In the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle and achieving our fitness goals, it’s not uncommon for questions about the role of alcohol to arise. For many, the idea of sipping on a glass of wine or enjoying a social drink can feel like a guilty pleasure when working towards fat loss. However, as we delve into the science and research, you may be surprised to learn that, when approached in moderation and with careful consideration, alcohol need not be the nemesis of your fat-loss journey. Recent studies have shed light on the nuanced relationship between alcohol consumption and body composition, suggesting that when calories and protein intake are meticulously controlled, its impact might be less detrimental than previously believed. In this article, we’ll explore the intricacies of incorporating alcohol into your fat-loss plan, providing you with valuable insights and practical tips to make informed choices that align with your fitness goals.
The most significant factor in drinking while tracking your macros is ensuring you are tracking correctly. Remember, to lose body fat, we need to be in a calorie deficit. Many people assume that because hard alcohol is low carb or carb free, that alcohol is also calorie-free. This assumption is not the case, and even a shot of hard liquor (1.5 ounces) will contain around 80 calories. Let’s explore this further.
Alcohol is The 4th Macronutrient.
Alcohol has seven calories per gram. It’s important to note that many food-tracking apps, such as MyFitnessPal, will not include Alcohol as a macro. Because of this, tracking alcohol can pose a unique challenge that requires us to do some math. Otherwise, the actual calorie and macro intake will be inaccurate.
How Do I Track Alcohol?
The simplest method we have found is to create a new food in MyFitnessPal:
- Go to “Create a Food” in MyFitnessPal
- Name the food “Alcohol”
- Assign the food 100 calories per serving
- Include 25g of Carbs per serving
Now, to record alcohol, figure out how many calories of alcohol were consumed and enter the number of calories into your newly created “alcohol” food. For example, lets say you consumed two light beers that were 125 calories each. The total number of calories consumed is 250, so we would log this as 2.5 servings of alcohol in MyFitnessPal.
Tips for Consuming Alcohol During a Fat-Loss Phase
- Use Low-Calorie Mixers: When you’re looking to enjoy an alcoholic beverage without derailing your fat-loss efforts, the choice of mixer can make a significant difference. Opt for low-calorie mixers such as diet sodas or zero-calorie flavored additives like Crystal Light. These options can add flavor and effervescence to your drink without piling on extra calories. Additionally, consider substituting tonic water with sparkling water to reduce the calorie content while maintaining the refreshing quality of your cocktail.
- No Mixers, Just a Shot on Ice: Sometimes, the simplest approach can be the most effective. If you’re watching your calorie intake closely, consider skipping mixers altogether and savoring your drink as a shot over ice. This minimalistic approach not only enhances the taste of the spirit but also slashes unnecessary calories that often come with sugary or high-calorie mixers, potentially saving you hundreds of calories per serving.
- Choose a Light Drink: When selecting your alcoholic beverage, keep in mind that some options are inherently lower in calories than others. Opt for light beer, a glass of champagne, or a hard seltzer over heavier options like ales or lagers. Lighter drinks typically have fewer carbohydrates and lower alcohol content, making them a better choice for those aiming to maintain their calorie deficit while enjoying a drink.
- Make It Last: One effective strategy for managing alcohol consumption during your fat-loss phase is to prolong your enjoyment. Pour your drink into a tall glass filled with plenty of ice. The ice not only dilutes the alcohol but also helps you drink it more slowly. To further pace yourself, alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of sparkling water or another non-alcoholic, low-calorie beverage. Taking breaks in between can help you stay in control of your alcohol consumption and prevent overindulgence.
- Calorie Hoarding: Planning ahead can be a game-changer when it comes to balancing alcohol with your fat-loss goals. Consider allocating extra calories from your daily intake toward a special event or weekend gathering where you anticipate enjoying alcoholic beverages. For example, by saving 50 calories each day for six days, you can create a calorie buffer of 300 calories, allowing you to indulge a bit more without jeopardizing your overall progress. This approach requires discipline and careful tracking, but it can help you strike a balance between your fitness objectives and social occasions.
Considerations & Recommendations
If you choose to include alcohol while trying to lose body fat, it is essential to maintain a calorie deficit so you can still achieve your goals. Because alcohol is high in calories and not very filling, you will need to limit your intake so as not to exceed your caloric intake or sacrifice protein requirements. In a similar vein, we also want to ensure that incorporating alcohol into your diet does not negatively impact your ability to get enough fiber and other micronutrients.
It has been shown that large amounts of alcohol have been demonstrated to inhibit protein synthesis and fat oxidation. It can also suppress testosterone, which can negatively impact muscle gains.
Lastly, alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making you more likely to choose poor food decisions. If you struggle with moderation, you may be a good candidate for abstaining from alcohol consumption.
At the end of the day, we believe it’s all about balance and maintaining healthy relationships with your food. For those who want to incorporate alcohol into your fat loss phase, we recommend limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 times a week, for 1-3 servings if possible.