How to Drink Beer and Lose Weight

Beer is wonderful, but it also tends to be caloric. I also tend to overeat when I drink. It is very easy to justify many things while drunk and endless food may be the easiest of them all. At any point in the year but especially right after New Year's it can become evident when we look in the mirror, step on the scale or get out the measuring tape that our weight is adding up to startling dimensions. It is difficult to not put on weight while indulging in liquid calories and a beer a day or a six pack on the weekend really adds up over the course of a year or a decade. Luckily I am here to help navigate the treacherous landscape of weight loss and beer drinking.

How does this black magic known as weight loss work? 

Calories in, calories out is the most important part of the struggle. If we consume more calories than we burn we gain weight, if we consume less calories than we burn we lose weight. It really is as simple as that. The first step is to figure out how many calories are needed to maintain weight, often called Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). There are many calculators available online to figure out your TDEE. While these aren't perfect, they are a good starting point. After that pick a deficit to eat at. 500 calories is a good starting point and will result in about a pound of weight loss a week. If you are fairly overweight going up to 750 would be okay, but it isn't good to lose weight too quickly for a variety of reasons which I won't be covering in this post. Also if you are smaller or have less fat to lose a deficit of 250 is reasonable. Experiment and find what works for you. Just give yourself a week or two before making changes. The initial weight loss you experience, which can be several pounds, is mainly water weight which will not happen in the following weeks.

What is the best diet? 

The best "diet" is the one you enjoy eating while receiving all the nutrients your body needs. Low carb, high carb, low fat, high fat, ketogenic, vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean: I personally don't think it matters as long you are getting enough nutrients and eating enough vegetables. Fat is good for your body and carbs don't make you fat (neither does fat for that matter). It really just matters how many calories you consume and how many you burn.

An increasingly popular way to manage dieting is called, If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM). Basically if you have gotten in the ballpark of the protein, carbs and fat you need then it is perfectly fine to spend the remaining calories you have on say, beer or ice cream, if it doesn't mess up your percentages too much. This won't be the healthiest approach, but I do think when it comes to weight loss and maintenance that enjoying oneself is very important.

What about exercise? 

Exercise is very important to a healthy lifestyle, but it isn't all that helpful when it comes to weight loss. Sure you can jog for an hour and burn a few hundred calories (maybe), but that will only buy you about one 12 oz pour of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (maybe). It is much easier to keep your calories in a moderation than exercise for several hours everyday. It is also easy to want to reward oneself with food and drink after exercise. It is definitely easier for me to justify eating a whole pizza after breaking a little sweat.

Well this all seems pretty bleak ... What now? 

I think an important realization for anyone trying to lose weight is that it isn't easy. Not only is it not easy, it is down right unpleasant. It can lead to mood swings, irritability, binge eating and general hatred for mankind. It takes weeks and months to make real progress and even then if you start consuming more calories than you burn you will start gaining weight again.

Um ... I thought you were going to help? 

  • Well sure and here are a few tips on how to win the struggle.

  • Download a calorie counting app like MyFitnessPal and buy a food scale and track your food intake. You don't have to track your calories forever, but it really helps to know how much energy is in the food you are eating until you have a better idea of many calories you are consuming.

  • Look up calorie estimates for beer on sites like Ratebeer (these are for 12 ozs) or use this list with calories of some popular beers.

  • If you broke down, got super drunk and then ate all the food don't worry. You can start again tomorrow or at least when your hangover is actually over.

  • Find a kind of exercise you enjoy and make it part of your lifestyle. If you hate running you aren't going to stick with it for very long.

  • Don't forget that walking is a great form of exercise and depending on where you live can be combined with beer.

  • High volume foods low calorie foods like watermelon or jello can help make you feel full.

  • Foods that are high in fiber will also give a sensation of fullness.

  • Figure out if protein, carbs or fat satiate your hunger best. Personally I do find protein and fat filling but not carbs.

  • It is okay to have cheat meals. I wouldn't recommend cheat days though. Also keep your cheat meal more inline with having a few beers with your burger and not taking the case of beer to the buffet.

  • If you hit a sticking point and can't seem to to lose more weight take a break for a week or two and eat at maintenance before returning to your diet.

  • Don't diet while on vacation or traveling unless you absolutely have to.

  • Don't diet while sick or recovering from an injury.

  • Skip breakfast. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day.

  • Not eating for a portion of the day really helps me. There is a kind of "dieting" called intermittent fasting where you only consume calories for 8 hours a day. I don't always do this, but it helps me to feel really full, and I don't get to tired or sluggish throughout the day. Try it for a few days and see if it works for you.

  • Maybe you prefer six small meals or three moderate ones. Find what helps you feel satiated throughout the day and keeps your energy levels even.
  • Generally the higher the alcohol in beer the higher calories.

  • Sour beer styles like Berliner Weisse and Gose tend to be low in calorie and just sour and tart enough to make you take your time drinking.

  • If you want a cookie, have a cookie. Just don't eat the whole box.

  • Be honest with yourself. Losing weight isn't fun, but you are doing it to improve your quality of life. Remember your goal and even if you have an off day remember that you can start again tomorrow.

  • Pour hot sauce on everything, yes everything.

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About averageguysguidetobeer

Hi, I'm Colin, I love a good hoppy IPA, but I can find immense enjoyment in a solid session beer, imperial stout, quadrupel or a nostalgic beer from my past.


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    1. Thanks for sharing this somewhat unusual diet with us! :)

      Speaking of losing weight, it can be done with zero exercise minutes per day. Weight loss comes down to energy balance, as long as you’re eating fewer calories than you are burning (you burn calories every second, regardless of what you’re doing), you will lose weight. Exercise is one way to manipulate this energy balance and increase the amount of calories burned.

      So yes, it is certainly possible to exercise for 1 minute and lose weight.

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