Managing Your Calories From Alcohol

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The number of calories in alcohol may be a little bit surprising, so lets take a look at why alcoholic drinks may fatten you up in the first place. To begin with, we need to start with the ugly truth: alcohol can’t exist without calories. While we tend to associate calories with the basic macro-nutrients in food such as carbohydrates and fat, we need to remember how calories are defined. The general scientific definition of a calorie is “the amount of heat required… to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius”. So to break it down, a calorie is a unit of heat, and in case you’ve never seen a fire-breather before or used an alcohol stove, alcohol is extremely flammable.

Look through our list of alcoholic drinks again, and you’ll realize how important the C.F.A. (Calories From Alcohol) metric is for ranking. As an example, Everclear may have twice as many calories as your typical beer, but almost none of those calories are wasted, nearly every calorie in Everclear comes only from alcohol while most beers contain a decent amount of calories from carbohydrates. These carbs can add up, especially if you’re having a big night on nothing but beer.

So why are those carbohydrates there in the first place? To answer this question, we’ll have to look at how alcohols is made. Without getting too in depth, alcohol is made by fermentation, which is a process in which yeast eat up sugars and turn them into alcohol. So to make alcohol, you first need to start with sugars which themselves are a type of carbohydrate. These sugars can be obtained in many different ways, and the type of sugar used actually defines the type of alcohol. For wine the sugars come, of course, from grapes. Beer and whiskey are typically made from barley, while vodka is often made from potatoes. If the yeast isn’t 100% effective at converting these sugars to alcohol, there will be sugars left over in the beverage, which will result in a more fattening drink. Beer and wine can have quite a bit of this residual sugar, which is why most of the wines with a low C.F.A. ranking taste extremely sweet. The process of distilling hard alcohol after this first fermentation can leave behind the vast majority of carbohydrates which is why pure hard alcohol is often the best choice for those on a diet.

Now let’s take a look at the best strategies for consuming alcohol while on a diet. The real problem with alcohol and weight gain is that while there is alcohol in your system, your body will give alcohol priority over everything else. What this means is that if you drink a 6 pack of beer (~600 calories) and then get hungry and decide you really want a big mac (~500 calories), your body will devote all it’s attention to getting rid of those alcohol calories first. By the time you’ve burned off the 600 calories from beer, you’ll probably be asleep and those 500 big mac calories will have been converted to fat in your body. After a normal meal, your body will start burning calories as soon as they are made available. If you’re drunk and eat a meal, your body will be too busy burning alcoholic calories and will store the food calories in your body as fat.

It has often been said that it’s not the alcohol that makes you gain weight, it’s the food you eat when you’re drunk and hungry that makes you gain weight. If your goal is to get as drunk as possible without getting fat, the best way to do that would be to eat a light healthy meal before your drinking session, and not fall victim to late night drive thrus or pizza deliveries until you wake up the next morning. If necessary, be prepared with healthy snacks like raw vegetables or fruit to tide you over. The main point here is to have as little food in your stomach as possible while drinking, and if you must have food in your stomach, make sure it’s healthy and not packed with calories of it’s own. An added benefit of drinking on a nearly empty stomach is of course that you won’t have to consume as many calories from alcohol, because you’ll get drunk much faster than if you had just eaten a hearty meal.

If on the other hand, you’re not willing to make major changes to your food diet while drinking, then you can simply change the type of alcohol you drink. Instead of a few big hearty pints of beer, go for a couple rum with diet cokes or a high ranking glass of wine. Stay away from drinks mixed with soft drinks, and high calorie liquors.

The bottom line is this: if you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t need to stop drinking, you just need to drink strategically and pay attention to what you’re putting into your body. Here at Get Drunk Not Fat, we’re committed to helping you get drunk and look good while doing it, so check our alcohol calorie chart here before you drink, or download the mobile app to help you make good drinking decisions at the bar.

  • RTBoss

    If you keep track of your macronutrients, preferentially deduct alcohol calories away from your fat macros. If you run out of fat for the day, next knock out the carbs. I have 54 grams of fat allotted for the entire day. At 7 kcal/gram of alcohol, 6 Bush light beers completely knock that out. That’s right, I can’t have ANY fat ALL day! If I want more than 6 beers, I’ll have to start deducting not only the carbs in the beer from my carb totals, but the calories from the alcohol grams from my carb macros. Don’t forget that alcohol raises cortisol in the body, and that drinking heavily and frequently will increase your visceral fat stores if you carry a caloric surplus on a regular basis.

    • healthybutdrunk

      I totally agree with this. I do the same thing, although up until now, it was subconscious. In general, in order not to get fat from alcohol, you basically have to good eating habits, low fat, getting your nutrients. Carbs are the body’s first source of fuel, so like you said, preferentially, deduct alcohol calories away from fat macros. I ‘m able to keep my weight with minimal effort, (even lose weight at times) if I dont go over a certain fat intake, (mine being around 50 grams). Its good to be moderately active too, to avoid the horrible fat stores scenario. I dont agree with the article when talking about PURE alcohol. Yeah, on the surface, it seems to make sense. Drink Ever Clear, get drunk efficiently with minimal calories, but I think its gets very difficult to quantify. You have to have extreme will power, for example, to drink Ever Clear, and then, its imperative that you STOP. If you dont, the consequences are far worse than drinking a beer or wine that may have poor alcohol to caloric ratio. The lighter alcohol drinks dont effect your metabolism as much. The harder drinks, your body is so working on metabolizing the alcohol, that it doesnt have resources to do much else. If you drink more lightly, and say , do jumping jacks, that will result in less damage. Granted, drinking Ever Clear, will give you a bigger bang for your buck. One day one hurt. But my drinking is a HABIT, and I am still able to keep my figure and be healthy if I just stick to the lighter stuff.

  • Cbass

    So I can lose weight and drink everclear?

  • ksenya

    Hi, the link to the calorie chart is not working. What gives?

  • Georgina Gomez

    This is awesome! I’m an avid macro counter and I’ve had access to this info for a while now but this website is great! Great information, really appreciate the post. Keep up the good work!

  • Terrence Edwards

    “The main point here is to have as little food in your stomach as possible while drinking, and if you must have food in your stomach, make sure it’s healthy and not packed with calories of it’s own.”

    This is an awful suggestion.
    1. You will get drunker more quickly and your decision making will be impaired
    2. Your blood sugar will be knocked out of balance and your appetite will grow
    3. You’ll go too long without eating and you’re appetite will grow. Not to mention the fact that you won’t be meeting your nutrient goals

    • TheSheriff

      Doesn’t really affect me unless it’s been reeeeally long without eating, if I eat a moderate lunch then I’m usually set… Drinking fills me up /distracts me from food I have too many other things on my mind.

      Of course I very well may be in the minority here.