Tracking Macros for Alcohol
Alcohol is the 4th macronutrient, after the main 3 (carbohydrate, protein, and fat). While carbohydrate and protein each contribute 4 calories per gram and fat contributes 9 calories per gram, alcohol contributes 7 calories per gram. So, it’s not quite a fat, but definitely not a carbohydrate either.
In order to count alcohol toward macro goals, find the total number of calories for your alcoholic beverage and divide by 4 to count it towards carbohydrate goals or 9 to count it towards fat goals. In your food tracking app, you’ll record “XX” number of carbohydrate grams or “XX” number of fat grams, which will pull from your daily allotment of each of these macros. You could split the difference between carbohydrate and fat grams once you have a handle on this concept. There are online calculators that can help you do this, too. Here’s one you can use.
In order to stay on track with your macro goals, you will have to make adjustments to your meals to accommodate alcohol. Typically, people become more responsible drinkers and consume fewer drinks when they’re tracking macros—and that’s not a bad thing! They would rather eat their macros instead of drink their macros. Similarly, some people become much more mindful of their choice of alcoholic beverage because they are not all created equal. For example, there are major caloric differences in beer, wine, hard liquor, and mixed fruity beverages.
It’s important to remember that alcohol is a fat loss killer, not only because it contains unusable calories, but because all fat loss is hindered while you drink alcohol and for a while after—up to 48 hours! Just think about it—to your body, alcohol is a toxic substance and all efforts go to metabolizing it and getting it out of your system as quickly as possible. As a consequence, any fat metabolism or body fat burn you’ve been working hard to create through exercise and tight nutrition habits is put on pause. So, if your goals are to lose body fat and/or gain lean muscle mass, we recommend keeping alcohol to a minimum throughout the week.
You won’t see many posts about alcohol in the FASTer Way community and we recommend you keep consumption to rare occasions only.
Top Tips to Track With Accuracy When You’re Not In Control of the Food
1. Carve out some space for your meal.
I can guarantee that a restaurant meal will pack more carbohydrates and fats than if you tried to recreate the same dish at home. Restaurants cook with more fats and oils—they make use of brining, basting and marinating all along the preparation process. Ever wonder how something as simple as a chicken breast tastes completely different when you order it at a restaurant compared to when you make it at home?
There are a couple of things you can do to increase accuracy with your macro targets. You can:
Practice Intermittent Fasting. Skipping breakfast and eating lighter throughout the day can help you stay on track with your macro goals as you save for a meal that will likely be higher in carbohydrates and fats.
Pad your diary with fat macros. Consider adding 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp of oil to account for fat that your meal is cooked in, depending on what you plan to eat.
Save about a third of your calories for your restaurant meal, primarily from carbohydrate and fat macros. Depending on how much you’d like to splurge and what you order, be prepared to “spend” anywhere between one third and one half (or more) of your calories on your restaurant meal.
Emphasize protein and non-starchy vegetables in the meals you eat throughout the day leading up to your restaurant meal. Chances are, the restaurant meal will be lacking in protein so it’s in your best interest to eat protein-rich foods before you dine out.
2. Choose a restaurant that has nutrition information online.
There are several ways to find restaurant nutrition information. You can do a general google search, inquire via the website contact form, or ask for it in person. As a rule of thumb, it’s best not to jump to the MyFitnessPal diary for the nutrition information without looking at a restaurant website first, but it will do in a pinch.
If you have control over where you eat in a social situation, pick a place that you can find nutrition information easily or you know you can easily identify the ingredients in your food.
3. Attempt to estimate your meal by using a similar menu + nutrition information from another restaurant.
If there is not information available online for the restaurant you’re interested in, you can pull a similar menu from a different restaurant and pre-log the meal in your diary using the nutrition information found online. Here are some menus you might reference for American fare: Red Robin, Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s.
As for other ethnic cuisines, see some of these resources:
Carbohydrate counts (and nothing else!) for different ethnic dishes—consider using this as a baseline to find the most accurate information in MyFitnessPal’s food library
Tips for picking macro-friendly Indian dishes
Example macros for Thai dishes
Example macros for sushi
The idea is to get close. By prioritizing protein, padding some extra macros in the dairy, Intermittent Fasting, and picking a macro-manipulatable option, you will get close to your macro goals.
4. Select a meal that you can guesstimate the macros.
Depending on how strict you are to your macro goals, it’s going to be essential that you pick meals that you can easily identify the ingredients to log appropriately.
Here are some examples of tougher-to-track meals:
Pasta dishes with meat, cheese, sauces
Burritos with a lot of ingredients, cheese, sauces
Mayo-based chicken salad, tuna salad
Breaded and deep fried options—onion rings, chicken tenders, fish
Here are some examples of easier-to-track meals:
Salads, dressing on the side, grilled or raw proteins
Wraps, burgers, or sandwiches with sauce on the side, grilled or raw proteins
Standard American dinner with a choice of protein + vegetable + grain or starchy vegetable
Fajitas or tacos
Breakfast, brunch options
Tacos with easy-to-identify ingredients
5. Stick to the game plan, lean on common sense
Our food environment has changed drastically in the last several decades. We’re surrounded by cheap, highly palatable foods everywhere! Portions are bigger, plates are bigger, utensils are bigger. Because of technological advances in farming, production, and transportation, we can consume nearly any type of cuisine we want—from all over the world!
These trends make restaurant eating an enjoyable and worthwhile experience, but it can be difficult to navigate accurate macro tracking while dining out. However, you can’t go wrong with a few simple behaviors that promote mindful eating in restaurants.
Decide what you’re going to eat before you leave home, don’t let your environment (the company you’re with, the smells, the sights, the sounds) shape your choice when you get there
Take half the dish home with you or split half with a friend
Ask for items on the side
Eat until you’re 80% full, not 100% or 120%
Skip dessert, alcohol or anything else you don’t absolutely want
Err on the side of overestimating and slightly undereating your macro goals
Eating whole, real ingredients in their most natural form in macronutrient balance
Eating out should not “freak you out.” Don’t avoid going out and enjoying yourself because you feel stuck to a number or type of food. Take the suggestions outlined in these VIP Essentials and incorporate the ones that will work for you. Remember, if you’re not feelin’ it, you CAN recreate great dishes at home with ⅓ to ½ the calories and macros. Eating out should be more about the company and experience you’re creating vs. the actual meal itself.
Tracking Macros for Fats in Cooking
There are a few ways to track the fats and oils you cook with when when making batch recipes. Your choice for each method will depend on how diligent you want or need to be to your macro goals.
The most accurate: measure the oil that you put on your veggies before roasting, add the veggies + oil to a recipe on your food tracking app and log each day you eat by referring back to that saved recipe.
Moderately accurate: eyeball the oil that you put on your veggies when you cook the batch and divide by how many servings you get. When you log each day, you'll have ½, ⅓, or ¼, for example, of that eyeballed portion of oil.
Somewhat accurate: pad your diary with 1 tsp of oil every time you eat the vegetables you roasted, as if to "cover your bases" with fat grams.
Accurate enough: don't log the fat that you cook vegetables in because it's such a trace amount across multiple days that it really doesn't matter.