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The 4th Macronutrient - Alcohol

We know about the 3 key macros: carbs, protein and fats, but let us show you the 4th Macronutrient and how it has the biggest impact on our results.
Health & Nutrition Articles
Health & Nutrition Articles

By Louise Barter

We've all heard of the three macronutrients, right? But did you know there was a forth macronutrient hiding amongst most of our diets, Alcohol! Alcohol has a huge calorific value but doesn't provide any nutrients. Meaning whilst we enjoy the affects of alcohol it isn't providing our body with anything worthwhile.


To put this in perspective, below are the macronutrients and their energy values next to them.


Carb = 4 cal per gram

Protein = 4 cal per gram

Alcohol = 7 cal per gram

Fat = 9 cal per gram


Just as the three main macros, alcohol provides energy (calories) and therefore the body has to burn this off. Unlike the other macros, the body identifies alcohol as a poison and therefore uses all its resources to burn it off first to protect your vital organs. But what does this mean? Well basically whilst your body is busy burning off the alcohol you've consumed, it cant burn off the other macros (food) that you've also consumed at the same time. Meaning the burger and chips you've most likely consumed at the same time aren't being used as an energy source and instead are being stored as fat.


"So I just wont eat when I drink" I hear you say. Well yes, that's one way to avoid this, but in practice, not only will you get a horrendous hangover and/or sickness if there's nothing else in your stomach when you drink, it also take a hell of a lot for your body to digest this alcohol. According to the NSW Government health guidelines, it takes the average person 1 hour to break down 10g of alcohol. We've put together the chart below to give you a rough idea of how long it will take for your body to process your favorite tipple:



Drink (size)

Grams of alcohol

Time it takes to process

Red wine (150ml)


1hr 48

White wine (150ml)


1hr 42

Beer (schooner)


2hr 18

Vodka (30ml)



Whiskey (30ml)





Now multiply the time by the amount of drinks you'd likely consume and that's how long it takes for you body to break down the alcohol and stop using it as it's primary fuel. So suddenly those casual 4 glasses of wine have put your metabolism back over 7 hours whilst it digests the alcohol.


As well as alcohol having a huge detrimental affect on your metabolism, it also affects your lean muscle mass. The process for building muscle through resistance training and nutrition is called protein synthesis. Alcohol reduces your body's ability to build lean muscle by 20% by blocking the absorption of many important nutrients from your food needed for muscle to grow, contract and relax.


It's also well known that alcohol dehydrates you, leaving you with not only a hangover, but also meaning your cells aren't holding much water. The less hydrated you are, the harder it becomes to build muscle. So if you are planning to drink, keep yourself as hydrated as possible to reduce the negative effects it has on your body.


As with everything, it's all about moderation. 1 or 2 glasses, once a week won't do you much harm, but more than this and on a regular basis will have a huge effect on your fitness goals and will only make the process longer and slower.


*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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