balancing macros and booze: tips for tracking alcohol

tips for tracking alcohol Alcohol and body composition Tracking macros Macronutrient content of alcoholic beverages Caloric intake Energy balance Metabolism and alcohol Muscle protein synthesis Recovery from workouts Fat loss efforts Alcohol calories Appetite and food choices Food tracking apps Balanced lifestyle Macronutrient intake Low-calorie alcohol options Hydration and alcohol Nutrition timing Mindfulness in alcohol consumption Exercise and metabolism

Emily Field (00:00:00) –  Welcome to episode 27 of the Macros Made Easy podcast, where we explore the intersection of nutrition, health, and lifestyle choices. In today’s episode, we dive into alcohol, especially in the context of tracking macros and pursuing body composition goals. Welcome to Macros Made Easy, the podcast that takes the confusion out of tracking macros. I’m your host, Emily Field, a registered dietitian that specializes in a macros approach. In each episode, I help you learn how to eat in a way that supports your health, body composition, and athletic performance goals. We’ll cover the basics of macronutrients how to track for various goals, the role of macros in your health, and how to make sustainable changes to your habits. I’ve helped hundreds of people experience more food freedom and flexibility while navigating their nutrition. So whether you’ve tried macros and it just didn’t stick or you just heard the word macros yesterday, I can’t wait to help you too. Before we get into the specifics of alcohol, let’s start with a quick refresher on macronutrients, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.


Emily Field (00:00:58) –  Proteins are crucial for tissue repair and growth, providing four calories per gram. Fats serve as a concentrated energy source, offering nine calories per gram, while carbohydrates are main energy source provides four calories per gram. What makes alcohol unique is its role as a fourth type of macronutrient, providing seven calories per gram almost as much as fat and more than proteins and carbohydrates. However, unlike these macros, alcohol does not offer essential nutrients like vitamins or minerals. In this episode, we’ll explore how alcohol affects your body beyond just caloric intake. It alters your metabolism with the body, prioritizing its breakdown over nutrients like fats and carbs. This can impact the liver’s function and nutrient utilization, potentially hindering overall metabolic efficiency. Moreover, we’ll discuss practical strategies for enjoying alcohol while maintaining body composition goals, from choosing lower calorie options like clear spirits and light beers to the importance of hydration in moderation, we’ll cover how to integrate alcohol into a balanced lifestyle. So let’s dive into the ins and outs of alcohol as a macronutrient, and how you can handle its consumption while working towards your health and fitness goals.


Emily Field (00:02:09) –  All right, let’s just do a quick refresher on macronutrients, just to really set the stage for what alcohol is and how many calories it provides. Like we mentioned in the intro, proteins are essential for building and repairing tissues. They’re composed of amino acids. They provide four calories per gram and play a crucial role in your muscle growth and maintenance. Fats serve as a concentrated energy source and are necessary for hormone production, cell membrane structure, nutrient absorption. They provide nine calories per gram. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, and they include sugars, starches, and fiber. They provide four calories per gram on are important for a lot of different things, but specifically in the context of what we’re talking about today for fueling your muscles and for supporting your central nervous system. Now, alcohol is considered a fourth type of macronutrient because it provides energy calories much like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. But unlike those other macros, it does not provide essential nutrients like vitamins or minerals. Your body really can’t do much with that energy that it provides.


Emily Field (00:03:17) –  As you can kind of tell already, alcohol is seemingly energy dense. It provides seven calories per gram, making it almost as calorie dense as fat, which is nine calories per gram and more than carbohydrates in proteins. So compared to proteins and carbohydrates, which provide four calories per gram each, alcohol contains more than double the calories per gram. This higher caloric density can significantly impact daily caloric intake and overall energy balance, which is one of the biggest realizations I witness clients make during coaching when they see how much their alcohol is contributing to their overall caloric intake, and kind of deducing that that consumption is preventing them from seeing the changes they want to see in their body. Let’s run through some practical examples that I see often with clients. So one example is probably an older version of me. You love going to breweries. You love trying new beers. You know, in the context of skiing, cycling, snowmobiling, boating, all the things you like to do outside. Maybe beer is a part of it.


Emily Field (00:04:22) –  So let’s just say you’re on the cycling team, or you run a quick five K this summer, and those activities really can center around beer at the end. Let’s say you enjoy four beers on average, and they’re the yummy hoppy kind. Not necessarily light beers. Obviously, calories on beer like this can vary greatly depending on the alcohol by volume. You know, any additional starches or sugars they’re putting in the beer to flavor it differently. But let’s just say on the low end, that’s about 180 calories per beer, maybe up to 220 calories per beer. And if you’re doing tasters, maybe you’re trying a little sample of this and that. You can see how that might add to your intake. So in the context of macro tracking, and we’ll talk about this very specifically later on in the episode. But in the context of macro tracking, we’re going to want to carve space for that alcohol. It’s going to take up the place of where you would normally have food based fats and carbs. So in order to carve out the space to stay on track with your macro targets by the end of the day, stay on track with your calories.


Emily Field (00:05:22) –  By the end of the day, you’ll need to find room for those four beers by cutting out 180 to 220g of carbs, or 80 to 97g of fat. Now that’s a lot to accommodate in your macros if you want to stay on track with your targets. For many of you, that’s all the carbs you have. That’s all the fats you have in a daily recommendation. So, you know, if we’re really trying to be realistic about accommodating for calorie rich beers, it might be tough to do. Now here’s another example. Let’s just say you love wine. You have a couple of bottles hanging around in your house at all times. Maybe you open a bottle of wine on Wednesday night when you’re cooking and you don’t want it to go bad, so you drink it across two days, Wednesday and Thursday night, and we’re looking at an extra 650 to 800 calories across two days. That whole bottle of wine, kind of depending on how sweet that wine is, how dry that wine is, is likely to be somewhere in that range of 650 to 800 calories for the whole bottle.


Emily Field (00:06:23) –  Then let’s just say it’s the weekend you choose not to track macros because your routine is totally thrown off. It’s pretty normal for you to ditch tracking on the weekend, and without tracking for accountability, you go over on your macro needs with food and alcohol. In a third example, let’s just say you’re meeting your girlfriends for brunch on the weekend. That’s Bloody Marys and mimosas all around. Across three hours you have three drinks totaling about 500 calories on the low side, maybe 750 on the higher side. If you’re tracking macros, this means you’re trying to accommodate. You’re trying to carve space for about 125 to 150g of carbs, or 55 to 80g of fats. And of course, this is all estimation. I’m just totally throwing out numbers here, and I’m just setting the scene here for how calorically dense. Alcohol is, especially if you have never tracked alcohol. You’ve never attempted to track alcohol. It’s quite possible that you’re living in the dark for how calorically dense, how much energy, how many calories this macronutrient is providing you.


Emily Field (00:07:22) –  Now notice in those three examples I tried to say, if you want to stay on track with your macro targets and calorie goals, you’ll need to accommodate this much space for this alcohol. And this is really important. I want to call this out. It’s not realistic to expect that you’ll be able to eat to your macro targets every single day, forever, until you get to your health, your body composition, or athletic performance goals. You will at some point, intentionally or unintentionally, miss your targets. That said, there might be a season where it matters more to you and you really want to push yourself, but you have to weigh the pros and cons of sacrificing calories for alcohol that could otherwise be used for food. Okay, so in other words, you are in the driver’s seat of deciding whether or not you want to carve space for that alcohol, or it means more to you to not carve space into eat those calories instead to reap some nutrition from those calories. Instead, I should say this here, but I want to remind you that this podcast episode is not here to shame you about your drinking habits.


Emily Field (00:08:23) –  I’m pro accountability, pro mindfulness, pro awareness of your drinking habits. And part of that means you’ve got to take a look at it. You got to take a look at how much energy this is providing you throughout your week. Because if you have goals to lose fat and gain muscle, it’s quite possible that alcohol is hindering you from getting to those goals faster. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can choose the pace at which you move towards those goals. If it’s not as super important to you that you get there quickly, maybe you don’t need to mind the alcohol content of your diet as much. If you are interested in getting to those goals very quickly, very efficiently, as effectively as possible, then yes, you’re going to have to mind your alcohol habit and it’s important that we talk about it. Alcohol affects your body in multiple different ways. And one of the main ways that I want to talk about today is the metabolism of alcohol. So there is a priority put on alcohol when it is present in the body to get it out of the body.


Emily Field (00:09:23) –  Because it is a toxic substance, it is a high priority item to break it down and to dump it out. And as a result, when alcohol is consumed, the body is going to prioritize that metabolism over any other nutrients. So that means that while alcohol is being processed, the metabolism of carbs, fats, proteins all slow down. And as a result, the essential nutrients may not be efficiently utilized for energy production and other bodily functions during that time, alcohol is being metabolized. Okay, so essentially you’re putting a pause on burning fat for fuel. You’re putting a pause on building muscle mass out of the protein that you’re eating. You’re putting a pause on getting carbohydrates to your brain or your muscles in order to think clearly or to be active. Okay, so all of that is paused even in a calorie deficit. So you’re working really hard and trying to stick and adhere to your calorie deficit. You may be creating that deficit across the whole week, and maybe you’re even doing such a great job to carve out space for that alcohol by holding back on carbs and fats in order to make space for those couple of drinks a week.


Emily Field (00:10:38) –  But even when we drink, you have to recognize that it is a toxic substance to the body, and all of that other metabolism is paused. So you have been turning body fat into fuel and burning fat. You are losing fat in the way that you want because you’re in a calorie deficit, but that metabolism is going to be paused when alcohol is present. Of course, when we talk about alcohol, we think of the liver, but there is a particular impact on liver function and metabolism. When we drink alcohol, in particular, the liver plays a central role in metabolizing alcohol. It’s converting the alcoholic we drink into acetyl aldehyde and then to acetate, which is further broken down into water and carbon dioxide. So this process requires significant liver resources, diverting attention away from its primary function, such as processing fats and carbs. So you can kind of see how that all goes together. You know, maybe this is a side note, but we’ll absolutely talk about this at the end of the episode about what are some best practices to metabolize alcohol quicker, how to reduce the impact that alcohol might have on your metabolism by doing particular things before, during and after drinking.


Emily Field (00:11:46) –  But I mentioned that acetate is broken down into water and carbon dioxide, so there is some research to support that. Maybe you can aid your body in getting alcohol out of the system faster by getting in a workout the next day. So by getting your heart rate up and your breathing a little bit heavier, you’re releasing carbon dioxide. You’re sweating a bit. You. May be able to aid the body in getting rid of that acetate, which can build up. This is what is essentially our hangover. We’re getting that toxic substance out of the body. We’re aiding our body in metabolizing it faster. So we’re talking about the effects of alcohol on the body. And I think all of us have the experience of feeling pretty dehydrated after drinking. Some of us will even wake up the next morning and step on the scale and see a 2 or £3 weight loss. And that’s not real body fat loss. That is simply water shifts. Because alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body, you increase your urine production and that can promote dehydration if you’re not consuming water alongside your alcohol.


Emily Field (00:12:52) –  Most of us can probably handle a little bit of dehydration every once in a while. It’s not going to have super long lasting impact, but you should understand that our hydration is absolutely impacted by minerals and electrolytes as well. Minerals and electrolytes. I will use interchangeably. Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are essential for muscle function and nerve signaling, maintaining fluid balance. And so alcohol induced dehydration can lead to imbalances in those electrolytes, resulting in things like muscle cramps, fatigue, and headaches. So some of the things that you might associate with a hangover might be due to the fact that you’ve increased your urine output, you are feeling a bit dehydrated. Maybe there’s a bit of imbalance in your electrolyte status. Okay, so to review alcohol affects your body in a number of ways. The main thing I want to talk about is the metabolism priority. You’re diverting attention away from metabolizing nutrients, as you typically would because alcohol is present is a toxic substance to the body. Its main priority is to break it down and get it out of the body ASAP.


Emily Field (00:13:58) –  So as a consequence, we are going to see some liver processing differences. We’re not going to see the same sort of processing that we normally would. Our primary function, such as like metabolizing fats and carbs goes away. Okay. We also see some effects on hydration and electrolyte balance. And that can have higher or lower impact on you depending on how active you are. If you’re drinking water alongside your alcoholic beverages, if you are practicing moderation or not, I will just leave it at that so you understand some of the consequences we’re talking about when we get into kind of that impact on your health goals, your body composition goals. Okay, now I am specifically trying to speak to the person who has goals to gain muscle and to lose body fat. When it comes to the people that I typically work with, this is the main bell curve in the middle there. Most people have those goals. They want to get leaner, stronger and fitter and boil that down. They want to see some muscle gain or maintenance.


Emily Field (00:15:06) –  They want to see some fat loss so they can reveal the strong physique that they know they have hiding in there. Okay, you should understand that alcohol has an impact on these goals. Okay. So let’s just say your main priority right now is to gain muscle support, muscle repair. You want to recover appropriately. You are pushing yourself in strength training for the main goal of building a stronger physique. Understand that alcohol is going to significantly impact your muscle protein synthesis, so building new muscle, it’s also going to impact the recovery from your workouts. Again, recovery from strength training workouts, in particular by interfering with the body’s ability to repair and then build new muscle tissue. It impairs the signaling pathways involved in protein synthesis, leads to dehydration, which exacerbates your muscle soreness and slows down recovery and negatively affects hormone balance, particularly testosterone, further hindering muscle growth and repair. So those three items are the ones I really want to highlight for that person who is so wanting to see bigger, stronger muscles. They want to see their efforts in the gym come to fruition in their body composition.


Emily Field (00:16:17) –  You may consider reducing or minimizing your alcohol intake. As for fat loss, alcohol absolutely can disrupt your fat loss efforts due to its high caloric content. Again, we’ve talked about how alcohol provides seven calories per gram, which can quickly add up and lead to a caloric surplus. As we’ve already talked about, when alcohol is present, the body prioritizes metabolizing alcohol over any other nutrient, slowing down fat metabolism, and increasing fat storage. Lastly, alcohol can disrupt hormone balance, raising cortisol levels and promoting fat storage, especially in the abdominal area. I’m speaking specifically to the person who’s complaining about belly fat gain out of any other area of the body, whereas, you know, you might have gained maybe equally across all areas of your body in your younger years. As you age, you’re noticing, you know, kind of just right around the abdomen. That’s where you’re storing your body fat and you drink alcohol. There may be a link here. I would also say that if you are a woman in perimenopause and approaching menopause, we have a switch from your hormone balance being kind of like navigated or, you know, being ruled by your ovaries over to your adrenal glands as that ovary function kind of shuts down.


Emily Field (00:17:35) –  And we’re transferring the responsibility over to the adrenal glands, which are responsible for releasing cortisol and supporting our stress response. This is typical. This is good. This is a normal thing. But you’re putting added pressure on the adrenal glands because of the stress alcohol adds to the system. You’re just kind of doubly taxing it. Right. And that’s probably the simplest way I can put it, is you’re doubly taxing these organs that are already so taxed due to the changes that you’re experiencing with perimenopause and menopause. So it might be in your best interest to moderate your alcohol consumption if your goals are to really make an impact on that belly fat that you are so concerned about. Okay, so we’ve been talking about alcohol’s impact on your goals to gain muscle and to lose fat. And while it’s super fun to talk about metabolism and hormones, we can’t really forget the low hanging fruit here, which is that alcohol, just simply put, impacts your appetite and impacts your food choices by increasing cravings for high calorie, high fat, and high sugar foods simply due to its effect on the brain’s reward centers.


Emily Field (00:18:46) –  That’s it. You know, like, even if we ignore all the fancy jargon that we’ve just been talking about, simply put, it just affects our brains reward centers. It impairs our judgment and our decision making, which can lead to poor food choices that can derail you from hitting your macro targets. Further, we are drinking usually in social settings, and that can result in late night eating, which also negatively impacts the metabolism and fat storage. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, you know, if I could just teach my body to crave celery and carrots, I would not have a problem with my weight. And yeah, I wish that were true. We cannot do that. The brain’s answering the call. It is simply responding to a low fuel, low nutrient situation. I’ve already shared that alcohol is diverting our body’s attention away from metabolizing fats and carbs. It can’t do anything with those calories that you’re consuming throughout. Hall. So the cells are still hungry. The cells are like, hey, we we still need energy, we’re still deprived.


Emily Field (00:19:49) –  So they’re sending signals to the brain, hey, I need to eat. I need to eat something now. I need high sugar. I need high carb. I need high fat because these things will get the job done quickly, okay? You’re never going to crave carrots and celery. You’re always going to crave the crunchy, salty, savory stuff, especially after consuming a few drinks. And then couple that with your brain’s reward centers being altered. It’s going to be pretty loud messaging with very low resistance, really loud messaging from the brain to eat those foods that you would otherwise probably not eat. They would not be on your plate, especially if your goals are to lose fat and to gain muscle and you’re really sticking to your macro targets, coupled with the fact that you have very low resistance, those reward centers are highly active. You’re not going to have a lot of willpower to resist those temptations. But I don’t want to leave you in this episode feeling completely defeated, thinking you can never take another drink.


Emily Field (00:20:42) –  If your goals are to gain muscle and lose fat. That’s absolutely not what I’m trying to say. Certainly you can enjoy alcohol in moderation, and let’s talk about what that means. Let’s talk about some practical tips for enjoying alcohol while also being on a macro tracking journey. The first tip I’m going to have for you is to obviously counter alcohol towards your macros. Okay, this is key. This is building accountability for your choices. It’s shedding awareness, putting a flashlight onto the habit, which in and of itself can be very powerful. There’s many clients who, you know, I haven’t said anything about their alcohol intake. I have never recommended that they cut back, but simply logging it and seeing how much food they have to give up in order to accommodate those drinks changes the behavior for them. It no longer feels as important to take a drink because they know how good it feels to be well fueled with that food. So if you are tracking macros, I highly recommend that you account for those calories from alcohol, just as you would for any other food or drink, and this is going to ensure that you stay within your caloric goals for the day.


Emily Field (00:21:50) –  This is like best case scenario. Okay, so this is in a situation where you’re not ignoring your macro goals. You’re not purposely over eating or over drinking them because of a social situation or a celebration or something like that. This is for the person who really wants to, you know, make as big of a dent or as fast as the dent as they can and their body composition goals. They still want to enjoy alcohol. When you log your alcoholic beverage in your food tracking app, it might look a little confusing. So let’s talk about that a little bit. So between chronometer macros first and MyFitnessPal, some of the top apps that I recommend, if you are tracking macros, you’re going to search the database for something like a skinny margarita or a hoppy beer or a red wine, and you’re going to log it and you’re going to notice that there were really no macros adding up there. There were only calories adding up there. And that is because alcohol is a non-nutritive food. There is not a requirement to accommodate those macros on a food label.


Emily Field (00:22:48) –  You’re only going to see the calories, not the macros. And we care about macros more than we care about calories. So you have a choice. And I would say if you’re new to this, I highly recommend doing the math and figuring out how many carbs or how many fats you would like to give up in order to accommodate that alcohol. This is a very good visualization exercise. Okay, so in each one of those apps, you have the option of doing the Quick Add feature, or just simply logging carbs as a gram or fats as a gram, dialing it up as high or as many or as little as you want. So this is how I would accommodate that. I would say, I’m going to have three drinks today. They are around 120 calories each. Let’s just say it’s three glasses of wine. I’m going to take 120 calories times three drinks. That’s 360 calories coming from wine. I’m going to divide that by four four calories per gram to carve space out of my carbs for that, or I’m going to divide it by nine to carve space from my fats for that.


Emily Field (00:23:52) –  All right, so 360 divided by four is 90g of carbs that I’m going to hold back to accommodate that alcohol, or 360 divided by nine is 40g of fat that I’m going to hold back from eating. I’m not going to eat that many fats. I’m going to probably have a lighter fat meal or a lighter carb meal to accommodate the fact that I want three glasses of wine now. That’s I guess that’s step one. That’s probably the easiest way I could describe it. There are calculators out there where you can use like kind of a slider, and you can say, I want to have some carbs and some fats to accommodate this alcohol. I don’t want it all to come from carbs or all to come from fats. So I will link that in the show notes. Some of my favorite calculators. Last note here is that a special shout out to macros. First, this app is amazing and they have an. Alcohol calculator built right into their app so that you can use that slider. What I mean by that is you’re going to put the total calories of your alcoholic beverage by doing a quick Google search or quick database search.


Emily Field (00:24:54) –  Finding out how many calories about your alcohol content for the day is going to be, and you can slide between fats and carbs. You’re basically translating the alcohol macros to carbs and fat macros, if you see what I’m saying. And macros first built it right into their app, which I think is really, really cool. Okay, so you already heard me kind of talk about how you might adjust your macros on days that you plan to drink, and that requires a bit of planning ahead. So if you know you’ll be drinking, you’re going to plan your meals for the day accordingly, and you’re going to choose to consume fewer carbs or fats to accommodate those extra calories from alcohol. Notice I’m not saying protein. Protein interferes with muscle protein synthesis, so we want to make sure that you get enough protein throughout the day to support that muscle maintenance and repair. This one is not touched on days that you are drinking and days that you are not drinking. You’re going to prioritize protein rich meals. You’re going to try to hit your protein target like you normally do.


Emily Field (00:25:54) –  You’re only going to be holding back or altering the fat or carbohydrate rich foods in your diet in order to accommodate that alcohol, okay, you’re going to adjust your consumption of those two macros, the fats and carbs, in order to accommodate and fit alcohol into your total daily calories without exceeding your goal. So that might look like, you know, if you’re going to hold back on carbs, for example, to accommodate that alcohol, maybe you’re going to have steamed vegetables with your dinner instead of a baked potato or rice. Maybe you will skip the bread basket before a meal at a restaurant. You’re going to avoid desserts and snacks in the break room that are carb rich. Instead of things like toast or bagels at breakfast, you’ll skip that and instead have a protein rich meal that is lower in carbs. Maybe you’ll skip the tortilla, or the rice cakes, or the oats, or whatever it may be, and your breakfast and lunch meals in order to carve space out of your carb target in order to accommodate that alcohol.


Emily Field (00:26:54) –  It’s things like you might have those extras in your day, like fruit juice or cereal or honey or maple syrup or, you know, fresh fruit, whatever it might be. You’re cutting back on those in order to accommodate the space that alcohol is going to take up from carbs. Alternatively, if you wanted to adjust fats, maybe you’re doing things like opting for a leaner cut of meat instead. The fattier cut of meat because you need to save those fat macros for the alcohol. You’re going to prepare your meal without as much oil. You’re going to skip cheese or bacon or avocado on your salad or sandwich. You’re going to use a vinaigrette based salad dressing instead of a cream based salad dressing. Maybe you cut back on your portion of nut butters or seed butters, coconut products, things like that that you might add to your breakfast and lunch in order to accommodate the space that alcohol is going to take instead. All right, so as you can see, it’s going to be easier to accommodate alcoholic beverages.


Emily Field (00:27:51) –  If they are lower in calories. It’s going to be tough to have three drinks and make space for those drinks if they are. Each 200 calories, 200 300 calories we really difficult to stay on track with your calories and macros. At the end of the day if those drinks are super high calorie. So some of the things that I would recommend just high level, low calorie alcoholic beverages that might be better for you if you are trying to chase those body composition goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, you’re going to opt for simple drinks. Things with fewer ingredients with no added sugars, for example, vodka or tequila soda. It’s going to be much lower in calories than a sugary cocktail, a lighter beer, or dry wine. They’re going to typically have fewer calories than regular beers or sweeter wines. You’re going to avoid mixers that are high in sugar, things like soda, tonic water, fruit juices. They’re going to add significant number of calories to your drinks. Instead, you’re going to opt for a diet soda, club soda, or water as mixers instead.


Emily Field (00:28:55) –  There’s a lesson to be learned in moderation and setting limits here. I think this is probably where most people get stopped up. They don’t want to make a plan for their alcohol. They want to just go in and just say, I’ll figure it out. And that usually doesn’t work. Again, I’m pro mindfulness, whether that’s with food or alcohol. I want you to visualize your day. I want you to be thinking forward instead of being so reactive with your food choices and your drinking habits. So I would love for you to determine before you go out, how many drinks you’re comfortable with consuming without negatively affecting your pursuit of your goals, you’re going to stick to these limits to avoid not only excess calories, but also from feeling so terrible you can’t work out the. Or it negatively impacts your sleep, or it leads to intense cravings and it’s spilling into the next 2 or 3 days. That’s what we don’t want. Okay, so it’s both the calorie stuff, but also the alterations in our sleep and our cravings and impact on our other health habits like exercise.


Emily Field (00:29:58) –  We have a number of ways that we encourage moderation and drinking. And here are just some of the things that we talk about with clients. Number one would be rotating one alcoholic drink with water. For every one alcoholic drink you have a water. Don’t drink alcohol before a certain time of day, or don’t drink alcohol after a certain time of day. So for the person who’s, you know, knows that nothing good happens after midnight, maybe they’re setting a limit on the time of day that they stop drinking. Or maybe if they’re on vacation, they’re not drinking before a certain time of day. So really narrowing that window in which alcohol is consumed can be a really helpful. Instead of limiting the number of drinks they’re setting boundaries on time of day that they’re drinking. Another moderation tactic is to swap between a non-alcoholic or mocktail version of the drink that they like to have. So a na beer for every alcoholic one, or a Nar seltzer, or a mocktail for every alcoholic seltzer or cocktail that they have.


Emily Field (00:30:58) –  Listen, na beers have come a long way from our one and only choice of duels from like 15 to 20 years ago is no longer the case. There are a lot of Na beer choices, a lot of Nar mocktail choices out there, and a seltzers. So if you’re the type of person that really just needs something in their hand and a social situation, or you don’t want to answer to the fact that you’re not drinking for whatever reason in any situation, you’re welcome to alternate your alcoholic beverages with Nar versions and see how that fits. See how that works for you. Our clients are also usually sticking to one type of alcohol per occasion. They’re not mixing it up. You’re not doing tequila and then wine and then beer, because that typically leads to feeling really terrible the next day. Again, decide how many ahead of time you’d like to have and accommodate that in your food diary ahead of time. Carve that space out early so you know how to eat around it in order to hit your macro targets and calorie goals while accommodating the alcohol.


Emily Field (00:32:00) –  My last tip would be to consider mixing your own drinks so that you can control exactly what’s in them, and exactly the serving size that’s coming from alcohol. When I go out on the boat and I like to have alcohol, I know that I’m going to be sitting in the sun for multiple hours and that can make me very thirsty. The drive to want to consume a lot of alcohol is high. Like it’s I’m thirsty, I want something in my hand. I want to cool off. I want to consume the beverage before it gets warm. So one of the things that I do is I take a big tumbler and I measure out the tequila or the vodka or whatever I’m having in my tumbler, and then fill the rest with water or a zero calorie mixer. And that full, full drink stays cold. It hydrates me. I’ve already measured out and accommodated the macros for the alcoholic beverage. I’m not caught in a situation where it’s easy to over drink, so mixing your own drinks can be a great way for you to learn what an actual serving size looks like with alcohol.


Emily Field (00:33:02) –  A typical serving size is one thing, but a restaurant or a cocktail bar might do more or less of that. Certainly, if you’re at somebody else’s house, a pour can get pretty heavy handed. So, you know, mixing your own drinks can be, even if it’s just at home, can be a really great way for you to visualize how much an ounce and a half of liquor, or five ounces of wine or 12oz of beer. Really what that looks like. All right, so in this next section, I want to talk about some common mistakes and misconceptions about alcohol and macro tracking, because we’ve definitely seen it all when it comes to coaching. And this may sound silly, but the number one thing that we see is that calories in alcohol don’t count. And if you’ve gotten anything from this episode, you know that’s not true. If anything, it’s a very calorically dense beverage, but I don’t know what it is. It’s like beverages don’t count. The nutrition label for alcohol can be really deceiving.


Emily Field (00:33:55) –  And even if you are somebody who likes to flip food over or likes to flip their beverages over and look at the calorie content or the nutrition label, it can be pretty confusing. You’ll see a hundred calories for that seltzer, but zero grams of carbs zero all the way down on that nutrition panel. It looks pretty deceiving. It doesn’t contribute any macros, and we know that is because alcohol is a non-nutritive food. It is not required to be put on a label. Alcohol as a macronutrient is not labeled on a food label. So people see those zeros when they’re macro tracking. They think it’s a free food I suppose. So number one misconception is yes, alcohol is a calorie contributing beverage. It will impact your. Were all calorie goals. Staying at your macro and calorie targets means you have to accommodate that alcohol into your day. The second biggest thing I see is people ignoring the calorie content of mixers in their cocktails. So there’s obviously many mixers that are used in cocktails like regular soda, tonic water, fruit juices, and they contain significant amounts of sugar and calories.


Emily Field (00:35:05) –  So you might be accommodating the alcohol in that margarita, or that rum and Coke or that screwdriver or Bloody Mary or something like that, but you’re forgetting to add the calories of the mixers. So, for example, a regular soda mixer can add about 100 calories for an eight ounce serving. And those sugary cocktails like margaritas, pina coladas, daiquiris those can contain 300 to 500 calories per serving, significantly increasing your overall calorie intake. It’s a super common misconception that mixers then added ingredients don’t contribute much to your calorie count, but they can easily double or triple the calorie content of your drink. Now, quick sidebar here you might be thinking, oh man, what do we do when it comes to accommodating those calories in your macros? You know, we talked about the macro math of accommodating alcohol. I would simply find the full calorie amount for your drink divided by four to count as a carb divided by nine to count it as a fat, or using a calculator like the ones I’ve kind of mentioned to slide between the two to accommodate some calories from carbs and some calories from fat.


Emily Field (00:36:14) –  So there’s no reason for you to be doing the alcohol content separate from the fruit juice, from the soda, or whatever. Just take your whole drink. Find the total calories or rough estimate of the total calories divided by four divided by nine, or find a split between the two. Another misconception that people have about alcohol is just simply misjudging serving sizes. Many people are just simply unaware of what constitutes a standard drink, with the serving size being 1.5oz for spirits that your hard alcohol, five ounces for wine and 12oz for beer. And at home it’s easy to pour more than a standard serving, leading to the unintentional increase of calories the overconsumption of your needs. So it’s super common to underestimate the number of drinks you’ve consumed, as maybe a large wine glass can hold one and a half to two servings of wine, and they’re often counted as one drink. I mean, I certainly learned this lesson early on when I was in my macro tracking journey. I have a specific wine glass that I love to drink out of, and it’s very tall and it’s got a wide base.


Emily Field (00:37:19) –  And so I would fill it to the same exact line that I might fill another smaller glass of wine, another smaller container, and in it, unknowingly consuming one and a half, maybe two times as much alcohol as I thought. We should also note here that restaurants can do the same thing. You know, they’re serving maybe a six ounce pour or a nine ounce pour, which is already more than the standard drink. And when I tell you estimated calories for wine, for example, might be one 120 to 130 calories, that’s for five ounces. But if you’re being served six or 9 or 12 or multiple glasses, whatever that might be, you’re certainly going to be consuming more than 120 calories times however many servings you just had. The last misconception that I’ll touch on is that many people mistakenly believe that consuming healthy foods allows them to drink alcohol without considering its calorie content. I eat healthy, i.e. organic. I exercise regularly, so I don’t need to worry about my alcohol consumption. Alcohol absolutely does contribute to overall calories, and it can lead to a calorie surplus if you’re not tracking.


Emily Field (00:38:36) –  If you’re not in check with this. Eating nutritious foods is a good thing. It’s going to help you maybe detox that alcohol appropriately, you know, have a good base before you start drinking to avoid a hangover. It might even prevent a hangover, but it doesn’t fully nullify the calorie impact of alcohol. The body processes these calories, affecting your weight and your health goals, regardless of your diet. Regardless of how healthy your diet is, there’s also a common tendency to justify increased alcohol consumption after eating healthily, or maybe even working out, and that person is significantly underestimating its dietary impact and potentially could hinder your body composition or your fitness goals. Alcohol provides empty calories. It lacks nutritional value beyond just providing extra energy, energy that your body can’t really do much with. And disregarding this can compromise the benefits of your healthy diet. So to close out this episode, I want to leave you with some rapidfire practical tips for enjoying alcohol while pursuing body composition goals. Because I am not the coach that is going to tell you that you have to go sober in order to see body composition change.


Emily Field (00:39:46) –  However, I am pro mindfulness, pro accountability, pro awareness. So that means that you get to decide how much, how often, if at all, alcohol fits while you’re pursuing these goals. Number one tip is to plan ahead and track your consumption ahead of time. Determine how many drinks you’re going to have and stick to it. You’re going to track your calories or the macros for those alcoholic beverages. By being mindful of those portion sizes and mixers used, you’re going to adjust your macros on the days that you plan to drink. Adjusting your macronutrient intake to accommodate the calories and alcohol is imperative if you want to stay on track with your macro targets and calorie goals. Best practice is probably to opt for lower calorie options. When it comes to alcohol, you’re going to want to opt for clear spirits like vodka, gin, or tequila and pair that with low calorie mixers like soda water or diatonic. You’re going to opt for lighter beers or drier wines because they generally have fewer calories than their regular counterparts.


Emily Field (00:40:47) –  You’re going to avoid sugary mixers, so steer clear of cocktails with sugary mixers added syrups, because these can significantly increase the calorie content of your drink. You may not even be aware of how many calories it’s contributing and therefore, you know, sending you over your calorie targets for the day. Those macro goals for the day. To avoid dehydration, you’re going to alternate with water. Drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages to stay hydrated and help mitigate the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Consider drinking water before and after consuming alcohol to maintain hydration levels and support. Overall, you know, great bodily function as you detox that alcohol out of your system. I would love for you to consider the timing of your nutrition around drinking. Eating before drinking can slow alcohol absorption and reduce its impact on your metabolism and hormones and your blood sugar levels, which will make it easier for you to avoid overeating later on in the night or giving into cravings. Having some disruptions in your appetite, things like that. I’d also recommend that you eat after you drink if you can.


Emily Field (00:41:56) –  I don’t know how realistic that is, but prioritizing nutrient dense foods or nutrient dense drinks to support recovery and replenish those essential vitamins and minerals can be super helpful for avoiding a hangover, which again, is a whole different story. If we’re talking about a hangover impacting our next day. And what kinds of food choices do you make when you have a hangover? What kind of choices do you make around workouts and recovery? When you have a hangover? Probably not great. So consider nutrient rich, colorful foods, especially those B vitamin rich foods and drinks can be super helpful after drinking to help you avoid a hangover, I would love for you to start paying attention to how alcohol impacts your progress. I want you to observe its effects by seeing how it affects your sleep, your energy levels, your workout performance, and then adjust accordingly. You have a lot of data. If you’re tracking macros, you have tons of data from the previous weeks and months of tracking. That is insight for your future choices. So consider using that to your advantage so that you can learn from what you’ve been through and change course if necessary.


Emily Field (00:43:02) –  Perhaps this is an opportunity for you to practice mindful drinking by savoring each drink, enjoying the social aspects that drinking can bring. There’s no doubt that alcohol is social and cultural and ritualistic. There are so many great aspects about sharing in an alcoholic beverage with friends, or after doing something collectively, you know, as a part of. A meal like we’re never going to be able to, at least for me, not going to be able to untie those things. And I don’t want to, but I do want to be mindful of my consumption and decide when it’s appropriate or not. I’m thinking of apres ski and meeting up at the brewery after a long bike ride or, you know, warming up with a boozy hot cocoa after snowmobiling. You know, alcohol on boats and in the summer while swimming and like, things like this, like alcohol goes together with many of my favorite things. And I’m just speaking from experience and echoing some of the experiences that my clients have. I’m not interested in untying that.


Emily Field (00:44:06) –  They go together for me, but I can absolutely become more mindful of my consumption by savoring each drink, by enjoying the social aspect of the physical aspect of whatever I’m doing. It’s not about the alcohol. The alcohol is not making or breaking that event or that experience. It’s only adding to it. And if there’s a time where it truly isn’t adding to it because I’m thinking about my calories, I’m thinking about how this is impacting my bigger overall goals for athletic performance or body composition or health in general, that I’m going to stop drinking, I’m going to moderate my drinking better. So treat this like an opportunity for you to decide where it belongs, when, how much. All of that last tip here is to incorporate exercise in that active lifestyle, because having a consistent exercise routine can help support metabolism and energy expenditure, so you can mitigate the effects that overconsumption of calories from alcohol can have. Okay. Also, we kind of talked about this before, but sweating and you know, breathing carbon dioxide in water is how we get the alcohol out of our system.


Emily Field (00:45:12) –  So consider getting a workout in and getting a sweat session in, and maybe a sauna session that can help you detox a little bit faster and mitigate the effects that we’re seeing from alcohol. In this episode, we talked about the relationship between alcohol and tracking macros. We started with a quick review of the main macronutrients proteins, fats, and carbs, and then introduced alcohol as a fourth macro. We talked all about its nutritional value, calorie content, and how it affects your metabolism, liver, and hydration. We also shared some practical tips for enjoying alcohol while still hitting your body. Composition goals like tracking your drinks, adjusting your macros, picking lower calorie options, and the importance of moderation. By understanding these points, you can make smarter choices about drinking and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Thanks for listening and we’ll catch you next time on the next episode of Macros Made Easy. Thank you so much for listening to the Macros Made Easy podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, take a screenshot of the one you’re listening to right now to share it on your Instagram Stories, and tag me at Emily Field so that more people can find this podcast and learn how to use a macros approach in a stress free way.


Emily Field (00:46:23) –  If you love the podcast, head over to iTunes and leave me a rating and a review. Remember, you can always find more free health and nutrition content on Instagram and on my website at Thanks for listening and I’ll catch you on the next episode.

Ever wondered how your favorite cocktail or beer might be impacting your goals? 

In this episode, I dive into the effects of alcohol on body composition and overall health. We’ll explore how alcohol influences daily caloric intake, metabolism, and muscle recovery.

Also – as a coach who understands the balance between enjoying life and achieving fitness goals, I’ll provide practical advice for incorporating alcohol into a macros-based diet without going completely sober.

understanding how alcohol fits into your macros

First things first, let’s get a clear understanding of alcohol as a macronutrient. Unlike proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, alcohol is often overlooked in the nutrition world. However, it plays a significant role in our caloric intake:

  • Caloric content: Alcohol provides seven calories per gram, which is almost as much as fat (nine calories per gram) and more than both proteins and carbohydrates (four calories per gram each).
  • Nutrient value: Unlike other macronutrients, alcohol does not offer essential nutrients like vitamins or minerals. This means that while it contributes to your daily caloric intake, it doesn’t provide the nutritional benefits that other macros do.

the impact of alcohol on your body

Metabolism and liver function:

Alcohol can significantly impact your metabolism and liver function. When you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing it over other nutrients. This can lead to:

  • Slowed metabolism: Your body temporarily halts the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates to process the alcohol, which can slow down your overall metabolic rate.
  • Liver strain: The liver works overtime to detoxify the alcohol, which can affect its ability to process other nutrients efficiently.
Nutrient utilization and hydration:

Alcohol can also interfere with how your body utilizes nutrients and maintains hydration:

  • Nutrient absorption: Alcohol can impair the absorption of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, which are crucial for overall health and recovery.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. This can affect everything from your energy levels to your workout performance.
Muscle protein synthesis and recovery:

For those of us focused on muscle gain and recovery, alcohol can be particularly disruptive:

  • Inhibited protein synthesis: Alcohol can interfere with muscle protein synthesis, the process by which your body builds new muscle tissue. This can hinder your muscle growth and recovery efforts.
  • Delayed recovery: Consuming alcohol post-workout can delay recovery by affecting the replenishment of glycogen stores and hydration levels.

Practical tips for tracking alcohol in a macros-based diet

Now that we understand the impact of alcohol on our bodies, let’s discuss how to effectively track it within a macros-based diet. Here are some actionable tips:

Account for alcohol calories:
  • Log your drinks: Use food tracking apps to log your alcoholic beverages. This helps you stay within your daily caloric and macro goals.
  • Adjust your intake: On days when you consume alcohol, adjust your intake of other macronutrients to accommodate the extra calories. For example, you might reduce your fat or carbohydrate intake to balance out the calories from alcohol. If you’re not quite sure how to adjust your macros, here’s a calculator that can help!
Choose lower-calorie options:
  • Opt for clear spirits: Clear spirits like vodka, gin, and tequila with low-calorie mixers (such as soda water or diet tonic) are generally lower in calories compared to sugary cocktails or beer.
  • Avoid sugary mixers: Sugary mixers can add unnecessary calories. Stick to low-calorie or zero-calorie mixers to keep your overall intake in check.
Plan ahead:
  • Pre-track your drinks: If you know you’ll be drinking, plan ahead by pre-tracking your drinks in your food diary. This helps you stay accountable and make informed choices throughout the day.
  • Balance your meals: Ensure your meals are balanced and nutrient-dense on days you plan to drink. This helps mitigate the impact of alcohol on your overall nutrition.
Stay hydrated:
  • Alternate with water: Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to stay hydrated and reduce the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
  • Hydrate before and after: Drink plenty of water before and after consuming alcohol to support hydration and recovery.
Be mindful of timing:
  • Post-workout nutrition: Avoid consuming alcohol immediately after a workout. Instead, focus on replenishing your body with protein and carbohydrates to support recovery.
  • Observe your body: Pay attention to how alcohol affects your sleep, energy levels, and workout performance. This awareness can help you make more informed decisions about your alcohol consumption.

incorporating alcohol into a balanced lifestyle

While alcohol can impact your body composition goals, it doesn’t mean you have to eliminate it entirely. Here are some strategies for enjoying alcohol in moderation while pursuing your health and fitness goals:

  • Practice moderation: Enjoy alcohol in moderation. This means being mindful of your intake and not overindulging.
  • Prioritize exercise: Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to support metabolism and energy expenditure.
  • Stay accountable: Keep track of your alcohol consumption and its impact on your body. This helps you stay accountable and make adjustments as needed. One of my favorite apps to help with tracking alcohol is MacrosFirst.

Navigating alcohol consumption while tracking macros can be challenging, but with the right strategies, it’s entirely possible to enjoy a balanced lifestyle. By understanding the impact of alcohol on your body, making informed choices, and staying accountable, you can achieve your body composition goals without sacrificing your social life.

Remember, it’s all about balance and mindfulness. Cheers to a mindful approach to enjoying your favorite drinks!

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