Love the beer but afraid of the “beer belly”? There is no doubt that excessive beer intake may lead to the infamous extended gut since alcohol provides 7 calories per gram. In actuality, a beer belly comes from excess calories, not necessarily from the beer. Too many calories of any kind can lead to weight gain and increased waistline. The only sustainable and sensible way to lose weight and avoid weight gain is to focus on the calorie content of all foods and beverages consumed, including beer.
In fact, drinking beer in moderation can even be good for you and potentially be a good source of soluble fiber and prebiotic substances that promote digestion. In addition, beer can contain significant levels of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, such as folate, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12. Beer consumption may also help reduce risk of developing kidney stones, possibly due to its water content and diuretic effect. Compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone that is implicated in kidney stones. Health benefits of beer may be obtained if consumed within the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend a limit of 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men (one drink is equivalent to a 12oz beer).
The number of calories in a beer is based primarily on alcohol content, not on color or texture of the beer. Most “light” beers contain about 100-130 calories and are a good choice if you are watching your waistline while drinking. The difference between a “light” beer and a regular beer could be as few as 20 calories or as many as 100. Some of the popular “light” beers may be very low in calories, but have a “watered-down” taste to some. If you’re looking for a refreshing, low-calorie beer that doesn’t skimp on the flavor, use these 10 low-calorie beers as a guideline so that you can enjoy a beer or two without wrecking your diet. All are big on flavor, but relatively low in booze and calories:
- Stone Brewing Co. “Levitation Ale” – This deep amber ale from San Diego packs of a lot of hoppy, malty flavor alongside lighter citrus notes in a 4.4% alcohol by volume (ABV) brew. This is perfect if you want something lighter, but still has a big hop kick. (Est. Calories: 132)
- Brooklyn Brewery “Brooklyn Pilsner” – This beer contains German-grown hops that offer a bitter kick at about 5.1% ABV, but only 155 calories per bottle.
- Murphy’s Irish Stout – Rich, dark beer like stouts are not typically viewed as a “light” option, but with just 144 calories, you can knock back a couple of these without feeling guilty. Both Beamish and Guinness are also fairly low calorie, low ABV stouts. In fact, most stouts fall into the range of 4-6% ABV.
- Dogfish Head Festina Peche – This thirst quenching wheat beer with lightly sour flavors of green apple contains 4.5% ABV and perfect for lazy weekend afternoons. (Est. calories: 135)
- Victory Brewing Co. “Victory Lager” – This delicious, golden lager contains crisp flavors of malt and hops at 4.8% ABV and only 145 calories per 12oz bottle.
- Anchor Brewing “Small Beer” – “Small” or “table” beers have become of the newest trends in craft beer and are super low in ABV with great flavor. “Anchor Steam” is also relatively light just 153 calories per bottle.
- Hoegarden – A super cloudy, lightly colored wheat beer with hints of coriander and orange peel at about 147 calories a bottle. This is an easy to find, tasty change of pace from the dozens of heavier ales on tap at most bars.
- Founder’s Brewing “All day IPA” – This India Pale Ale is at 4.7% ABV and 147 calories, making it a guilt-free brew.
- Flying Dog Brewery “Underdog Atlantic Lager” – This hoppy, light, crisp, and refreshing lager pairs well with salad or lean proteins like fish and chicken because of its pine and citrus notes. 4.7% ABV and 141 calories.
- Krombacher Pils – The most popular beer in Germany. This grassy pilsner provides 4.8% ABV and just 130 calories per bottle. It may not be at your corner bar, but is likely to be found at your local beer store.
In addition to the beers mentioned, many pubs and breweries are offering “session” beers, which tend to be less than 5% ABV. Not only are they low calorie, but they provide a nice balance of malt to hops with a clean finish. These beers are for patrons to have a few beers in a reasonable amount of time without overwhelming the senses or leaving one intoxicated. There is also a surprising variety of taste in this range of brews.
For the athletic readers out there, keep in mind that alcohol not only affects performance (if taken more than in moderation), but it also affects recovery and rehydration times, especially for those training for a big event such as a multiple day race. Slowed hydration recovery is due to the diuretic effects of alcohol. The rate at which the liver can replace used glycogen (stored carbohydrate used for energy) is reduced when alcohol is consumed after an intense workout, slowing recovery time.
Use the above list as a guideline to help you pick out your favorite low-calorie, but flavorful brew. Remember, the number of calories in a beer is determined by its alcohol content. The higher the alcohol content, the more calories. Beer does not have to be skipped in fear of developing the “beer belly”, as long as consumed in moderation and considered in your daily calorie consumption so that you can plan accordingly. Cheers!