As the holiday season approaches, we as coaches often have this recurring conversation with our clients – alcohol intake and how to track it. It can definitely be a bit confusing, so we are here to break it down for you.
Today’s post will cover:
The nutrient/calorie make-up of alcohol and how it compares to other macronutrients
An explanation on how to calculate alcohol “calories” and macros
Instagram links that show you exactly how to calculate this AND log it accurately
Some easy examples and “references” to help make tracking (and the math) a bit easier to understand
Alcohol and it’s Caloric Make-up
The main macronutrients that compromise the food we eat are carbohydrates, protein and fats…so where does alcohol fall? Alcohol is actually a separate “nutrient” but isn’t found on nutrition labels, hence why this isn’t known to a lot of people. Check this out:
Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories
Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
Fats: 1 gram = 9 calories
Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories
So how does alcohol get calculated into daily intake? Get ready for a bit of math (don’t worry, it’s not too hard)…
First up, you’ll need to calculate how many calories from alcohol you are consuming from your drink of choice. This is where the reference guide at the end of this post will come in handy.
Once you’ve determined how many calories, you will then need to determine how many grams that calorie amount is.
For a quick example of this…
A hard seltzer is typically 100 calories
100 divided by 7 = 15g
So this drink contains 15g of alcohol
Once you have determined how many grams this drink is (and we suggest rounding up), then you have to determine HOW you want to track that 15g using the 3 macronutrients
Determining HOW to Track Your Alcohol Using Your Macros Now that you know how many calories are needed to cover the specific drink(s) you plan to consume, the next step is to determine where those calories ‘fit’ into your macros. So we are going back to the “calculator”…
Like we broke down earlier, carbohydrates and protein are 4 calories per gram and fats are 9 calories per gram.
Keeping with the example above, 100 calories of alcohol can look like this:
100 calories / 4 calories = 25 grams of carbohydrates or protein
100 calories / 9 calories = 11 grams of fats
If you want to split these calories between macros, you can do that as well. Here’s just one example:
50 calories / 4 calories = 13 grams of carbohydrates
50 calories / 9 calories = 6 grams of fat
Based on how you want to utilize these, simply subtract these from your daily goals and then you’ll have a solid understanding of HOW alcohol can/will fit into your day/meal(s)
To see this math done firsthand, check out this awesome Instagram post from Coach Jacky. Taking it a step further and applying this to an actual tracking app, Coach Casey shows you how to create your own "Custom Food" in MyFitnessPal here. (FYI -- lots of tracking apps have the ability to create a custom food, so no need to feel tied to MyFitnessPal).
Bringing this post to a close, we want to leave you with a simple and quick reference guide. Obviously, there are lots of other alcoholic beverages out there but our hope is that you can use this as a quick reference and guide when determining how you may need to log your next drink of choice.
We hope this post leaves you going into this holiday season feeling more confident with how to alcohol can/will fit into your goals and HOW to track that (should your coach want you doing so). We have lots of alcohol-related posts over on our Instagram, so be sure to check those out as well!