Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Beer is High in Carbs, Right???

There is a lot of talk out there about beer being high in carbs. Please refer to my previous post about my feeling on carbs (they are not the cause of weight gain… but you should focus on eating all natural carbs- fruit, veg, whole grains, and not too many). But that being said, the majority of calories in beer do not come from the carbs, they come from the alcohol! Alcohol contains 7 calories/gram. To compare:
  • Carb= 4 cal/g
  • Protein= 4 cal/g
  • Ethanol (alcohol)= 7 cal/g
  • Fat= 9 cal/g
 So, alcohol is closer to fat in terms of calorie density than carbs or protein. That is why one shot (1.5 oz) of 80 proof Vodka will run you almost 100 calories. Pretty comparable to drinking a shot of vegetable oil!

The carbs in beer are derived from whatever cereal the beer is made of (malted barley, wheat, corn, or sometimes, rice). In general, most beers have fewer carbs per 12 oz. than a glass of milk. The lower the carbs in a beer, the less flavor the beer will have (hence the reason why a lot of people compare drinking light beer to drinking water). But there is a certain point where they cannot decrease the calories in a beer anymore, without eliminating all the alcohol. 

Here is a brief list of the calorie, carb, and alcohol content of a select few beers:

Beer nameCaloriesCarb (g)Alcohol (%)
Bud Light1106.54.1
Michelob Ultra952.64.1
Sam Adams Boston Lager160184.75
Yuengling Lager135124.4
Source: USDA Nutrient Database, http://www.livestrong.com/

If you want to know how to calculate calories in your beer, you have to be pretty math-savvy, and need to know the following:
  • mL of alcohol (mL of beer x % alcohol)
  • # mL of alcohol x 1 g alcohol/1 mL alcohol
  • # g alcohol x 7 calories/gram= ________ calories
Example: 12 oz beer= ~355 mL x 0.045 (4.5%) alcohol= ~16 g alcohol, 16 g x 7 kcal/g= 112 calories just from alcohol…….. and then you need to add additional calories for carbs (on average, say 10 g carb/beer= 40 extra calories)= 152 kcals in this example beer (+ any additional calories from added sugars for your fruity beers).

Picture Source: http://s3-media3.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/cn8tvD_K_sTzVf5opOtvFw/ls.jpg (Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA= great beer on tap!)

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