September 28, 2011

Homebrew & Health/Calorie Conscious Diets

I'm always amazed when I read homebrewers talk about how much they brew and how quickly they drink through it. Some people seem to drink beer at lightning speed and some people seem to have quite a few visitors that help eliminate their beer. When I hear how much people are drinking I am at first envious (because I like drinking beer) but then glad I don't because there's no way I could drink that much without getting enormously fat. I don't do manual labor so I sit most of the day, I don't have a particularly fast metabolism, and I eat poorly when I drink too much. I seem to believe most people who drink a lot are also overweight but it doesn't seem like that is always the case.

It often comes up on the boards that some homebrewers are trying to cut weight and beer is a big struggle. Yes, beer is a big problem when you are trying to cut your caloric intake for several reasons. First, alcohol is not processed into useful nutrients so it is "empty calories". Second, alcohol is a depressant that slows your metabolism and makes you more likely to want to eat and eat poorly. Third, beer is full of sugars that the body doesn't need but will readily store. Forth, most people drink at night when the body is least likely to need the calories so it is more likely to convert them to fat. Homebrew and craft beer tend to exacerbate the problem because we tend to consume beer that is in higher alcohol content (therefore more calories) than the typical mass produced lager.

One thing that helps is limiting your intake. I guess this is the obvious answer. The less you drink, the fewer the excess calories. Personally I only drink on three nights of the week (Friday-Sunday) and I try to limit Friday and Saturday to no more than three drinks and no more than two on Sunday (one if I can help it). Roughly once a month I attend pint night at a bar on a Tuesday because we get to drink beer and take home the glasses (and it is very reasonably priced).

Another thing that helps is to become proficient at brewing (and drinking) lower ABV beers. I know, those imperial beers are calling out to you. There are many sessionable beers with great flavor and I think the immediate future of craft brewing will be making lower ABV beers that are very flavorable but still easy to drink that will expand the options greatly.

Obviously working out and eating healthy will go a long way towards cutting weight. Avoiding eating late at night, especially while drinking, can have a very big impact. Including sufficient exercise and eating healthy are critical factors that usually require major lifestyle changes beyond just beer consumption. However they can be done if you are willing to commit the work to make the changes.

I'd love to hear other people share their tips on balancing a love of beer with a healthy lifestyle.


  1. I'm an avid runner. There's claims out there that homebrew (or unfiltered beer like hefes) is good for post-workout carbs because of electrolytes, vitamin B and other nutrients carried over from the barley.

    But I think ultimately the key is just exercising often enough to burn off the added calories.

  2. I do a similar thing as far as try to limit my drinking to Friday - Sunday. However, I do not limit my drinks to 3 or less. I will often drink upwards of 6 or more. As for my diet, I eat an almost exclusively paleo diet. I did not cut out dairy, though. Eating this way effectively cuts carb intake dramatically and removes high glycemic index carbs almost completely. I do crossfit 3 to 4 days a week and run once a week. My body fat % is in the low teens. Ultimately, it is not so much the quantity of calories as the quality of calories that is the most important.