Does Drinking Beer Make You Fat?
Written by Alex Weaver
Image by Kinsley Stocum
If you’re anything like me, your metabolism has slowed considerably since college, while your love for booze… yeah, not so much. It’s one of those annoying inevitabilities of getting older that — so the story goes — can have a rather unsightly impact on your waistline.
But a recent New York Times article puts some of that thinking into question. Author Jane E. Brody plowed through decades of research — much of it contradictory — before finding what she was looking for. In 2015, a two-man team published a “thorough review” exploring whether “drinking might be compatible with effective weight management.”
The study, prepared by Gregory Traversy and Jean-Philippe Chaput from a research institute in Ontario, landed on an interesting finding. While most studies showed that “frequent light to moderate alcohol intake” — at most two drinks a day for men, one for women — “does not seem to be associated with obesity risk.” However, binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks on one occasion) and heavy drinking (more than four drinks in a day for men, more than three for women) were linked to an increased risk of obesity and an expanding waistline.
That is to say, with sufficient monitoring and a keen eye toward diet and exercise, enjoying two IPAs a night won’t necessarily pack on unwanted pounds. Of course, drink more heavily or wash your respectable nightly brews down with an entire pizza, and there isn’t a study on Earth that can help you.
Non-beer drinkers also have a slight advantage, as spirits and wine were found to affect potential weight gain less than beer. While spirits and wine contained less carbs carbs and protein, the whole category bloats by definition: they all contain alcohol. “Unlike protein, fats and carbohydrates alcohol is a toxic substance that is not stored in the body,” writes Brody. The body uses alcohol calories for fuel, with any excess stored as fat. “That means people who drink must eat less or exercise more to maintain their weight.”
The caloric content of your favorites.
Bud Light: 110
Pabst Blue Ribbon: 145
Anchor Steam: 158
Long Trail: 163
Harpoon IPA: 170
Sam Adams Boston Lager: 180
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot: 330
AleSmith Horny Devil: 332
The Bruery BA Imperial Stout (6 oz): 500
For us beer drinkers, though, an extra word of caution: “While you’ll find no difference in calories between white and red wines, depending on the brand, 12 ounces of beer can range from 55 to 320 calories.”
That “55” is from twelve ounces of Bud Select, mind you. For the equivalent amount of Harpoon IPA, you’re looking at 170 calories, compared with Bud Light (110), Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (176) or Guinness (126). So if you hunt down double IPAs and imperial stouts, consider yourself limited to one a night.
And let’s not forget the “disinhibiting” effect a few drinks can have — if you’re prone to snacking more after two beers, you’ll need to account for that extra calorie intake somewhere else. And if you can’t hit the gym while hungover, you’ll soon be in for a wardrobe change.