Alcohol: How to Account for It
Updated: May 12
Ah. You like to get crunk. Get wild. Get turnt. It’s understandable. Long week of work, celebrating a birthday, or it’s just Tuesday. Whatever the reason, alcohol is a huge part of social settings in this day and age. If you don’t drink, then you’re ahead of the rest of us. Hangovers suck, and waking up on a Sunday feeling rested and refreshed is nothing to take for granted.
For those of you that do drink alcohol to varying degrees, there are some implications it could have on your health and fitness goals. Now it really does all depend on how much, how often, and what you’re drinking. There is a huge difference between the effect of an occasional glass of wine or two, versus the frequent happy hour goer. No matter what level, you should be aware of what you’re ingesting, whether it’s solid or liquid form.
There are three main macronutrients. Fat. Carbs. Protein. Fat has 9 calories per gram. Carbs and protein have 4 calories per gram. But wait!!! There’s one more. Alcohol!! The substance that gets you feeling loose and ready to party has 7 calories per gram. Now you probably haven’t measured your Pinot Noir in grams recently so let’s put this into identifiable metrics.
A “standard” drink has 14 grams of pure alcohol. A 12-oz beer. A 5 ounce pour of wine. 1.5 fluid ounces of a standard 80 proof liquor. 14 grams x 7 = 98 calories. Now that’s on the lighter side. A craft beer that you get at those cool, hip, bars can have 200-300 calories. Dry dessert wines can have 150 calories. The real trouble can come in the form of cocktails and mixed drinks. Mai Tai has 300 calories. Margaritas, rum and cokes, pina coladas! All loaded with sugar and liquor.
That’s the problem with these drinks. There’s no nutritional value. No redeeming quality. But the point of this isn’t to get you not to drink again. You wouldn’t listen. The point is to keep you mindful and to not dismiss it as negligible.
So how much of a factor should it be?
Let’s say you don’t ever really drink during the week. When you go out to dinner, you’ll have a glass of wine, or a beer. Only maybe once a month will you have more than a few drinks. If this is you then you don’t need to be overly conscious about decreasing your caloric intake due to alcohol intake. You also don’t drink enough/often enough to warrant a decrease in drinking.
The main piece of advice would be to not overeat, and then go drink heavily afterwards. If you plan on doing one, try not to do the other. If plans involve doing both together, then enjoy and be prepared to hydrate heavily the next day and perhaps be bloated. Other than that, there’s not a huge concern here, just be aware of it when you are drinking.
MORE THAN SOCIAL DRINKER
Doesn’t matter where it is. Happy hour. Your couch. A back alley. Drinking often and in heavier amounts is something that should definitely be accounted for when thinking about caloric consumption. Now if you could just cut it out completely then we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. And that’s okay. If it’s a part of what you enjoy and like to do then by all means keep it going.
What needs to happen, however, is an acknowledgement of the effect it has and to plan with it in mind. A night of drinking or a happy hour can easily amount to anywhere from 500 up to 1000 calories. With margaritas, usually comes chips and guac. With beers, comes wings and ranch. So keep that in mind. If you follow this blog, then that’s a solid 2 out of the weekly 5 “cheat items” (https://www.aryansiahpoushanwellness.com/post/80-20-nutrition-guideline). Not all “cheat items” have to be burgers and fries. This counts too.
Now what you might realize is that your caloric intake via alcohol is quite high. 3 drinks, 4 nights a week. Average of 150 calories per drink. That’s 1800 calories. Half a pound of fat a week. Again, not to say that you have to stop. But if you find you are still eating the same amount, AND drinking this amount, then that could be what’s holding back your progress.
So what’s the solution? It may be to keep drinking the same, and decrease food intake. There’s less nutritional value here but at least you’ll still keep your caloric intake down. Best option would probably be to moderate both. Try and decrease weekly alcohol intake by half, keeping everything else the same. Start there for now, and see how you feel.
If you find that you enjoy pizza and chips more than the alcohol, then you have to decide on that trade-off. It’s really up to you. But you can’t have it all, and expect to see sustained progress. It’s just not realistic.
Again, the point of this isn’t to shame drinking. The point is to make you aware that they have calories, which impact body fat and weight. If drinking is a frequent occurrence, then it needs to be counted just the same as having a slice of cake. And that’s what you need to decide, which one you enjoy more. Whatever the answer, keep what you enjoy, and work on balancing your intake out by moderating the rest.