Fitting Alcohol in Your Macros

If you’ve wondered why ‘Inclusive dieting’ (aka flexible dieting, aka macro tracking, aka IIFYM aka – insert acronym here) is gaining followers by the masses,  it’s simply because IT WORKS!  It works because those following such a plan are allowed to INCLUDE foods and drinks of their choice.  There are literally NO off-limit items!  The method has only one rule.  You must fit these foods/ drinks in to the ‘goals’ (calories, protein, carbs and fat) dictating your plan.

It’s the proverbial case of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. The success of those following an inclusive protocol comes from the fact that they are able to stick to it longer – in most cases it becomes a permanent lifestyle change.  And, there is no guilt associated with the foods consumed; no feeling of being left out at family gatherings, barbecues and birthday parties. So, that begs the question… HOW do I fit the occasional alcoholic beverage in my macros?

First, if you aren’t currently on a flexible/ inclusive dieting (macros) plan, start with my article here to learn more.

If you are already on such plan, read on…

Tell me if this sounds familiar…  You were at a tailgating party… reached in to the ice-chest and pulled out your favorite cold one… scanned the food label and added the drink to your daily diary and enjoyed the tasty cold beverage GUILT FREE!!  You put one down, still had macros left and decided to enjoy another.  After the second one, you had satisfied the craving… you had your beer and drank it too (smile).  So, you stopped there.

Later on, as you were closing out your day and playing food-tetris (#foodtetris) with those last few macros remaining, you discovered something very disturbing… you nailed your macros, but busted over your calorie goal.  HOW COULD THIS BE?!  You logged everything… you were meticulous!

Before you beat yourself up over this, let’s discuss some facts about the metabolism of alcohol for a deeper understanding.  Then, we’ll discuss some strategies for including alcohol in your flexible dieting plan so we can prevent this problem from happening to you again.

I will start by saying, it’s OK to have alcohol as part of your flexible plan, but here’s WHY you want to moderate consumption when trying to keep body fat in check.  Keep in mind, we strive to keep alcohol consumption to 2 drinks or less, per week, with our clients.

  • The liver is the primary organ responsible for processing alcohol.
  • Because alcohol cannot be stored in the body, it has absolute priority in metabolism
  • The increased liver enzyme activity, resulting from alcohol consumption, may also promote fatty acid synthesis and reduce fatty acid oxidation.

To reiterate, alcohol and body fat are competing for the liver’s resources. Due to the log jam at the liver, alcohol consumption will blunt fat burning until alcohol has been metabolized completely.  And, the increased enzyme production can increase fat production even after alcohol has been metabolized.

Whoa, whoa, whoa… before we place the ‘BLACK’ label on alcohol, let’s discuss some facts about the structure of alcohol.  This info will put us in the driver seat with our macros when choosing to enjoy a drink or two.

  • Alcohol is NOT a macro-nutrient, BUT…. alcohol does contain calories.  In fact, 7 calories per gram (as compared to Carbs 4, Protein 4, Fat 9).
    • So, when you logged that beverage, only the trace amount of carbs were being accounted for in your macros, but ALL of the calories were being logged. That is why you blew your calories.
  • Structurally, alcohol resembles a carbohydrate.  However, alcohol is metabolized more like a fatty acid than a carbohydrate and is considered a FAT in metabolic terms.
    • There it is, we need to add the calories from alcohol as a FAT when following flexible/ macros

That said, we need to create some custom ‘food’ items in MyFitnessPal that we will use in lieu of scanning the bar codes.  Doing so will help us dial in our numbers and appropriately moderate our consumption… two birds, one stone.

Using the chart below, I’ve listed the caloric breakdown of the most common generic beverages. Of course, for mixed drinks (i.e. Screwdriver, Vodka-cranberry, Bloody Mary) you will also need to add the additional contents of the drink. So this list only applies to the alcohol.

*If reading from mobile, turn to landscape view*



UPDATE!!!! I have uploaded a variety of alcoholic beverages to MyFitnessPal using the method we teach our clients.  So, if you would like to log your alcohol the same way we do, simply look up our company name “Copper State FIT” in the search box on MyFitnessPal.  A variety of pre-built beverage will come to the top.  Pick your poison (pun intended) and log responsibly. You’re welcome 🙂 

Voila!  You now are in full control.  The next time you attend that tailgate party, skip the bar code scan and add your custom beverage instead.  The calories AND the macros will now add up.  And, because you’re working with a finite amount of macros, you’ll need to temper your consumption.  Like I said… two birds, one stone.

It’s not perfect.  However, by repeating this process for all the generic items, you will come darn close when logging alcohol. No more hitting your macros and blowing your calories!

Here’s one final tip: If you have plans that you know will include beverages… log them at the BEGINNING of the day BEFORE you consume them.  This way, you can eat/ drink around those calories/ macros for the day and still get to enjoy your beverage.  Drink responsibly!

If you would like to discuss your goals and how a flexible diet will help you achieve them, schedule your complimentary consult now!

 


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