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If You Count Carbs, Don’t Lie to Yourself About Alcohol


You can follow the Fat-Burning Machine program without counting calories or carbohydrates. Just follow the simple food guidelines in the book.

There are people that prefer to tally carbohydrates as one way to stay on track. In my Fat-Burning Machine class, I recommend beginning at 100 to 150 grams. This is a good starting spot for many people. You can make adjustments from there, deciding what value range makes you feel best.

If you count carbohydrate grams, I don’t want you to lie to yourself.

Let me explain.

A question from David:

Q: Hey Gale, I know you don’t push calorie-counting or carb-counting, but for me counting carbs helps me stay on track. I recently read a post from a sport coach that advocates counting carbs. He says he enjoys alcohol and includes his near daily consumption of wine or liquor in his total carb count to be sure he stays low-carbohydrate and in a fat-burning zone. I thought you said alcohol shuts off fat-burning, so how can he remain a Fat-Burner if he’s consuming alcohol daily? – David S.


A. Hi David – Great question. I often get questions about allowable alcohol consumption for the Fat-Burning Machine program. I think there are a few good points to be made:

  1. All carb calories are not created equal. We are slowly moving away from the false idea that “a calorie is a calorie.” It is also a false idea that all carb grams are treated the same by the body. Some carbohydrate grams spike blood sugar and insulin levels in the body, while others do not. For example, there are 39 grams of carbohydrates in a can of regular Coca-Cola. The carbohydrate grams are 100% high fructose corn syrup.

Let’s say you decide to only drink ½ of the Coke for 19.5 grams of carbohydrates. These carbohydrate grams will be digested much differently than the carbohydrate grams in one serving of plain, Greek Yogurt (8 grams) with a ¼-cup of granola (13 grams) on the top (a Fat-Burning Machine friendly choice. Both examples I’ve given are near 20 grams of carbohydrates, but one has zero nutritional value (Coke) and the yogurt-granola choice has vitamins and minerals along with fat, protein and carbohydrates.

Though both choices have roughly the same grams of carbohydrates, the Coke carbs are very low quality – you won’t be building a healthy body consuming high fructose corn syrup as your carbohydrate choice.

  1. Alcohol is digested similarly to fructose. An excellent column written by Dr. Jason Fung points out that “Large quantities of ingested fructose goes straight to the liver, since no other cells can help utilize or metabolize it, putting significant pressure on the liver.”

He goes on to say that fructose’s propensity to cause fatty liver is unique among carbohydrates. “The metabolism of ethanol (alcohol) is quite similar to that of fructose. Once ingested, tissues can only metabolize 20% of the alcohol leaving 80% delivered straight to the liver, where it is metabolized to acetaldehyde, which stimulates de novo lipogenesis. The bottom line is that alcohol is easily turned into liver fat.”

  1. Hard liquor and soda water or diet soda isn’t “free.” It is popular among some carb-counters to consume hard liquor and sparking water or mix the liquor with diet drinks because there are zero carbohydrates to be counted. They tout “zero carbs!” Yes, the carbohydrate count is zero, but alcohol is obviously digested (see #2) by the body and it does affect the body’s ability to burn fat.

Counting grams of carbohydrates can be a useful way to control carbohydrate consumption – but – the assumption that “a carb-is-a-carb” is false. I’m not making a judgement on whether or not people should consume alcohol, what I am saying is that pretending that alcohol carbohydrates (in wine and beer) are treated the same by the body as any other carbohydrate is a farce.

I will also add that if you want the fastest path to results, cut out all alcohol for three months.