Alcohol, the fourth macronutrient, is a big part of so many peoples' lifestyles, social gatherings, and society.
So much so, that it's not uncommon that alcohol is used as a reason for why someone "can't" start living a healthy lifestyle.
We often hear things like “I can’t/don’t want to give up drinking” or “What if I want to have a beer with my buddies, or glass of wine with my girlfriends?”
I've heard each of these, and more, countless times ... and I think an important thing to keep in mind is that we're all human, and alcohol CAN be a part of a healthy lifestyle.
Yes, here at 1st Phorm we like to have a cold beer ... a mixed drink ... or even a glass of wine ourselves, but we also have goals and want to do our best to stay on track (as do so many others).
So, how do we incorporate alcohol into the plan, without sacrificing all of our results, and continue to see the progress we want?
Well, that's what this article is all about!
I'm going to explain how you could include alcohol in a healthy lifestyle (in moderation, of course) ... so we can kick back and have some fun while we work toward our goals this year!
It's true ... living a healthy and balanced lifestyle looks different for everyone.
That said, if your lifestyle includes consuming alcohol from time to time, there are some simple things you can do to fit that into your nutrition plan, while staying on track toward your goals!
How Does Alcohol Fit In Your plan?
I want to point out that every gram of alcohol has calories, just like protein, carbs, and fats. (7 calories per gram of alcohol to be exact.)
· Protein = 4 calories per gram
· Carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram
· Fat = 9 calories per gram
· Alcohol = 7 calories per gram
For instance, let’s say you are following a set of calories and macros. How do you fit the calories from your adult beverages into your plan? How do you track alcohol for carbs and fats?
Well, knowing that the most important factor in whether you're losing or gaining weight, is overall calories ... you'll need to make sure the calories from your drinks do not cause you to exceed your calorie goal.
In addition to calories, daily protein intake is extremely important when it comes to getting the results we want, while looking and feeling our best.
See, when we consume optimal amounts of protein on a consistent basis, we are helping with recovery and maintaining/building lean muscle.
This can lead to a better overall metabolism and long-term results.
So again, when thinking about tracking both calories and protein, we need to make sure alcohol does not cause us to exceed our calorie goal, while making sure we're still able to consume the right amount of protein every day.
To do this, we must add up the total calories in the drinks we consume, and subtract that from our total calories for the day.
Assuming you hit your protein goal, those alcohol calories have to come from the remaining available calories in your nutrition plan.
But where? Should they come from carbs? Fats? Or both?
Actually, in many ways, that can be up to you!
Based on your goals, your nutrition plan, and your lifestyle ... you'll be the best judge of what works best for you. That said, the simplest way to figure out how many of either of those calories will subtract, is by following the equation below.
Tracking Alcohol as Carbs:
Total Alcohol Calories ÷ 4 (since there are 4 calories per gram of carb)
Tracking Alcohol as Fats:
Total Alcohol Calories ÷ 9 (since there is 9 calories per gram of fat)
Tracking Alcohol as Both:
Take a designated percentage (ex: 50%) of Total Alcohol Calories ÷ 4, then remaining calories divided by 9.
I will give you a little pro tip I learned from our President, Sal Frisella. Pre-Track your estimated drinks that day.
This allows you to eat around them throughout the day, while helping to keep you under control when the drinks start flowing.
How do you know what is in each drink?
You may or may not have noticed that alcohol doesn’t always have nutrition labels. This is because they are not FDA regulated, and are regulated by a separate agency.
Alcohol is regulated by a federal agency called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
This federal agency does not require nutrition labels. Any nutrition labeling is completely up to the company and why you might see some companies boast about how “low calorie” they are, while others choose not to show it.
If a product has a nutrition label, it will usually give you the calories, protein, carbs, and fats.
However, if you do the math, there will sometimes be calories unaccounted for. These calories are typically from the grams of alcohol, because they aren't required on the label.
As for the drinks you get while you are out to eat, at a bar, or even at a sporting event ... how do you know what is in them?
That is exactly where a tool like the 1st Phorm App comes in to play.
This will allow you to search almost any alcohol in the database, giving you the ability to track those drinks.
Plus, you can see your remaining calories for the rest of the day, and make sure you are managing your nutrition plan properly ... even if you go out!
Downfalls of Drinking and Tracking
There are 2 common issues that I see when people are trying to incorporate drinks into their plan.
1. Drinking more than they planned. If you have room for 3 beers, you have to use discipline, and only drink 3 beers. If you don't manage it, you may consume more calories than you anticipated and slow down your overall progress.
2. Eating … because most of us aren't exactly craving carrot sticks when we're having more than 1 or 2 drinks with dinner.
So, if we're out with friends, at a social event, or celebrating a holiday ... the temptation of food can be overwhelming, especially when we've had a couple drinks.
But this is one reason why we need to plan ahead, and/or have the willpower to say no to fast food or junk food!
And also, never forget that you CAN go out with friends ... attend social events ... and certainly celebrate WITHOUT drinking alcohol.
While that might sound obvious, it took me many years to finally learn the ability to say NO to ordering a drink without the "fear" or judgement of my friends or family.
Shoot, it also took me a while to confidently order a healthier option on the menu instead of the burgers and fries they use to always see me get, because I didn't want them to make fun of me ... or tease me about my "diet."
I bring that up, because like I said earlier, living a healthy and balanced lifestyle looks different for everyone. It can also change over time as well.
So, no matter what that looks like for you, make sure your actions are in alignment with your goals and the lifestyle you want to live.
If that means having a few drinks, cool.
If that means not drinking, cool.
P.S. If you do choose to drink alcohol, another thing that can help you feel better the next day is drinking water in between drinks ... or even at the end of the night.
Since alcohol dehydrates you, staying hydrated can play such a huge role in your results & the way you feel overall.
In closing, if you choose to drink, the info above is a way to track it as part of your nutrition to help you stay on track.
If you do drink ... have a good time, but always drink responsibly. Do not drink and drive.
If you have any questions about how to track your alcohol, feel free to reach out to our team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers & Certified Nutrition Coaches! We're always here to help you out with whatever you need!