Three of the four macronutrients play critical roles in the healthy and proper functioning of the human body. The one macronutrient that does not play a critical role is alcohol. However, it still provides the body an energy source and it’s caloric and metabolic impacts need to be considered. In this article I will provide a detailed look into the macronutrient of Alcohol. This is Part 5 of a 5 part series on Understanding Macronutrients. Check out the rest of the series for a complete understanding of all the macros.
Yes, alcohol is considered a macronutrient although it is not recommended to be a significant part of your macro daily intake. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that women drink no more than one serving per day and men no more than two. While it is advised to limit alcoholic consumption for various health reasons, it would be irresponsibly dismissive to not consider this energy source when discussing all the ways the human body consumes and uses energy. In some populations, alcohol can consume up to 5 % of energy for the average person and in some individuals it can represent a larger proportion of their total energy consumption. The consumption of alcohol should also be considered in the discussion of caloric intake and weight management since there are 7 calories per 1 gram. In order to maintain suggested daily caloric intakes, consuming this macronutrient means that there should be less consumption of another macro (total calories matter). Alcohol and carbohydrates are two of the macro categories that your body does not need to properly function so a suggested method for those that drink alcohol is to eat less of your planned carbohydrate intake on days you drink these beverages in order to maintain a caloric balance. (1, 2)
ALCOHOL ON KETO
Alcohol does impact ketosis and weight loss in general even if you drink low carb alcoholic beverages. The reason is simple, your body will quickly use this macronutrient as the primary fuel source upon consumption meaning your body stops using fat if you are in ketosis. Even for those not in ketosis, this is the reason that weight loss can stall. This is also the reason that it is recommended not to drink any alcohol while starting a keto way of eating. Alcohol isn’t stored as glycogen, like carbs, so once your body completes burning alcohol as a fuel it will transition back into fat burning mode – or glucose burning mode. With almost twice as many calories as protein or carbs, drinking alcohol also has the risk of increasing your daily caloric intake beyond recommended levels. It is also the only completely “empty calorie” macronutrient since it lacks any beneficial nutrients and as a result can accelerate fat storage. Considering just alcohol as a stand-alone macronutrient and not any of the other potential side effects, this macro postpones weight loss and potentially can knock a person out of ketosis – whether it is a “low carb beverage” or not. All that said, once a person is fat adapted low carb alcoholic drinks in moderation can be incorporated into the keto lifestyle.
RIP’D RANGER INSIGHT
Prior to living keto, I would have an occasional alcoholic beverage. I enjoyed red wines for the most part and would have it with or after my dinner some nights. Some dry red wines are very low in carbohydrates and I continued to occasionally have a glass after a few months of being in ketosis. After a while, my cravings for any alcohol to include my favorite wines slowly dissipated. After 6 months of being in ketosis, I had several glasses of red wine at a family event to include a small glass of “homemade” red wine which I later discovered had a large amount of sugar in it. Although this was only a small amount, I felt the effects immediately and they continued for almost 2 weeks as I was knocked clearly out of ketosis and it took my body a while to adjust. Since then, I have had very few drinks and no longer have a desire to drink except on rare occasions. Enjoying a low carb alcoholic drink every now and then and doing so responsibly I think is very feasible while trying to lose weight or while in ketosis. It is just something I no longer enjoy or want – not to mention my tolerance level is extremely low these days.
- Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2015 -2020, Eight Edition. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
- Prentice, Macronutrients as sources of food energy, Public Health Nutrition, 2005. https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/DDF89DE14E92D39D56A45FBAA3F00A55/S1368980005001266a.pdf/macronutrients_as_sources_of_food_energy.pdf