. Check your fat intake and see if there is any room there. That light beer could be exchanged for fats too. The math would just be a little different. This time, you'd need to divide 100 (total cals in the beer) by 9, since fats have 9 calories per gram. This would be roughly 11 grams of fat for the light beer. Boom shaka laka. But what if you want both?
I don't drink much, but when I do I like to exchange carbs and fats. I should've used the Dos Equis guy for that one. Oh well.
Anyway, food is much more important to me and I am a fat kid on the inside, so I'd rather give up a little bit of carbs and fats and have some room for food rather than using all of the alcohol on carbs and regretting it when I want to have some zebra cakes later that night. Ya feel me?
Let's do the math. Ultimately what it comes down to is deciding which you want more of in your macro budget. For me, I like to have more carbs available because carbs are basically in everything (especially the good things). So what I would do in this situation is give myself 8 grams of fat, and the remaining in carbs. 8 grams of fat would be 72 calories (8x9=72), which tells me I have 28 calories left for carbs. 28 calories would translate to 7 grams of carbs (28/7=4).
And there you have it. Now you have plenty more room in both calories and fat. So go ahead, order a burger with that beer of yours.
Whether you drink or not, you HAVE to be tracking your macronutrient intake. Macronutrients are just like dollars. If you want to become wealthy and have your money work for you, it's essential that you have a budget in place. John Maxwell said "A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went." The exact same concept applies for macronutrients and calories in your food. Allow your calories and macros to work for you with your goals. Don't just eat with no direction and expect to wake up at the finish line of your goal. That's extremely stupid.
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