Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Truth about Calories and Beer

There seems to be one topic that beer drinkers are frequently asking over and over again. The question on many people's mind seems to be: "How many calories are there in my favorite beer?"

It's amazing how often I see people looking for this information and somehow landing on this beer blog of mine. I rarely mention the amount of calories, yet I realize this subject is on a lot of people's minds.

This is a common question. Beer is known for having a fair amount of calories and contributing to the size of our ever growing beer bellies. But just how many calories does a typical beer have?

I took some time to search the internet to see approximately how many calories does the average beer have. It didn't take long to find a few good references out there. While there isn't (yet) a database that lists every beer and how many calories each bottle contains, there is a fair amount of information listed about the average beer.

Here are some little known facts about beer and calories:

* The average "light" beer has just over 103 calories in a 12 oz bottle or can. These beers are typically lighter in color and are lower alcohol beers. The range of calories in light beers vary between 65 and 120 calories. The ABV of these beers range from 3.2% up to 5%.

* The average microbrew or full strength craft beer has about 156 calories per 12 oz bottle. These beers tend to use a bit more grains than macro beers. They vary in color and tend to be higher in alcohol, sometimes up to 12% ABV.

* It takes approximately 3500 calories to account for 1 pound of weight added. So using the above data, it would take roughly 34 light beers worth of calories to put on 1 pound of weight (after you flushed away the waste fluids). But it takes just 22.5 regular beers to account for 1 pound of caloric weight.

* The majority of the calories in a beer come from the level of alcohol content. Carbs account for some of the beer calories but not nearly as many as alcohol. The higher the alcohol content, the more calories you can expect to take in.

* If you drink only light beer will you gain less weight? Put it this way, if one man drinks 1 light beer a day for a whole year and compares his calorie intake to a man who drinks one regular craft beer a day for a year, the man who drank a regular craft beer would have taken in over 28000 more calories in a year on average than the light beer drinker. Given the weight equivalent of calories, that accounts for about 8 extra pounds of weight per year!

Specific Examples of Calories in Beer

Let's compare two popular beers: Bud Light and Sam Adams Boston Lager. The first is a standard light macro brew and the other is a typical craft beer. How do these two beers compare? Let's look at the numbers.

Bud Light - 110 calories per 12 oz bottle.
Sam Adams - 180 calories per 12 oz bottle.

The Sam Adams beer has over 63% more calories per bottle than the Bud Light. If you're a quantity vs quality type drinker, this could add up quite a bit over the course of a year or even a lifetime.

Many drinkers consume beer in pints (16 oz) rather than 12 oz bottles. What's the typical difference here?

A 12 oz light beer may have 110 calories but that jumps to 149 calories in a pint. A 12oz craft beer has 180 calories but leaps to 243 calories in a pint.

And let's not forget that beer also comes in 22oz bombers. I'll let you do the math on that size bottle.

Is drinking smaller size beers better for your waistline?

That depends on your metabolism, but the stats show that you're probably better off with smaller bottles. One of the biggest and highest calorie beers in the world weighs in at over 300 calories. Compare that to one of the lowest calorie beers that comes in at just over 50 calories.

The size, shape and ABV of your beer may decide the size and shape of your body.

How much exercise do you need to do to burn off the typical beer?

Again, this depends on several factors but lets look at an average person. (Your results may vary). On average, it would take 29 minutes of walking or 12 minutes of running to burn off the calories consumed in a regular craft beer.

A light beer, on the other hand, would take on average 15 minutes of walking or 6 minutes of running to burn it's calories off.

The sad truth.

If you're looking to lose weight but still allow yourself the pleasure of drinking a beer or two a day you'll need to have a plan to burn off those extra calories. On average, it'll take roughly 9.2 hours of walking to burn off 3500 calories (or 1 pound of caloric weight) or 4.6 hours of running to burn the same amount. While some of you can lose a pound just sitting outside on a hot day, your not burning fat, you're simply losing water.

So Internet readers, stop looking for specifics on calories for each beer and just know what the averages are telling you. Your favorite beverage comes with a caloric price. It's up to you and your metabolism to help burn those extra beer calories off and maintain your weight. Regular diet and exercise will help. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. Doctors can tell you what's right for your body.

You can switch to light beers and save yourself some exercise later on but consider this - How much taste will you also be giving up?

Lighter beers tend to be lighter in flavor and more watery. It's a trade off. Many craft beer drinkers simply refuse to give up that richer beer taste. That's fine - just know your numbers, realize the effort it will take to burn off those calories and act accordingly.

So don't fret too much over how many calories a particular beer has. As long as you stay active, eat right, get enough sleep, exercise often and don't drink to excess you'll probably be fine. Consult with your doctor first about any exercise and regular alcohol consumption.

Related articles:
- The Great American Beer Diet Challenge
- Beer reviews by style.
- Dark beer season returns.

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