Alcoholic beverages don’t typically contain substantial amounts of fat or protein, so we’re really looking at two sources of calories in alcoholic drinks: the carbohydrate content, and the alcohol (ethanol) itself. In the United States, a “standard drink” contains roughly 14g of ethanol, although this criterion varies from country to country. An ethanol dose of \~14g can be found in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor, although these values are very rough estimates. Each gram of ethanol provides 7 kilocalories, and (unfortunately) not much else.
High-carb diets were almost universally embraced for several decades, but the growing popularity of low-carb diets has tarnished public perception of high carbohydrate intakes a little bit. Just as fat’s historically bad reputation was overblown and generally undeserved, the more recent backlash against carbs is similarly overblown and largely lacks justification.
📄️ Energy Balance
A calorie describes the amount of energy required to heat 1 gram of water by 1° Celsius. Throughout the day, we are constantly consuming energy (calories) from the foods and beverages we consume, while we are simultaneously burning energy (calories) as our bodies carry out metabolic processes to keep us alive and moving. The balance of our daily energy intake and expenditure is, intuitively enough, referred to as energy balance, and this is what largely dictates our changes in body composition.
Dietary fat is absolutely critical. For example, fat is needed for cell membrane construction, hormone production, and fat-soluble vitamin absorption, and having adequate fat in the diet can have a favorable impact on satiety, to an extent. We often categorize dietary fats based on the structure of their hydrocarbon chains, which requires us to think back to our most recent biochemistry class. If all of the chemical bonds along this hydrocarbon chain are single bonds, it’s a saturated fatty acid. If the chain contains one double bond, it’s a monounsaturated fatty acid. If the chain contains two or more double bonds, it’s a polyunsaturated fatty acid.
Fiber’s great. Adequate fiber intake can favorably impact satiety, glycemic control, blood lipids, and bowel movement regularity, all while reducing the risk of several cancers and chronic diseases. In fact, the benefits of prioritizing dietary fiber are two-fold; we’ll enjoy the direct benefits of having sufficient daily fiber intake, but we’ll also increase the likelihood of consuming the wide variety of vitamins and minerals that come from fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and grain products. Having said that, going a little overboard with the fiber can be unpleasant, as it can lead to excess gas, bloating, and bowel movement irregularities spanning the spectrum from constipation to diarrhea.
Over half of your body is water, and you can only survive a few days, at best, without water intake. As such, it should be pretty clear that hydration is important. Given its importance to health, and the extreme exercise and environmental scenarios that threaten hydration status, a tremendous amount of hydration research has been conducted, and you can make the topic pretty nuanced and complex if you so desire. However, for general health and fitness purposes, some pretty simple guidelines can go a long way.
This knowledge base entry isn’t intended to provide a deep dive on micronutrient requirements, but we felt it was important to provide a basic micronutrient overview. So, we’ll cover the highlights, and you’ll walk away with enough information to equip you for any micronutrient deep dives you wish to pursue in the future.
📄️ Nutrition FAQs
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
We probably don’t have to spend too much time selling you on the idea that protein is important, so we won’t. The potential benefits of high-protein diets are multifactorial; protein facilitates recovery, supports hypertrophy, and enhances satiety to an extent. You’ll also commonly hear that protein has a higher thermic effect of feeding that carbohydrate and fat. This is true, but more of a “fringe benefit” than an important factor influencing diet design. The effects of dietary protein on energy expenditure are relatively negligible, but optimizing your protein intake can help with appetite management, glycemic control, recovery from exercise, and muscle hypertrophy.