Not too long ago Julia, of CraftBeer.com and the Brewers Association, posted an article pointing out the FACT that The Beer Belly Is a Myth. She gave a lot of good information and even pointed out that you need to have a balance in your life, along with some moderation when it comes to drinking. So, while the Active in Active Brewer once meant something else, it is kind of a shift to another aspect of my life and reading the “Beer Belly” article made me want to add onto it.
Apparently I am not the only one thinking about health when it comes to craft beer. I do not work in the industry now, but am hoping to make the move in a few short years. There are many things to think about in order to have a healthy life while still enjoying your favorite beverages. I would give this article by Oliver of Literature and Libation, a read that focuses on Consumer Health if you would like a different insight into this topic.
When it all comes down to it, nutrition labels on food products are a lie. A whole lot of useless information that doesn’t always add up. While there are a few things you should pay attention to, there are only three that really matter, The Macronutrients; Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats.
Julia pointed out that beer has no fat. So when it comes to beer, you can throw that information out the window. The only concern I would look for here is with adjuncts. Looking at the way they interact with the beer and what moves into the finished product. When it comes to calorie counts, 1 gram of fat will equate to 9 calories. This will be important later… or when looking at nutrition labels at home.
There is a small amount of protein in you beer. It comes along from the raw material in the malting and mashing process. Depending on the filtration and clarification process, the majority of it may be removed, so it may not be of a concern here, either. 1 gram of protein will come out to 4 calories in this case.
So this is where some say the real issue is with beer and the caloric intake… but this is not entirely true. While there is a considerable amount of sugar in unfermented beer-wort, when the yeast get through with their job, it converts the majority of carbohydrates into alcohol and CO2. A typical carbohydrate will come out to 4 calories per 1 gram, as the case is with protein. But alcohol, is in a class of it’s own.
Alcohol is often considered the 4th Macronutrient and the final piece of the puzzle to coming up with full calorie counts. For 1 gram of alcohol, you will get 7 calories.
What it comes down to is the ability of your body to process the alcohol. When you are drinking your body wants to burn up the alcohol and use it as it’s first source of fuel. It also processes it and begins the elimination process from your body, in real short order. While your body is burning through the alcohol, it will not use other energy sources, as it would normally do while you are not drinking; burning fats or carbohydrate sources.
As Julia mentioned in her article, not having a balance from input to output is a major culprit of the beer belly. Many people eat while they are drinking, to counter balance the effects of the alcohol. This leads to the ingestion of extra calories; it is not uncommon to have a mini-binge eating session while drinking, and not even notice.
So, how can you figure out the calorie count of your favorite beer? Start with the grams of alcohol in your beer and go from there. In order to determine the grams of alcohol in a beer, you can use a simple equation. While there are a few out there, this one has led me to the most consistent results compared to what is posted by breweries or other sources online.
density of ethanol x volume in ml x ABV
As an example we will use New Belgium Fat Tire. With the known information plugged in, it looks like this.
0.789 x 355ml (approximately 12oz) x .052 (Fat Tire is 5.2% ABV)
With these numbers in the equation, it comes out to 14.56 grams of alcohol in 12oz of Fat Tire. When you multiply that by the 7 calories per gram of alcohol, you come up to 101.92 calories. But that is only part of the story.
You still need to account for the residual carbohydrates in your beer. Though, that gets a bit difficult without knowing the intimate details of the beer.
For the ease of estimation, it is safe to say that you would attain half of the total number of calories of alcohol from carbohydrates. So, in our situation 101.92/2+101.92=152.88 calories in a single bottle of Fat Tire. According to the website, Fat Tire has 160 calories per serving. Not that far off.
Here is another example of the calculation at work, New Belgium Ranger IPA which clocks in at 6.5% ABV.
.789 x 355ml x .065
This comes out to 18.21 grams of alcohol. We then multiply this by 7 to account for the calories contributed from the alcohol, and that comes to 127.47 calories. Divide that in half and add the calories from alcohol and we get 127.47/2+127.47=191.21 calories. According to the website, New Belgium Ranger IPA is 187 calories per serving.
Remember, these are just estimates and you would need a lot more information to get a more accurate count. Also, don’t forget to adjust accordingly for your serving size. Google can fill in any blanks in conversion of ounces to milliliters or figuring out the ABV of a beer if it is not posted, but the density of ethanol will not change.
Other factors to consider would be how sweet vs how dry the beer is. Though, you should be in the ballpark with these estimates. Give it a try for a few known calorie beers and see what you notice.