I was reading The Wort Hog’s blog today and, like me, she has been cutting back on her beer intake as part of her plan to maintain a healthy weight (or, in my case, to get back in the general vicinity of healthy weight!). Her post got me thinking about just how much our beer may affect us in this regard.

Now, before I start my little calculations, spare me the “but beer is so healthy…” stuff and links to articles about how good beer is for you. A little alcohol may be OK for us, and there are possibly some beneficial compounds in beer, but let’s be realistic… beer is no health food. Sure, it can be part of relaxation and stress reduction, but please don’t kid yourself by trying to convince yourself that a few beers every night after work is actually good for you, OK?

Now that that’s out of the way…

It’s tough to get a handle on how many calories “average” beer has. A bottle of Amstel Light is about 95 calories, whereas a bottle of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot has 330! A lot of non-imperial styles have in the neighborhood of 170-200 calories. So, let’s say the average beer a craft beer aficionado drinks is 200 calories, for the sake of this argument.

Let’s say you’re a “One-beer-per-night” guy during the week as part of your unwinding ritual. That’s 1,000 calories per week and let’s say you do that 50 weeks out of the year, that’s 50,000 calories. To put this in perspective, this is close to a month of extra food if you eat an average diet!

Now, let’s say you drink a “few” beers on weekends with friends. It’s not hard to put away 2-3 beers just going out at happy hour, or quite a few more if you’re tailgating, working in the yard, watching sports, etc. So, let’s say you down an additional 6 beers on the weekends, and you do that 50 times per year. That’s 1,200 calories for the weekend, or another 60,000 calories for the year (a second entire month of eating!).

You could fairly easily be drinking an extra two months worth of food for the year.

Let’s look at this in terms of body fat. One pound of fat is 3,500 calories. If you’re not exercising all that beer off, and your drinking schedule is like what was written above, you could be adding 31 pounds of fat for the year.

So, let’s say that mammoth drinking schedule is ridiculous, and maybe you only drink an average of a six pack per week. That’s 1,200 calories per week, let’s 50 weeks of the year, which is 60,000 calories or 17 pounds of fat.

Maybe you’re a binge drinker and almost never touch beer during the week, but you have 5-6 beers on Friday night, another 8-9 on Saturday and maybe 2 on Sunday. Let’s say, 16 beers, for a weekend. I guess it’s possible. That’s 3,200 calories per week, almost a pound of fat every week.

Maybe my estimates are nuts, and you only drink, say, 3 beers per week. Let’s say one of those is a “big” beer, so you are averaging about 700 calories in beer per week. In 52 weeks, that comes to a little over 36,000 calories for the year, which is still 10 pounds of fat if you don’t work it off.

Now, keep in mind, these calculations don’t take into account how alcohol is metabolized, etc. Drinking a lot of beer may lead to additional weight gain, over and above the caloric content, by messing up your metabolism in other ways. Plus, very few people just drink a beer by itself. Chips, fries, onion rings, a 1,500 calorie meal at a restaurant with a few beers… you get the picture.

After years of relatively clean living before moving to Kansas City I found myself going out twice a weekend, having a beer almost every night of the week and a few every night I’d go out. Our friends like to do all-day get togethers, too, so putting away a six pack of craft beers over an entire day isn’t that ridiculous of a concept. No wonder I’m in the position of having to restrict my diet these days, and, unfortunately, beer consumption is a big part of that plan.

Something to think about, for sure, especially if you find yourself with an expanding waistline.

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