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How Alcohol Affects Body Composition

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Alcohol is a chemical “nutrient” that is called ethanol, and it does contain calories (7 calories, to be exact). Although it is made mostly of sugars, it is metabolized and processed in the body similar to fat.

The body will process alcohol first over any calories it’s being given from carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Now, will alcohol intake cause you to gain weight faster or does alcohol get stored as fat?

Not so much if you are having it in moderation or drinking it every so often.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that it’s a better choice to have a few glasses of wine one night a week than to have 1-2 every night.

Why? Because drinking alcohol can have a negative effect on muscle protein synthesis. In other words, it’s not an optimal way to rebuild lean muscle tissue or to recover. If your goal is to improve overall body composition, then yes, it can hinder your results!

In terms of hormones, alcohol could also raise estrogen and promote imbalances in testosterone levels.

What does that even mean?

It means it could lower your ability to build lean muscle!

Be prepared for fluctuations on the scale weight for the next few days. The next day after drinking, you’ll probably weigh less, but then 2-3 days after the scale may be a little above normal.

So how do you incorporate alcohol into your lifestyle?

Let’s look at a few common drinks and their calorie content:
1.5 ounces of vodka, rum, gin, or tequila: 100 calories
12 ounces regular beer: 150 calories
12 ounces light beer: 100 calories
4 ounces of wine: 120-125 calories
4 ounces of champagne: 85 calories
martini: 120-150 calories
mojito: 150 calories
pina colada: 500 calories
Margarita (4 ounces): 170 calories

To plan for this, in your meal plan (tracking your macros), you will take the overall calories for your drink of choice and you can decide if you’d like to use your fats or carbs.

For example, if you want to use your carbs for a glass of wine, you will divide 120/4 (calories/ 1 gram carb) = 30 grams of carbs

You can also use Fat grams if you’d like: 120/9 (calories/ 1 gram fat) = 13

If you’d like to use some of both, you can decide how many you’d like to use, but here’s an example:

A glass of wine: 120 calories
Use 60 calories from carbs: 60/4 = 15 grams of carbs
Use 60 calories from fats: 60/9 = 7 grams of fat

Yes, it does require a little bit of math on your part and we all know how much CrossFitters hate math, but if your goal is to keep your weight and lean mass in check, this is a must-do in your nutrition plan!

Bottom line is you don’t have to avoid alcohol altogether, you just need to be smart about your intake and how you track it in your nutrition journal.

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