Beer

Beer column: Check your waistline, those 200-calorie IPAs catch up with you

How many beers does it take before you reach the legal driving limit?

The California DMV says that having 0.08% Breath Alcohol Content or more means you can't drive. A few journalists from The Sacramento Bee sip on some IPAs to test how many beers it takes to reach the limit.
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The California DMV says that having 0.08% Breath Alcohol Content or more means you can't drive. A few journalists from The Sacramento Bee sip on some IPAs to test how many beers it takes to reach the limit.

It’s rarely discussed in beer circles because the truth is not pleasant, and very basic: Beer can be bad for you.

A 12-ounce serving of Knee Deep’s Breaking Bud IPA has 213 calories, according to myfitnesspal.com. It has 20 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of protein and 0 percent of any daily vitamin or mineral content.

It’s not health food. We know it, we joke about it, we try to deal with it.

Andrew Mohsenzadegan knows it. Since his Flatlands Brewing Co. opened three years ago, Mohsenzadegan has used diets and beer fasting to help keep his weight and health under control. Still, the difficulties of running your own business and making a product that is inherently unhealthy have taken a toll.

“Since opening the brewery, I’ve probably gained 30 pounds,” he said. “Our new assistant brewer has gained 20 pounds. I’m just so busy trying to do everything we need to do that I don’t spend enough time on myself.”

Mohsenzadegan and his wife, Flatlands co-owner Michelle Mohsenzadegan, are actively fighting the weight gain that comes with drinking beer. They’ve done Whole 30 diets together. They’ve cut out alcohol. And they’ve avoided the party scene that brewery workers find it easy to fall into.

“We don’t do a whole lot of events. Pretty much everything we do is in-house,” Andrew Mohsenzadegan said. “So we’re not obligated to go out, eat a pizza and maybe grab a couple pints. I try not to go out at all because ... every time I go out, you feel like you have to eat because you’re there. You feel like you have to drink because you’re there. Just having a lot more self-control is the issue.”

Self-control around calories is an issue that I, the Bee’s beer columnist, have struggled with all my life. I weighed 235 pounds after ninth grade; there are still stretch marks on the sides of my stomach. I weighed 160 pounds when I got married 13.5 years ago.

Then I discovered IPAs. More so, I discovered IPAs and started pairing them with pizzas, buffalo wings and French fries. After a beer or four, everything is a great idea.

Those beers can add up. If you’re drinking, hypothetically, 15 IPAs a week, that’s about 3,000 empty calories. You have to burn about 3,500 calories of fat a week to lose a pound, according to the Mayo Clinic. That’s about the equivalent of eating an entire large pizza every week.

Maybe that’s sustainable for you.

For most people, it isn’t.

Norman Miller, a longtime beer writer based in Massachusetts, famously shut down his “Beer Nut” column in November. Years of drinking 15 craft beers a week had taken a toll on Miller. He was obese and needed to get out of the scene.

Jason Notte knows what that’s like. He spent close to a decade writing about beer for TheStreet, MarketWatch and Beer Advocate. For years, Notte lived the dream. Breweries sent six-packs, 12-packs and even cases of beer to Notte free of charge so he could sample and write about their creations.

At the beginning of last year, Notte found himself at 255 pounds.

“That was uncomfortable. Absolutely not a place I wanted to be,” he said.

That’s when he and his wife went to a “dietary salad bar.” There was a little Keto, some Mediterranean diet and absolutely no beer. He’d do a little whiskey or a vodka tonic — “none of this is to say it’s good for you,” Notte said, “it’s just adding less carbohydrates.”

After some tinkering, he found what works for him. He switched to wine sometimes and cut his consumption drastically. He’d have a maximum of two 12-ounce drinks or two 8-ounce glasses of wine a night. There was a weekly max of 36 ounces of alcoholic beverages.

There were some side benefits: “We can actually put produce in the produce section of the refrigerator,” Notte said.

By September, he was at 195 pounds.

He hasn’t gone back to drinking beer on a regular basis. Like any good Oregonian, he lives on a farm and has some goats. He compares the natural grasses his goats eat during the summer to sugar-covered grains they eat through the winter.

“That’s what you’re putting into your body in beer form,” Notte said. ”It’s just so much of these natural sugars and grains and things that are basically meant to bulk up animals of any sort. Humans are not exempt from that. Is that the best thing for you to be consuming on a regular basis? Probably not.”

To be sure, you can still drink beer and be healthy. Mohsenzadegan, the Flatlands founder, cites friends throughout the industry who hike, bike and run to stay fit. And it helps that drinkers and beer industry workers tend to be between the ages of 21 and 45.

But it catches up with you. Despite being an active runner, hiker and skier, after the recent holidays my fat pants didn’t even fit so well. There was really only one option: Go on a diet.

My Whole 30 diet started a couple of weeks ago. I love the craft beer industry and the people in it, but I have to take a break. “Dry January” is a trend in the drinking world where people take a break from booze for the month. In years past, I rolled my eyes at the notion. Not this year.

Mohsenzadegan has also done the Whole 30 — which is essentially a diet of only fruits, vegetables and meat-based proteins — and raves about the results

“I cut out beer for a week a couple weeks ago and dropped 10 pounds,” Mohsenzadegan said. “It’s crazy, it’s a horrible thing with your body purging water weight and toxins, but that’s pretty motivating for me. If I can do that in a week, what can I do in 30 days?”

We’ll find out. Actually, I’m shooting for 60 days — it would be nice to fit into the regular pants, not just the fat pants. And yes, there’s more Breaking Bud in my future. Maybe just not 15 a week.

James Patrick has covered the beer industry across the country for five years.
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