Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Beer and Dieting

All of the recent comments regarding dry January has got me thinking.  I'm all for people taking control of their health and if that means cutting down on what is causing you problems then it needs to be encouraged.  Some people may look at me and think I am not particularly overweight but I know differently.  The doctors would tell me I need to lose about 40lbs (I still think in imperial when it comes to weight) and they are probably right.  I don't normally have to worry about putting weight on a great deal.  It has stayed pretty constant now for a decade or more.  However, this does mean of course that I've been carrying excess weight for a long time now.  With this is mind I am finally going to address it.  This therefore brings up the question as to whether I need to cut down my beer intake to achieve my goals.

My first rule of dieting is to cut down on things that do you no good.  I currently don't include beer in that category as beer has many beneficial properties.  My problem has always been sugar in the form of chocolate, cake and biscuits.  Sugar is my addiction and beer is very low in sugars.  Giving up alcohol has never been a problem for me.  Giving up chocolate for more than a week is a real struggle.  Working from home has made this harder to the extent that my son has questioned why his chocolate biscuits keep disappearing.  Why he thinks they belong to him is another story altogether but he is correct in that I should not be eating them.
This year I have for the first time set a real target to lose 30lbs and I have come up with a four month time frame in which to reach this level.  This will reduce my weight to a level that I haven't been since I gave up running.  The big question for me is whether I can get there without cutting my beer consumpton.  On New Years Day I weighed in at 220lbs and in 17 weeks I am determined to weigh in at 190lbs.  That should bring me many health benefits.    
As I write this, my first week of dieting is coming to a close and I am five pounds down.  The first week is always easy as it just gets rid of the excesses of Christmas.  My alcohol intake for the week has also been very low.  One bottle of Adnams Tally Ho on New Years Day is all I consumed this week.  Tonight is the first Western Sussex Camra social of the year so the pub is calling and I'll probably drink three pints.  In calorific terms this equates to about 750 calories that my body needs to burn.

In the past I have always found it difficult to remember how much alcohol I have consumed and it is therefore difficult to put a figure on the units and calories therein.  Since I began blogging it has been somewhat easier but the figure has gone up too.  I will come on to this point again shortly.  I began using Untappd in November last year and every beer I drink is now recorded so I can get an exact figure.  In two months I have made 85 check-ins so I can assume I drink approximately 1.5 beers per day.  This figure has surprised me somewhat as I expected it to be higher.  Some of these beers have been 330ml bottles, some have been 500ml bottles and the rest have been pints in pubs.  This brings my pints per day down to about 1.25 per day (at a rough estimate).  At approximately 240 calories per pint then my daily calorie intake from beer is 300.  This is equivalent to about 3-4 chocolate biscuits per day which is probably the level I was at (not to mention all the cakes, cheese straws and crisps that I was consuming too).  Beer is not therefore an evil when it comes to calories and I am confident I can maintain my current intake as part of this diet.  An extra 30 minutes of walking each day will burn up these calories and that is also part of my new regime.  

Beer is not just about calories of course.  How much beer is bad for you in terms of units of alcohol?  Everyone can probably quote the government figure of 20 units of alcohol per week for males and 14 for females as the amount you should not exceed.  There really is no scientific basis behind this figure and recent studies would suggest people drinking a bit more than this live even longer than those that drink less.  For the past two months my consumption at 1.25 pints per day gives me a figure of approximately 25 units per week.  I do drink stronger beers when I get the chance so I am setting an average here of 3 units per pint.  I conclude that maintaining this figure will therefore not cause any issues at all on this front either.       

My final point are the health benefits of beer and this is a strange one.  Since I began beer blogging I have definitely consumed more beer.  That is a fact.  I used to drink wine at home (mainly red) as much as beer but my wine consumption is now virtually zero.  I have been on blood pressure medication for years and as a result my blood pressure and bloods are regularly monitored.  Since cutting out wine and increasing my beer consumption my average blood pressure reading is now 125/65 which is on the low side.  Beer does contain high levels of potassium and the active ingredient in my blood pressure tablets is potassium.  Potassium levels can be dangerous if too low or too high of course which is why those on blood pressure medication have regular blood tests to check all of this.  With blood pressure though I am told by my doctor that generally lower is better (as long as it doesn't render you unconscious) so swapping beer for wine does seem to have had this benefit.  

The final health benefit of beer of course is that it has made me more sociable, less grumpy and generally happier and more relaxed.  This may also have helped in my blood pressure reduction too of course.  My wife may question all of this but it's true.  I have a much wider circle of friends and the beer community could not be friendlier.    

This all brings me to the conclusion that whilst I need to lose weight I see no reason to cut my beer intake to reach my goal.  I will let you know how it goes of course and I may be totally wrong but by cutting out unhealthy foods and doing a little more exercise I am confident I will reach my goal.

Happy drinking.

No comments:

Post a Comment