It’s not by coincidence the phrase “Beer Belly” exists.
When you think of a guy who drinks a lot of beer, usually the first thing that comes to mind is a large, round belly.
Beer is deeply entrenched in our culture as a way to let loose, have fun, and relax. It’s no surprise then that the U.S. beer industry sells more than $100 billion in beer to U.S. consumers each year.1
To put this into perspective, U.S. consumers 21 years and older consumed 27.5 gallons of beer and cider per person during 2015. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S.
In this article you’ll learn why drinking beer can cause you to gain fat, some strategies to drink beer and still lose weight, along with nutritional information on the top 10 beers sold in the U.S.
1. Beer does not fill you up, but provides calories
One of the big challenges with drinking beer is that it provides calories without satisfying your hunger at all.
There are few reasons why:
- Beer is an “empty calorie” because it provides almost no nutrients
- Beer is in liquid form, which means you can drink calories really fast
- Beer contains alcohol, which is metabolized by the body differently than other macronutrients like protein, carbs and fat.
Regarding the last point, drinking alcohol can stop the process of fat burning completely (See: How Drinking Alcohol Causes Weight Gain).
The foundation of losing weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn while staying full. That’s why eating whole foods – think meat, vegetables, fruit – that fill you up but provide fewer calories is such an effective eating strategy to get lean.
If you drink 5 beers (~750 calories), you will still have plenty of room in your stomach to have a full meal right after. And this is exactly why drinking beer can make losing weight very difficult.
2) Beer can negatively affect your sleep
If you normally drink beer at night, the alcohol from the beer can negatively impact your sleep.2
You also may need to get up a few times during the night to go to the bathroom because of all the fluids you drank, which is certainly not helping improve your sleep either.
Lack of quality sleep is directly linked to both weight gain and muscle loss.
In fact, one weight loss study found that people who slept 5.5 hours vs. 8.5 hours lost 50% of their weight from muscle.3 Another study found that sleep deprived people had a 45% increase in appetite for high carbohydrate, calorie dense foods.4
Sleep is also hugely important for your activity levels and the quality of your workouts. If you feel well rested, you will likely have a much better workout.
3) Beer may inhibit your self control
When most people get a buzz or just get drunk, their inhibitions fly out the window. You may say things or do things that you wouldn’t normally otherwise. You have less self control.
When you combine less self control with food, you get a situation that can derail an entire week of hard work.
Whether you are drinking beer at your meal or going out at night with friends, the chances are you will eat more food than if you didn’t have the beer at all.
Drink Beer & Lose Weight Strategy
Now that you have learned the 3 reasons why drinking beer can make losing weight much harder, we can create a strategy so that you can enjoy beer while getting results.
Your results while drinking beer depend on two things:
1) How much beer you are drinking
2) How you are adjusting your eating habits based on your drinking habits
The best strategy is to limit the number of beers you have per week. The fewer beers you drink, the fewer empty calories you are ingesting. Maybe it’s one beer a day, or even better would be 2 beers on Friday or Saturday.
Being very clear about the number of beers you can have in a week will help you significantly. Once you have the lean body you want, you may not need to be as strict, but it’s still a good habit to keep.
Now if you want the best results, go dry. Stop drinking beer completely. If you love beer and that’s not an option for you, maybe it’s the best option.
The other side of the coin is to consciously adjust your eating habits based on your drinking habits. So if you are having a burger with a couple of beers, don’t have the fries. Eat less food and focus more on lean protein sources and veggies when drinking beer with your meal. That’s ideal.
Calories In Top 10 Beers (12 Ounces)
Below is a chart which displays the top 10 most popular beers in the U.S. along with nutrition information for 12-ounces.5
As you can see, most beers are in a tight range between roughly 100 to 150 calories and contain 5 to 10 grams of carbs and 11-14 grams of alcohol. Most of the calories (around 70%) in beer are provided by the alcohol. I rounded the numbers to make them easier to read.
|Beer Name||Calories||Protein (g)||Carbs (g)||Fat (g)||Alcohol (g)|
So you can have your beer and drink it too as long as you are strategic and limit your beer intake if you want to get lean.
- Available at: https://www.nbwa.org/resources/industry-fast-facts. Accessed April 24, 2017. ↩
- GABA is a neurotransmitter principally responsible for allowing you to stay asleep. When your brain uses more of it before you go to sleep from drinking alcohol, you have less while you’re actually sleeping, causing a disruption in restful sleep. ↩
- Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Oct 5;153(7):435-41. ↩
- Sharma S, Kavuru M. Sleep and metabolism: an overview. Int J Endocrinol. 2010;2010 ↩
- Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/04/popular-beers-in-america-_n_6787494.html. Accessed April 24, 2017. ↩
One beer two beer three beer four, five beer six beer seven beer more. I guess what I’m trying to say is it is really hard to have only one beer, but great point on numbering the beers you have in a week and thinking about it in terms of your overall diet.
Craft Beer yikes! I just discovered ( thanks to the ideas in this article ) that dark craft beer calories are much worse than the beers mentioned in this article. Once a week is all I can indulge. But now I understand my problem.
I switch to alcohol free beer. Sure, it’s not the same taste, but very cold it does the job and you don’t feel the deprivation that bad. You are not going to be tempted to drink more or have food cravings due to low sugar levels as with alcoholic beer. They are lighter in calories too.
I am going to agree with Natalia. Alcohol was really giving me a hard time! Overweight, causing me to stay up late and watch television, hung over in the morning, blah, blah, blah. I gave up all alcohol for Lent- this last Easter season. I replaced it with N/A beer which only has 50 calories in one can. Sure it is not the same but it gave me what I needed to stay true. I’ve lost 15 pounds by eating fresh food, getting off of alcohol and getting back on the workout wagon. I am well on my way to that 15% body fat picture at 56 years of age.
You and my favorite body builder of all time, Steve Reeves, agree A LOT! Check out Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way.