7 May 2019Can Beer Have A Place In Your Weight Loss Plan?

A lot of great microbreweries have opened all over the United States and we now have endless options for delicious beer. This is wonderful for beer lovers but for those of us trying to manage our weight, it is important to know that beer can be a huge calories sink. Unfortunately, it is hard to know which beer is high or low in calories since calories are not required on beer, wine, or liquor containers. Some brewers voluntarily provide this information on their website but many do not. Calories trackers often include big name commercial beers, but many microbreweries are not included.

Source of Calories

Although the making of beer starts with carbs (e.g. cereal grains with the most common being barley), much of the carb content is converted to alcohol when it is fermented with yeast. By weight and volume, beer is mostly water. Most of the calories come from alcohol but unfermented carbs and a small amount of protein also contribute to the total calories. Alcohol content is typically expressed as a percentage of alcohol by volume (% ABV). All else being equal, the higher the ABV, the higher the calories. But ultimately, the brewing of the beer and the resulting ABV and carb content will determine caloric content.

Calories Tracking - Log the Right Beer

When logging a brand beer, be especially careful to pick the correct food item so that the calories content is accurate. There might be multiple versions for that brand. For example, the brand "Budweiser" or "Bud" comes in both regular and light versions. If you drink regular Bud, then log "Budweiser regular beer 5% ABV." If you drink Bud Light, then log "Budweiser Light beer." The difference in calories is pretty large - regular has about 50% more calories than the light version.

In the case of smaller microbrew companies, you might not find the specific beer you drink in any food database. This is most likely the case when a brewery does not voluntarily post nutrition information on their website. And since alcohol containers are not required to post any calories or nutrition information, it can be tricky to find this information. If you want to enter a custom food item for a specific type of beer, I recommend contacting the brewing company to request information about that specific beer's calories and carbs. They might provide that information if you ask for it and explain that it is for your personal use.

If you drink higher % ABV beers and do not want to hassle with the research to enter a custom food item, then consider logging "Beverages alcoholic beer higher alcohol" in MyNetDiary. This beer item is 7.7% ABV. If you have to make a choice - err on the side of overestimating calories intake if you are trying to lose weight (e.g. log the higher % ABV beer).

A surprise for you stout lovers: Guinness Stout draught is only 4.2% ABV so despite the higher carb content, it contains only 167 calories per pint (16 fl oz). This is a lot lower in calories than their bottled beers as well as lower than many other beers on tap.

Tip: If you want to track alcohol grams, then upgrade to Premium membership.

Can You Drink Beer and Still Lose Weight?

Yes, but it is harder to create a calories deficit if you drink everyday. If you are trying to lose weight, here are ways to reduce calories:

  • Drink light or low % ABV beer
  • Reduce your portion size of beer
  • Drink less frequently
  • Avoid beer and/or replace with one 5 fl oz glass of wine or 1 shot of distilled spirits
Moderate drinking is defined as 1-2 drinks per day for men and up to 1 drink for women. One drink of beer is 12 fl oz of 5% ABV beer. You can learn more at What's a Standard Drink.

Tip: It's not beer per se that gives you the big belly, it's the excess calories intake combined with your genetics!

More Resources About Beer

American Homebrewers Association: How Many Calories are in Beer?
Anheuser-Busch: Tap Into Your Beer
Beer Advocate: Beer Reviews
Budweiser: Our Beers
Corona Beers
Harvard Men's Health Watch: Beer Belly
Heineken Beers
MillerCoors: Brand Nutritional Data
Ratebeer.com
Realbeer.com: Calories, Carbs, and Alcohol
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Alcohol & Other Beverages/Beer

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