It’s something you should only drink when you’re not dieting, right?
Potentially an acceptable component of a cheat day, a free meal, or a weekend away when you’re not on your diet, but a regular part of your plan? No way.
We all know that alcohol is catabolic and wrecks your gains, don’t we?
It is 100% fine to drink alcohol. And not only can you drink, it might even be beneficial. And better still you can do it on a regular basis.
Consuming alcohol in moderation has been linked to –
– A reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes (1.2)
– Reduced risk of CHD (3,4)
– Having more fun and being sociable (5)
Drinking alcohol has no direct link with either slowing down or preventing fat loss, or with being catabolic and causing a loss of muscle mass.
Alcohol will only lead to fat gain when consumed in the context of a diet supplying excess calories. (6,7)
The Key Word: Moderation
As with so many things in the world of dieting for health and body composition, moderation is key.
In this respect, alcohol is very similar to sugar.
Sugar is nutritionally void. But some sugar in your diet is absolutely fine, and will in no way impede your fat loss or muscle gain progress, provided you’re eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods, hitting a minimum amount of protein and fat, and eating adequate fibre.
The same goes for alcohol.
A few drinks here and there = okay.
Getting wasted = not okay.
We have the direct negative of getting drunk, which is compromised fat burning.
And indirect negative effects – eating more (i.e. stopping off for a drunken pizza or kebab,) overshooting your macros for the day, and feeling crap the day after, leading to a decreased performance in the gym. (That’s if you even bother with training after a heavy night!)
So be moderate – if you start to feel a little tipsy, it’s time to call it a day. If you can’t remember your own name, you’ve probably gone too far.
Ah, the bit you’ve been waiting for – how to calculate alcohol and where it fits in your macros.
Alcohol is technically a fourth macronutrient, and contains 7 calories per gram, putting it somewhere between protein/carbs and fat. However, as it’s not used in quite the same way as the others, it’s often not listed on nutrition labels.
This is why you’ll often see something like a beer contains 250 calories, but only 15 grams of carbs, zero fat and zero protein. That’s only 60 calories, but the other 190 come from alcohol.
So what do you need to do?
Take the alcohol percentage of your chosen beverage, work out how many grams of alcohol are in the drink, multiply this by 7, then add the listed carb content?
Nope. Much simpler.
By far the easiest thing to do is –
Within your macros, alcohol can be counted as carbs or fat. Which one you choose is up to you.
If your carb macros are lower, then it might be better for you to count it as fat and vice versa. Likewise, you don’t need to stick purely to one or the other. In fact, if you’re planning a few drinks out, I’d alternate between calculating one as fat, and one as carbs.
Let’s take my favourite – Jack Daniels –
A shot (35ml) contains 78 calories.
78 ÷ 4 = 19.5
78÷ 9 = 8.7
So we could count this as 20 grams of carbs or 9 grams of fat.
How about a beer?
A pint of Guinness has 210 calories.
210 ÷ 4 = 52.5
210÷ 9 = 23.3
So we get 53 grams of carbs or 23 grams of fat.
You could, in theory count half the calories from the drink as carbs, and half as fat, but in my opinion, that’s kind of overkill.
Alcohol can be a regular part of your diet – even on a daily basis if your macros allow, but you’ve got to moderate it. Allowing yourself alcohol in your plan ensures you stay on track whether you’re bulking, in a general fat loss phase, or even prepping for a show.
And hey, if it’s good enough for Alberto Nunez …..alcohol, diet, fat loss, flexible dieting, IIFYM
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