Everyone likes a drink every now and again and personally, I find there’s nothing more enjoyable than enjoying a pint-or-two with a few mates down the local pub every Friday night. I suspect I’m not alone when it comes to my love of beer but I do often wonder, just how much of an effect is it really having on my health and more specifically, how many calories are in a pint of beer?
Perhaps the reason I wonder this so often is because of the constant negative portrayal of beer (or more specifically alcohol) in the media. We’re constantly being bombarded with stories of excessive binge-drinking, shocking statistics and also stories of how beer makes us fat (hence the expression ‘beer belly’), but just how true is all of this?
How Many Calories Are In Beer?
We all know that drinking pint-after-pint of that cloudy man-potion is probably not going to have the most positive effect on our health but when we look at the calories, things aren’t actually as bad as you might have thought.
It’s estimated that an average pint of beer contains around 200 – 210 calories, with a pint of ‘light’ beer containing an average of around 140 calories. Surprisingly, none of these calories come from fat as both regular and light beers have almost zero fat content.
Where Do The Calories Come From?
No fat? That’s a good start, right? But where do the calories come from? The answer; mainly from carbs and alcohol, with a small percentage from protein. A regular pint contains 17 – 18 grams of carbohydrates which is going to translate to roughly around 70 calories. Most pints usually contain 2 grams of protein too which adds around 8 calories to each pint.
Obviously, this means the rest of the calories in your pint are derived from the alcohol content with the average beer usually obtaining around 120 – 130 calories from alcohol.
How Calorie Content Can Vary
Now, we’ve talked a lot about ‘average pints’ but truthfully, we don’t always drink the average pint and if you’re anything like me, you’ll opt for a slightly stronger beer if it’s available. Usually, a pint is going to be anywhere between 3% and 4% alcohol but as you’ll know, some beers contain significantly more than this.
A lot of beers actually contain as much as 8% – 9% alcohol so when you take into account that alcohol contains 7 calories per millilitre, you soon realise that the higher alcohol content your pint is, the more calories you’re going to be consuming.
To illustrate this, take a look at the list below. This shows the average calorie content for different strength beers.
3% – 178 calories
4% – 205 calories
5% – 236 calories
6% – 269 calories
7% – 300 calories
8% – 332 calories
9% – 364 calories
Obviously, exact numbers are going to vary from pint-to-pint depending on the type of beer, but it’s pretty simple, the higher the percentage, the more calories it is going to contain!
What Does All Of This Mean?
Calories are simply a measure of the amount of energy in food and drink and whilst a lot of people base their diets around calories these days, it is important to remember that the 500 calories in your evening meal are going to offer far more nutrition than the 500 calories you might consume in a few pints of beer.
One of the problems with beer is that almost all of the calories are what we call ‘empty calories’, meaning that they contain almost no nutrition. These are the worst kind of calories as your body has only two options; burn them off or store them as fat.
Considering that most men store most of their fat around the abdominal area, beer can quickly cause a ‘beer belly’ when excess calories aren’t burned off. Think about it, if you’re consuming 4 – 5 pints a week at 300 calories, you’re adding 1200 – 1500 calories to your diet each week and if you aren’t burning these calories off, you’re going to add 1 – 2 pounds of fat a month. Take into account the fact that a few pints is usually followed by a visit to the nearest fast-food takeaway where it’s doubtful you’re going to be eating anything under 500 calories, you could be gaining weight significantly faster than this.
So what am I saying? Am I saying you should stop drinking altogether? Of course not! Like most men, I’d feel pretty ‘bitter’ about the idea that I had to give up drinking beer and to be perfectly honest, I don’t plan to any time soon.
I simply wanted to delve a little deeper into the actual facts and let you make your own mind up, rather than being misled by the negative media surrounding alcohol.
It should also be noted that alcohol does actually have some health benefits including the reduced risk of diabetes and many others, so it’s not all bad news.