This is a subject very close to my heart, in so many ways.
How fattening is beer?
People will tell you that a pint of beer is like having a meal. Doctors have told me that. Educated men and women. Clever folk.
And so I decided to have a little think about it.
Now, even though we’re all metric these days, everyone still measures their height and their weight in Imperial units: feet, inches and pounds, so that’s what we’ll have to go with, especially since we measure out our beer in the noblest Imperial measure of all. The pint.
Your average pint of beer contains about 4% alcohol. It might be a bit more or a bit less, but for the sake of discussion, that’s what we’ll call it. To put it another way, in order to consume a full pint of raw alcohol, you’d have to swallow 25 pints of beer.
Over a week, that wouldn’t be too hard, so let’s say you drink three and a half pints a day, every day, and at the end of the week, you’ve consumed your full pint of ethanol.
Now, a pint of water weighs 20 ounces, but alcohol is about 20% lighter than water. Therefore, after a week of beer drinking, you’ve swallowed 16 ounces of alcohol. A pound.
Mass can neither be created nor destroyed, and therefore consuming a pound of any substance can not make you a pound and a half heavier. At most it can add a pound to your weight, provided every last bit of it is converted to fat. Forget calories: your belly is not made of calories. It’s made of molecules, and those molecules have to come from somewhere, in this instance beer.
Every last bit of the alcohol, however, is not converted to fat. Much of it is metabolised and eliminated. You piss it up against the wall.
Now, after drinking your 25 pints of beer during the week, you’ve consumed a pound of alcohol which at the absolute maximum can add a pound to your weight.
In the same week, how much food did you swallow?
Was it a pound? If so, you’re in deep trouble because you’re starving. You’re going to die very soon from lack of nutrition.
The chances are, provided you’re not an obese supersized burger-eating knacker, that your daily meals weighed at least a pound each, and probably more. Two pounds, perhaps. Maybe three.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you eat no more than two pounds of food a day. At the end of the week, you have consumed fourteen pounds of material.
Now I know that not all of that material has the potential to turn into fat, but this isn’t a scientific treatise. I’m just trying to to work out how fattening beer is.
One way or the other, at the end of the week, you have consumed a pound of alcohol with the potential to add a theoretical maximum of one pound to your weight, and fourteen pounds of other substances, much of which will be water. Let’s exclude that. If we say it’s half of the total, you have still consumed solids with the potential to add a maximum of seven pounds to your weight.
And this is why I think beer has a bad name.
Every pint of beer you drink contains less than an ounce of alcohol, not all of which will add to your weight, while every burger you eat contains about four times the weight in pure fat, every bit of which is ready to enlarge that belly of yours.
Now look. I don’t claim to be a nutritionist, or a physician, or anything special. I’m just a guy who wonders how a beer can be as fattening as a full meal when you add up the sums.
Tell me where I’m wrong. I’ll believe you.