WTF are Macronutrients? Pt. 1

Every meat head worth his weight in protein shakes knows the basics of macronutrients. Most normal people may know a concept or two about them. Either way, since nutrition is 1/3rd of equation when it comes to sexification (either through fat loss or muscle gain) and macronutrients make up the basics of nutrition, learning a thing or two about macronutrients won't hurt you. So for the next few weeks I'm going to break down the macronutrients and tell you what it is, where you get it from, what it does, why it's important, the controversy surrounding it (let's be real, there is always controversy), and how you can use it effectively to reach your goals.

We'll kick this bad boy off with the most villainous macronutrient out there...

Alcohol

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What is it?

Being uber specific, alcohol is an organic compound with which the hydroxyl functional group (-OH) is bound to a carbon atom. But this is a chemistry site, and we only care about a certain type of alcohol when it comes to nutrition.

Ethanol is the type of alcohol we consume and it's used in thermometers, as a solvent, and as a fuel. Pretty sweet huh? It has 7 calories per gram and is primarily broken down in the liver and kidneys.

Where Do You Get it?

Mostly from fermented drinks. Beer, liquor, wine, mead, cider, and probably a few more. Though the first three are the most popular in the States.

A small percentage actually occurs naturally too. Each day, up to 3g of Ethanol is produced by our digestive systems just going through its natural processes. Obviously this isn't enough to have a major effect on us, but it might play into why we consume Ethanol in the first place.

Since we produce Ethanol naturally, and it's toxic in high doses, our bodies put a system in place to metabolize and neutralize it. With out this system in place, this 3g/day would build up over time until it reached a lethal level and we die in a naturally occurring drunken stupor.

Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is the substance in our body that breaks down Ethanol into water and carbon dioxide. Not that this is needed to understand how it affects your nutrition, I just want to make sure you're covered for any future appearances on Jeopardy.

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What Does it Do?

Short answer...it fucks with your head.

Slightly longer answer...it affects the synapses and degrades your brain's ability to communicate with the rest of your body. It's classified as a psychoactive drug solely because of this. While other drugs only affect a certain part of your brain, and only a certain part of your behavior...ethanol might as well be a grenade going off in your brain. It hits every aspect from motor control to inhibitions to memory formation and everything in between.

Why is it Important?

Because drinking it is fun, that's why!

Seriously, how many times have you heard (or said) someone saying that they want to get leaner, stronger, and sexier...but they're unwilling to cut out, or at least cut back, on their nightly drinking?

I get it. I love me some microbrews, Cabernet Sauvignon, and scotch. I've even proven to myself that cutting out most of the drinking makes me look leaner and packed with harder muscle. But I still have a few drinks now and then because I enjoy the taste.

If you're just trying to look better, then don't worry about having a few drinks. The operative term there is 'a few' though. A 12-pack of Piss Light every night is not a few (and it's not even flavorful). A single pint of beer, or a single glass of wine, or a couple of fingers of scotch is well within the limits. Keep the weekly total to 5-6 drinks and you'll be good to go.

If this is bringing your weekly total down from 20-30 drinks, I guarantee you'll lose some fat or drop some water too.

Controversy...???

Every week another study comes out with proof that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol will increase health. That vague notion of "health" is also used for dark chocolate and sex. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't take a look at it.

Most of these studies will scream "antioxidants!" or "resveratrol!" as the magic substance that increases "health". I'm not here to say it's these substances or not, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's the effects of the drinking atmosphere that has the most benefits.

What does that mean? It means a social life. Stress relief. Fun.

When you're drinking, more often than not it's in a social environment and is used to "wind-down" from a day at the office. This relieves stress, causes you to laugh with friends, and have a good time in general. All of these are fantastic for keeping tension low and not causing yourself to get an ulcer or be constantly stressed the fuck out.

But...there is always a but...by the time you get to drink #3, the stress on your body from metabolizing the toxins (ethanol creates a toxic environment, remember?) outweighs the stress relief you get from drinking it. Keep that in mind the next time you down a bottle of Johnny Blue while trying to relax.

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How to Use it Effectively...

In moderation, which has been the suggestion for years. That's vague as hell though...so here are my recommendations for Alphas...

  • No more than 3 drinks per night and no more than 6 drinks per week. This can be split up to 1 drink a day for 6 days, or 2 days with 3 drinks. I adopted this guideline from Nate Green, and when I've followed it has proven the most beneficial.
  • If you have a special occasion and want to get smammered (drunk), following this extensive guide from LeanGains. Again, I've done this myself and it works. This is not an "every weekend" approach though. Keep these events to once every month or, even better, once every other month.

Scotch, Cab Sav, Pike