The first time I discussed beer and fitness outside the all too often I-cant-afford-the-calories dismissal, it was purely in jest. My friend, while slugging down a pint before heading the gym was playfully proclaiming the virtues of beer as the perfect workout fuel: liquid carbs, warms the body up, and certainly hydration. While this was probably just his way of starting a debate that would necessitate a second pint, it did get me thinking about what sort of relationship a fitness minded individual could reasonably enjoy should they also find themselves a lover of beer. For those of us who do, there is little that can match the satisfaction of putting malt to mouth while still revelling in a post exercise glow.

Quality versus Quantity

Let’s face it beer is a delicious and calorically dense beverage. Unless one is truly in a position where they must completely forgo it, it is generally taken as an indulgence. As such, the point is really enjoyment with an understanding of the impact. So what’s the truth about calories and beer? Is lighter better?   Here are a few couple examples:

Generic domestic lager, 5.0%abv (per 355mL): 145-155 kcal

Gateway Wheat Ale, 5.0% abv (per 355ml): 160 kcal

Pageturner IPA, 6.5% abv (per 355ml): 220 kcal

Speaking of quantity, watch out for variable serving sizes. A full 20oz pint will have 67% more volume and calories than a standard 12oz can or bottle of beer.

It really is what’s inside that counts

In the examples above, there is a significant variation in calories. Without getting into too many details about beer making there are two main aspects of the brew that contribute to the calorie count. Percent alcohol, and residual (unfermented) sugars. To complicate things a bit further, each of these variables also contribute to the flavour profile. Hops don’t contribute any significant calories but do change the flavour profile significantly. Interesting compromises have recently been popularized and dubbed “session ales”. Their objective being to achieve lower ABV while maintaining the richest flavour possible – so as to facilitate a drinking “session” without subjecting the participant to the effects of too much alcohol.

Drink what you like

My personal conclusion was that it really wasn’t worth the effort tracking calories when considering what kind of beer to order. The worst case would have been to order a beer I didn’t particularly enjoy, consume a similar number of calories, and perhaps still not feel “indulged” and actually order another on that basis. The number and size of pours really being the more meaningful consideration.   Best case, pop in for a beer after your next workout and plan on walking or running home so you can sell yourself on just one more!


By Wayne Sheridan – Situation Brewing Co.