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What is Beer (+ The Different Types)?
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from grains. Brewers combine barley, wheat, or rye with hops, flavors, herbs, spices, and/or fruits. They ferment the mixture with yeast, creating beer.
The beer fermentation process takes five steps:
- Malting or heating, drying, and cracking of the grains
- Mashing or soaking the grains in water to release the sugar to create wort
- Boiling the wort and adding hops and other flavors
- Fermenting or adding yeast to the wort mix to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide in the mix
- Bottling and aging
Beer also comes in a wide variety of types with different alcohol contents and flavors.
Varying strengths range from 4 to 6% alcohol. However, the complete range of alcohol percentages in beers goes from 0.5% to 40%.
In general, the different types of beer include:
- Pale ale
Nutrition Facts of Beer
Beer provides a small degree of nutritional benefits. The average 12 oz. beer with a 4% alcohol content includes:
- Calories: 153
- Alcohol: 14 grams
- Carbs: 13 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
Additionally, there are trace amounts of micronutrients in beer, including potassium, magnesium, and sodium. It should not be considered a valid source of nutrition and most health experts believe the calories and carbohydrates in beer exceed the health benefits it provides.
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How is Beer Metabolized? Can it Lead to Weight Gain?
Drinking too much beer can lead to weight gain. How much weight someone gains depends on the number of calories they burn compared to the number of beer calories they consume.
Drinking beer increases the risk of weight gain because:
- Beer contains a lot of “empty” calories. This means compared to the calories you’re ingesting when drinking it, you’re getting a very small amount of your daily nutritional needs. Additionally, drinking beer might increase your appetite. The more people drink, the less likely they are to make smart food choices. An evening of drinking beer can quickly develop into a binge on high-calorie junk food.
- There’s also evidence that beer interferes with your body’s ability to burn fat optimally. Because it must prioritize alcohol metabolism (breaking down) over other fuel sources, the metabolizing of stored fat is put on the back burner. In a way, your body runs on alcohol calories instead of sourcing energy from stored fat.1
- Finally, beer contains hops, which are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are a plant compound known to mimic the action usually performed by estrogen. Estrogen is a sex hormone found in both men and women that plays a role in fat metabolism. The link between exposure to phytoestrogens from beer drinking is not definitive, but it’s possible due to how estrogen works in the body.
The bottom line: drinking beer usually increases someone’s daily intake of calories. In moderate amounts, this is unlikely to cause significant weight gain. But regular beer drinkers do face a risk.
What is a Beer Belly?
Beer belly is a term used to describe the fat that accumulates around a person’s mid-section.
In many cases, people with this type of weight accumulation tend to consume a lot of beer. There is a link between high beer consumption and an increase in belly fat.2
Not everyone who drinks heavily will develop a beer belly. Conversely, it’s entirely possible for someone who never drinks beer to be heavier around their midsection.
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What Causes Beer Bellies?
Someone who drinks a lot of beer has a higher risk of developing a “beer belly.” However, anyone who consumes excess calories and doesn’t counteract those calories with more physical exercise is at risk of expanding their waistline.
But doctors believe the risk for midsection weight gain is higher with alcohol. When you consume alcohol, your liver burns it for energy and ignores your fat stores.3
There’s also a high risk of overindulging with beer – most people don’t have only one beer a few times a week.
Also, people often drink beer while eating unhealthy foods. So it’s easy to understand how consuming beer increases your risk for midsection weight gain directly and indirectly.
5 Tips to Get Rid of a Beer Belly
Like all types of excess weight, there is no magic formula for decreasing a beer belly.
However, there are several things you can do to get rid of excess weight. For example:
1. Cut Back or Eliminate Beer When You Drink
Consume three or fewer beers at a time and opt for a light beer with fewer calories.
2. Increase Physical Activity
Exercise alone is unlikely to eliminate your beer belly. However, increasing the number of calories you burn will likely lead to weight loss.
Aerobic or cardio activities offer a variety of health benefits, including weight loss. Building muscle through strength training also helps your body burn calories more effectively.
Toning exercises like abdominal crunches won’t eliminate your beer belly. Still, it can give you greater core strength and greater muscle definition, creating the illusion of a flatter belly.
3. Increase Water Intake
This helps your body’s system work better, increases its ability to burn fat, and fills you up so you’re less likely to over-drink. Alternate between glasses of beer and water when drinking.
4. Limit Alcohol Consumption with a Customized System
Only drink on a specific day of the week or “special” event to avoid drinking too frequently.
5. Eat a Full, Healthy Meal before Drinking
This helps you avoid the temptation to eat high-calorie food due to hunger. It also prevents you from drinking as much because you’re already full.
Does Moderate Alcohol Consumption Cause Weight Gain?
It can, but the degree varies from person to person. The average person who occasionally enjoys an alcoholic drink or two is unlikely to experience weight gain. However, alcohol is high in calories and tends to influence decision-making negatively.
Even one drink could affect your judgment and increase the odds you’ll order a double cheeseburger, as opposed to the steamed vegetable platter for dinner.
It’s also important to note that everyone’s bodies are different. Moderate alcohol consumption might not lead to weight gain for the average person. But someone who struggles with weight might be more severely affected by alcohol consumption.
Alcohol also affects your hormones. If you don’t have issues with hormone imbalance, you likely won’t notice alcohol’s effect on your hormones.
But if you have an existing problem with hormones, alcohol exacerbates the problem. It increases cortisol and estrogen, both of which are associated with weight gain.
There’s no evidence that moderate drinking has a significant effect on the hormonally impaired. This seems to be more of a problem for people who are excessive drinkers.
Alcohol consumption also affects sleep and hormone levels. Quality sleep is linked to weight loss. Well-rested people have the energy needed to exercise and be active.
When you sleep poorly, you feel sluggish and you have less motivation to exercise.
What Other Types of Alcohol Cause Weight Gain?
All types of alcohol can cause weight gain. In most cases, it depends on the number of calories you’re consuming from alcohol compared to how many calories your body needs to function.
Distilled alcohol types have similar amounts of calories per ounce. However, it’s important to consider what you’re mixing with alcohol when drinking.
For example, drinking whiskey and coke or a sugary tropical drink made with rum puts you at a greater risk of weight gain than a gin and soda.
If drinking beer or any other alcoholic beverage is causing you distress or health problems, speak to an addictions specialist to learn what you can do.