By Christine Hronec
The thing on everyone’s mind is, “Can I drink and still lose weight?” Let’s be serious, alcohol is such a big lifestyle change that is not easy for most to give up. Wine, brunches, margaritas, happy hours, company parties, family gatherings, alcohol has a tendency to be a sticking point for a lot of people when it comes to meal plan compliance.
So many people do not have clear-cut guidance on what the deal is when it comes to alcohol and this chapter is intended to inform you on what you really need to know about this 4th macronutrient. First things first, alcohol is not listed on nutrition facts panels. The reason for this is because it contains zero nutritive value, as there are no nutrients, vitamins, or minerals present. In addition the calories from alcohol has zero effect on satiety where you could drink 200 kcal in a generous glass of wine and not experience a reduction in hunger or boost in fullness as a result of alcohol consumption.
Caloric content varies tremendously depending on your alcoholic beverage of choice. The purpose of this chapter is not to teach you how to get drunk without getting fat, it is to advise what this substances does to your body from a chemical perspective and allow you to make the decision for yourself if it is truly worth including in your daily meal plan if optimal health and performance are your top priorities. A single drink will vary based on the type of alcohol you consume. A typical drink contains approximately 14 grams of ethanol per beverage. The following examples are all deemed to be the equivalent of a singe drink: 12 oz.beer at 5% alcohol by volume, 5 oz. of wine at 11.6% alcohol by volume, and 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor for a standard shot either consumed alone or as part of a mixed drink.
However when consuming alcohol, it is easy to lose track of exactly how much you are consuming from a macronutrient perspective as alcoholic beverages are not like foods that come with a nutrition facts panel. Even if it drinks did have a nutrition facts label to advise caloric content, the amount of alcohol in grams would not be listed where alcohol is a liquid and tends to be listed as a percentage by volume. For the experience macro-counter, it would be convenient to know the exact amount of alcohol in grams and the exact amount of carbs in grams to accurately gauge the impact of alcohol consumption compared to your daily goals. The reason that nutrition facts labels are not present on alcohol is because it is regulated by a different governing body from the FDA)known as the Department of Treasury’s Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau or TTB for short. Labeling guidelines proposals have been made and while it may be a few more years until these types of changes are implemented, there has been a push for increased disclosure on alcohol labeling. At this point in time, the TTB issued a list of voluntary guidelines to allow company’s who wish to provide more disclosure for a tentative “Servings Facts Statement” that would be conceptually similar Nutrition Facts for foods with a different set of standards for alcoholic beverages. In 2015 Crown Royal was first brand to adopt this evolving standard. The label panel provides detailed information such as the serving size, servings per contain, alcohol content by volume, calories, and the amount of each macronutrient in grams per serving. This new standard is voluntary at this time, however it will become more prevalent in the years to come as a result of consumer demand to know whats in their beverages. In addition, the definition of a standard drink has been specified as 0.6 fl oz. of alcohol content by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines committee.
For this purpose, the calories per ounce, alcohol content per ounce of alcohol (in grams), and carbohydrate content per ounce of alcohol (in grams) were calculated and tabulated for wine and spirits. Beer was tabulated based on pre- packaged servings from the most popular brands for a helpful reference point. It was broken down in this manner to enable ease of conversion into calories from the respective grams of alcohol and carbohydrates present in the given drink by multiplying the grams by the appropriate caloric density per gram of each macronutrient.
From a practical perspective, alcohol is the EASIEST thing to eliminate from your daily caloric intake if you are serious about making real progress towards your goals. These tables provided for your reference were created to showcase how many added calories you are ACTUALLY consuming due to the fact that they are not listed on beverages as well as the fact that when alcohol is consumed, the energy content is rarely gauged. While there have been a huge educational push to help people better understanding the energy concentration of food, a trivial amount of education has been done in this area when it comes to understanding alcohol.
Even moderate drinking can easily rack up an extra 1000 calories a week which would be the equivalent of a 60 minute daily walk 4 times a week for a 150 lb. person walking at a normal pace. All of that activity is thrown out the window by a few drinks here and there, where if you relied on walking at a normal pace to break even you will waste 4 hours of your life and make zero progress towards your goals. Managing alcohol consumption is not as simple as counting the calories of what you drank and either “budgeting” those calories or burning them off in the form of exercise to undo the effects of alcohol on the body. Alcohol is metabolized through a completely different pathway compared to protein, carbs, and fat. This substance cannot be stored in the body, where the body wants to immediately shuttle it out by pausing all other metabolic processes that are occurring. It’s in your best interest to make lifestyle changes that minimize drinking and reserve it for special occasions as opposed to an everyday occurrence.