Chicks and Beer: Chicks Watch Their Weight

New Belgium brewery logo of girl on bicycle

I’m thinking about possible stumbling blocks that might explain why the beer industry has not been able to make inroads on the “women’s market”.  One of them, of course, is that beer is “fattening”.  It turns out that the issue of weight gain with beer is a little more complicated than just drinking in the calories.

According to the New York Times, Swiss researchers have found that people who drink alcohol burn fat much more slowly than usual.  Any fat that is not burned…yeah, guys, that’s your ever-sinking belt line we’re trying not to look at.  According to AskMen Health and Sports website, alcohol is metabolized and absorbed more quickly than other foods, too.  So it’s not just the calories in alcohol, it’s also the way alcohol throws off the body’s normal way of dealing with it that puts on the pounds.

Flying Dog Brewery logo
Flying Dog has some low-cal beers. The world is good.

You can honestly tell your woman friend there isn’t any fat in beer (though why anyone would think there is, is beyond me).  You can tell her there aren’t that many calories in beer – and compared to some other foods it’s even true.  There are, however, plenty o’ carbs.  By its very nature beer is going to make it harder for body to stay sleek.  While an amazing number of guys have no idea how to monitor their daily calorie/fat/carb intake, you can bet your girlfriends can do it without using their fingers to count.  We all know that in the U.S. most of us take in too many calories.  Beer calories require that much more exercise to burn off.

Guinness Draught is a low-calorie beer. Wheee!
Guinness Draught is a low-calorie beer. Wheee!

Most calorie figures are based on a 12-oz can of beer, but if you go out you usually get a 16-oz pint, right?  If you do most of your drinking out with friends, take that calorie count and add a third of it again.  Your female friends are either counting those extra calories or trying really hard not to.  A 12-oz beer tends to run between 100 and 200 calories, and 10-20 grams of carbs.  According to the Livestrong website, daily carb intake should be 169-244 grams a day for someone eating about 1500 calories a day (which is kinda normal) and not consciously trying to lose weight.    A couple of beers are maybe 40 grams of carbs a night, and a thousand calories a week; three thousand calories is a pound of fat.  In less than two weeks you’ve put on more than enough carbs and calories to gain a pound or more.   Your average hour’s workout burns 200-400 calories, 600 tops…that’s a lot of working out just to hold  your ground against a healthy beer habit.

Oh, there are plenty of lists out there of lower-calorie beers.  Men’s Health has a Best List, and I’m happy to say Guinness Draught is in the top ten.  Shape Magazine has a few palatable offerings on their top 15 bikini-friendly beer list: Guinness Draught, Fat Tire Amber Ale, and Sierra Nevada Summerfest.   Beer100 has a nice long list of beers and their calorie/carb counts.  Google “low calorie beer” and take your pick of informative websites.  The problem is, low-calorie beers seem to, without exception, taste awful.

Tramp with generic beer and cigarette, hair standing on end
Low-cal beers just don’t taste good

If you’re looking for the most alcohol with the least calories, may I recommend gin or whisk(e)y? (Note I’m steering clear of Everclear, and even absinthe, which certainly qualifies.)    See, the thing with beer is that he bulk of calories in beer comes from alcohol, with secondary being the residual sugars left behind after fermentation. So if you want high alcohol content, you get a higher calorie count.   If it’s beer-drunk you’re looking for, barleywines run 8-12% alcohol, and are often available in the better-stocked pub.  Otherwise a dry-finishing beer is probably your best bet, as you may get more alcohol per unit of beer.  (A dry finish implies that the brewery let the yeast eat as much of the resident sugars as possible, so you’re getting your calories from alcohol, not residual sugars.)

Now, I am not in any way advocating giving up on beer when you’re trying to watch your weight.  If you like Miller Lite, fine, go for it. But let me point out that Flying Dog has some calorie-competitive offerings (Doggie Style, In Heat Wheat, Woody Creek White, Old Scratch Amber Ale, and a few more), and is much better beer.  So do Leinenkugel, New Belgium and some others.  You can drink good-tasting beer and watch your weight too.

If you want a beer you can really enjoy while not looking like the Teletubbies, I think there’s really only one answer.  As good ol’ Thomas Jefferson said, everything in moderation, including moderation itself.  There are nights when it’s really justified to kick down the doors and raise some hell, but most of the time you’re out to relax and enjoy.  So choose carefully.  The up-side is that in the process, you’ll get to actually enjoy your beer (or pick a different one next time), and you’ll take on fewer calories.

In my book, life is far too short, why spend this evening drinking beer I don’t like?  I have to watch my weight like a hawk…


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