How to make alcohol fit your macros

Updated: Nov 17, 2018

How often has this happened... You just started your diet on Monday, everything is going great but now "Thirsty Thursday" has approached, the weather is top notch and you have an after work happy hour event where the executives you have been trying to impress for the last few months will be throwing back a few cold ones. Let's also assume that these execs are like most in corporate America and will be alarmed if they do not see you with a drink in your hand at all times. I've seen this all too often and for that reason, I want to help you stay on track with your fitness goals without sacrificing the social life. I am going to assume you have a general understanding of macros, but if not, I suggest you give these posts a quick read so that what I am going to write below will make more sense.

Understanding Macros:

Understanding Protein:

Understanding Carbs:

Understanding Fats:

The Basics on Booze

  • Alcohol is a fermentation product of carbohydrates (sugars & starches)

  • Regardless of any added ingredients, alcohol contains calories (yes, those vodka water limes still have calories in them)

  • The alcohol content (and thus the resulting calories) depends on the type of alcohol, the proof, serving size and whether or not it is distilled

  • Alcohol supplies 7 calories for every gram which is nearly twice the amount of calories that 1 gram of carbohydrate supplies (see the chart below for a comparison of alcohol to the other macros)

  • Most alcohol goes directly through the stomach lining and wall of the small intestine and into the bloodstream where it travels to every cell in the body where it can depress cell activity and interfere with nutrient absorption when consumed in excess

Macro Breakdown & Comparison to Alcohol

Determining the total number of calories in our choice of drink

Now that we have a basic understanding of alcohol, it simply becomes about modifying our diet to make room for the drinks we plan on having. This is where you can get extremely detailed or follow the general guidelines, that part is up you.

For those who want to keep it simple:

  • On average, 1 shot (80 proof) = 14 grams of “alcohol” carbs & 100 calories

  • On average, 1 regular beer (12 oz.) = 21 grams of “alcohol” carbs & 150 calories

  • On average, 1 glass of wine (5 oz. red/white) = 17 grams of “alcohol” carbs & 125 calories

For those of you who want to know the numbers exactly:

Making the Adjustment

Now that we have determined the total number of calories we will be drinking, it is time to modify the diet accordingly. With just a little bit of math, we can have our drinks and stay on track with our goals.

For the sake of this post, we will assume that I am going to drink 2 - 80 proof drinks on the rocks for the evening which as we learned above is a total of 200 calories. Since we know that alcohol is a fermentation product of carbohydrates, we will want to make the adjustment from our diet in the form of carbohydrates. The first step is to apply the math. Since we know that 1 gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories per gram, we will simply divide 200 calories by 4 to determine that we will need to remove 50 grams of carbs from our diet for the day.

Now let's put it all together using an actual diet plan shown below.

What you see in the above picture is a breakdown of my macros as well as a couple of my meals for the day. We just determined that we are going to remove 200 calories in the form of 50 grams of carbohydrates to accommodate my drinks. In this scenario, we could remove 1 and 1/4 cup of brown rice from meal 3, consume both of those drinks and still stay below our daily macro's without giving up the social life! Do the numbers always add up exactly? No, that would be nearly impossible, however, we can match the numbers up very closely where we stay below our caloric ceiling for the day and can still enjoy our social lives! Remember, "there is more to life than being really, really, ridiculously strict with your diet".


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