In the pursuit of perfect homebrew, failure still makes beer.

Drinking Craft Beer on a Calorie Budget

If you’re one of the 66% of Americans that are overweight, or you just want to start hitting da gym for that Ahnald Look you’ve been chasing since eighth grade, you probably made a new years resolution to fix your nutrition habits (which you’ll start next Monday, of course). I consider myself a well-educated health nut, but I sometimes (alright, most times) don’t practice it. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been right now, but I’m already doing well with my own new year’s resolution. Unfortunately, I have a big problem: I still want to drink my precious craft beer.

Well, I’ll just have one.

Beer and alcohol are one of the first components that people try to cut down, or cut out, of any revamped diet. Alcohol is often referred to by nutritionists as “empty calories.” And forget trying to justify your beer consumption by the heart benefits of alcoholic beverages (link to an excessively nerdy heart health article about alcohol, snarf snarf). In general, alcohol can impair your judgment, causing you to drink more than you should. To top it off, many people eat high-calorie, high-sodium snacks when they drink. So how can you have your beer and drink it too, instead of collecting it and trying to keep it away from your piehole?

A recent post by Emily Garland at Tapped Craft Beer gives a few tips on how to keep your hobby and keep your resolution. Three of these I would champion for the concerned craft beer drinker: setting a beer limit, counting calories, and drinking water. Setting a beer limit can do wonders for many aspects of your health. Not only are you cutting back on caloric consumption, you’re also keeping awry of the potential hangover from losing track of your brews. Another thought on beer limits: if you’re hammered off of craft beer, do you really appreciate that imported Delirium beer that your bar has on special for only $19 a bottle? Because you’d have to be drunk to pay that anyways. Setting your limit (probably 2 craft beers) allows you to enjoy the beer the way it’s meant to be enjoyed – with all your senses working.

Drinking water speaks for itself. Apart from the 8 glasses of water you should drink for adequate, non-alcoholic hydration, exercising and drinking booze (of any kind) will cause accelerated dehydration. The first rule I follow is that if I’m thirsty, I’m already dehydrated – so I drink water when I’m not. The second rule of water club is you DON’T TALK ABOUT WATER CLUB. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But after your 2-beer limit has been reached, put it this way: free drinks for the rest of the night!

Now, counting calories. The simple math of weight loss is if you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight. So tracking your calories is a good way of knowing where your limit is for the day (but that’s a whole different fitness thing, I digress). That being said, the majority of the volume of a glass of beer is, well, inconsequential as far as calorie counting goes. It’s the alcohol that kills ya, mostly. This helpful little chart will help you keep rough track of your calorie penalty when drinking that breakfast stout: (Care of Simply Beer)

Alcohol by Volume (ABV) to Calories conversion chart*.
ABV (%)
Calories – Low End (dry)
Calories – High End (sweet)
1.0
64
90
1.5
75
101
2.0
85
113
2.5
100
126
3.0
113
139
3.5
126
151
4.0
139
164
4.5
151
176
5.0
163
191
5.5
176
203
6.0
189
216
6.5
201
228
7.0
213
239
7.5
226
253
8.0
239
264
8.5
251
276
9.0
263
290
9.5
276
303
10.0
290
315
10.5
302
327
11.0
314
341
11.5
327
352
12.0
339
364
12.5
351
378
13.0
365
390
13.5
375
402
14.0
389
414
14.5
401
427
15.0
413
440
15.5
426
452
16.0
438
464
16.5
450
476
17.0
463
488
17.5
475
500
18.0
489
513
18.5
499
525
19.0
513
537
19.5
524
551
20.0
538
562
20.5
548
574
21.0
562
586
21.5
573
599
22.0
585
611
* Chart is a rough estimation for a 12oz serving.  For exact calories, Original Gravity and Final Gravity must be known. Low end assumes a final gravity of 1.010 and the high assumes a final gravity of 1.017.  Some styles of beers may exceed the high-end by a significant amount, such as a Russian Imperial Stouts or Sweet Stouts.

This chart not only puts to rest that Guinness is a pretty low-calorie beer at a dry 4.3% ABV, where I’d track it at 142 calories. It also brings to light that your super-alcoholic beers, your Imperials, double IPAs, Belgian quads, and other delicacies, are the worst for you calorie-wise. And most likely will give you the spins if you’re not careful.

Bottom line: you can still drink craft beer and lose weight. Emily says so, and I say so. But, just like most everything in life, moderation is key and excess is a mortal sin.

NO! Moderation! Moderation!!At least he's staying within the 2 beer limit.

NO! Moderation! Moderation!! At least he’s staying within the 2 beer limit.

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