That’s a good question — and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Alcohol consumption is up for debate in the macro counting community.
Alcohol doesn’t actually contain any macronutrients – but don’t get too excited. It does contain calories. A LOT of calories. If you track your food in any capacity, alcohol needs to be accounted for in order to continue making progress.
‘Macros’ convert into calories and, like those macros, so does alcohol.
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of pure alcohol = 7 calories
You can see why including alcohol intake to your macros is important.
Think about your financial budget. It’s payday and you’ve received a lump sum of funds to spend wisely. You’ve paid the bills, fed yourself and put some into savings. You now assess what’s left in your budget for ‘non-essentials.’ New clothes, going out for dinner or even buying a 6 pack of beer. Sure, many of us can afford these items. Some of us are on a tighter budget.
Now think of your nutrition in the same light. Except every day is payday and you get a new set of calories/macros deposited into your body each morning to spend wisely. Where can you afford to spend your macros? More specifically, can you afford alcohol?
It Depends on Your Goals
Whether you track calories or macros, you are consuming a certain amount of them to either lose, maintain or gain weight. In science-y terms you are hypocaloric, isocaloric and hypercaloric.
Your main goal might stop there. If the number on the scale or the size of your pants is your main priority then yes, you might fit a glass of vino into your day regularly and still stay 100% on track with your goal.
If you are tracking your food intake with the goal of optimal body composition, athletic performance or improved health and wellbeing, you’re going to have to tighten your budget a little further.
Well, alcohol provides NO nutritional benefit. Nada, not one. If you’ve heard of ‘empty calories’ but never understood what that means, now you know.
If you fill the gas tank of your car only half with petrol and the rest of the way with water your car isn’t going to run particularly well. It’s not a loose guideline, it’s a specific guideline. You are working towards specific macronutrients to help you achieve specific goals.
To have optimal body composition, athletic performance and healthy insides, your body needs all the nutrients your calorie or macro allocation will fit.
Make the Call
When the time comes for you to make the call and politely accept or decline that drink offer, look at your macro budget. Is there room for alcohol or do your goals require you to allocate them somewhere more nutrient dense?