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How to Track Alcohol While Tracking Macros

alcohol alcohol macro calculator macros Feb 22, 2024

Tracking alcohol while you are tracking your macros is something that a lot of people will face at some point.  Before I get into the logistics of how to actually track it, I think it would be good to understand some basic information about alcohol.  

The first thing to know is that alcohol itself is its own separate "nutrient".  It has its own unique calorie density.  Just as a refresher here is how each nutrient stacks up.

  • Protein = 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram
  • Fat = 9 calories per gram
  • Alcohol = 7 calories per gram

These figures will come in handy when we start tracking alcohol since we will have to do some macro math.  

Some things that we should also consider when it comes to alcohol while you are tracking macros are; 

  • Does drinking affect your weight loss?
  • Pros & Cons of drinking alcohol
  • Making smart alcohol decisions

Does Drinking Affect Your Weight Loss? 

Drinking alcohol could have a potential negative impact on your weight.  How?  To start drinking calorie dense beverages no matter if they are alcoholic or not can be troublesome for a person trying to lose weight.  These beverages provide calories with very little if any satiety effects.  This can lead to either increased hunger or over consumption of calories.  

There are also a couple other things that can come into play when you incorporate alcohol into your diet.  Alcohol consumption, especially in excess, can decrease your sound decision making skills.  Practically, this means when you have a few drinks the chicken wings, pizza and nachos start sounding a lot better.  Those extra calories from foods that coincide can push you out of a deficit or even push you into a surplus if not careful.  

The other impact drinking can have on your weight loss has to do with negative impact on sleep and energy.  If you've ever imbibed on a few too many beverages, you've likely experienced the dreaded hangover.  Or maybe you've even just experienced a poor night of sleep after a single glass of wine.  Poor sleep and low energy will usually lead to lower activity the following day.  Reduced activity equals lower calorie burn which if not accounted for can lead to lack of weight loss.  

At the end of the day if you can control your calories that you take in and not let your activity levels or sleep be hindered by consuming alcohol than you can certainly enjoy some alcohol while trying to lose weight.  

Pros & Cons of Drinking Alcohol

Let me just start off by saying that alcohol doesn't have any nutritional benefits.  It is a toxin and metabolites of it are a burden on our bodies.   I've mentioned a few of the other negatives of drinking alcohol above like, impacted sleep, empty calories, and potential for negative side effects like reduced activity and increased food intake.  

Why isn't it a clear cut, don't drink alcohol then?  

Not all benefits happen at the cellular level or directly with our metabolism.  Alcohol is something that our society associates with social gatherings, holidays and special events.  One thing that the health industry never puts a huge emphasis on is how the health of our relationships impact not only our physical health but our mental health.  If a drink or two helps you be social and interact with others, I think there can be a positive to it.   

The key is if you choose to drink to not tip the scales consistently where the negatives outweigh the positives.  

Make Smart Alcohol Decisions

 When you are consuming alcohol, it will help you if you make smart decisions on what you drink.  Since I've never written a macro plan that includes a category for a percentage of calories coming from alcohol, when you drink, you will need to displace one of the other macros, protein, fat or carbs.  Lower calorie alcoholic beverages therefore will be your friend.  

Below you will find a list of common liquors, beverages, and cocktails along with their calorie amounts.  If you drink something specifically, I advise looking into the calorie amount of whatever that beverage is that you have so you have the most accurate information.  Just do a quick web search for the beverage name and calorie information.  

If want to displace less food, then I would recommend choosing beverages that are lower in calories.  This would include cocktails with zero calorie mixers, light beers, hard seltzers, wine or straight liquor.  


* I found this detailed list for calorie breakdown for a number of popular beers.  

Tracking Alcohol In Your App

There are two different ways that I recommend tracking alcohol.  It really depends on how frequently you drink and to some degree how OCD you might be when it comes to tracking.  

The first way works well if you don't drink that often or if you don't really care about zeroing out your macros at the end of each day.  What you will do if this is you, then what you can do is just search out whatever beverage you are having in your app and log it.  This will allocate all the calories, but you will notice that macros won't all be accounted for due a decent amount of the calories coming from alcohol.  What you will want to do is on days you drink, you will want to make sure you are staying around your calorie goal, getting close to your protein number and then you will want/need to stay a little bit under your carbs and/or fat to compensate for the calories you got from the alcohol.  

The second way is to be proactive and allocate those alcohol calories to a specific nutrient so that at the end of the day you will have all your macros and calories accounted for in your tracker.  This works well if you are a bit more detailed or specific about your macros or if you tend to drink a similar beverage more regularly.  For example, if you like to drink a glass of red wine with dinner 3-4 nights a week.  Or every week you have a beer or two while playing in a golf league.  

If this sounds more like you then you will want to setup some custom food options in your app.  To do this follow these steps;

    1. Determine the calorie content of the alcoholic beverage that you normally consume.  For this example, let's say we are going to create a custom food for a 100-calorie hard seltzer.  
    2. From there, create a custom food entry, in this instance I would call this Dan's Hard Seltzer.  I would also end up adding a descriptor depending on where I want to account for those calories. I'll come back to this.
    3. Once you are in that custom entry you will log the number of calories in that beverage, 100 calories in this case.  Then you will want to determine if you want to displace carbs, fat or a combination of the two.  You'll notice we don't replace protein due to the importance of that nutrient.  My typical order is to replace carbs, then an even split between carbs/fat, then fat.  If you are someone that really enjoys carbs and doesn't care for fat, then you could switch this order. This is where that extra descriptor comes in, if I want to replace carbs then my custom entry would be named Dan's Hard Seltzer Carbs.  
    4. Then depending on where you are going to allocate those calories you will need to do some macro math.  You can use those calorie density numbers I posted above for this.  In the example about the seltzer and if I want to allocate those calories to carbs, I will take 100 calories and divide by 4 (carbs = 4 calories/gram) which equals 25.  Or another way to think of it is that that seltzer is the equivalent of 25 grams of carbs.  
    5. Complete your custom entry by adding the full title of the entry, the calorie amount, and the equivalent macro breakdown depending on how you decided to split it up.  
    6. Then when you have that beverage, you can easily log that custom entry and you will have the proper calories and a specific allocation of nutrients so that at the end of the day you can still aim to zero out your macros.  

I've created the form below if you want to use to help do some of the macro math for how to allocate the calories between fat and carbs.  


If you need some additional help with this concept or just staying on track with your macros check out the coaching services I provide.  You can also setup a free consultation call using the following link.  


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