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6 ways for beer lovers to bust that gut without going dry

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Working off that beer gut? You don't have to give up beer -- you just have to be more selective about imbibing.

A buddy recently asked me to recommend a few low-calorie beers he might enjoy as he worked off his post-holiday paunch.  While there are many decent craft brews out there that run around 150 calories for a 12-ounce serving – Dale’s Pale Ale (150 calories), Victory Prima Pils (150 calories), Full Sail Session Black Lager (pushing it at 164 calories) – none come close to the sub-100-calorie mark offered by mass-produced beers with “Lite” or “Ultra” or “64” in the title.

While these industrial light lagers look good on paper, they don’t taste like much in a glass, so instead of recommending them to my friend, our talk turned to ways of reducing the amount of beer calories consumed while still being able to drink the beers he truly enjoys.

Weekday restraint
When it’s time to be a good boy, the first thing I do is cease all beer drinking during the week. This means no beer Monday through Thursday, and while I’d like to say Friday night as well, let’s not kid ourselves – Friday nights were made for beer.  Instead, I try to cut out any beers on Sunday night, although I’m not always successful. If you refrain from having a couple of beers after work during the week, you’ll knock out around half of the beer calories you consume, all without having to sacrifice the quality of the brews you enjoy when the weekend rolls around. 

Other bubbles
I’ve learned a pretty good trick for the nights I REALLY want a beer after work. My wife drinks a lot of seltzer, and I’ve found knocking back a glassful of the stuff nicely mimics most of the physical pleasures of drinking a beer. Sure you don’t get the flavor (or the alcohol), but the seltzer’s overachieving little bubbles will tickle the roof of your mouth, the back of your tongue and dance down your throat just like a beer would. I find that these sensations do a decent job of tricking my body into thinking we’re having a little “me time” with no calories and none of the chemicals found in diet soda pop.

Pace yourself
When it comes to reducing the number of beer calories you consume, sometimes being lazy is a virtue. I’ve managed to cut out a beer or two here and there by simply waiting to get up and grab another one.  Put it off until the next commercial break, or wait until the next quarter of the football game to walk out to the kitchen for a refill. I’ve found that a three-beer ballgame can easily become a one-beer affair by resisting my impulses and staying on the couch.

Sample-size it
I have this awesome 17-ounce Spiegelau crystal lager glass that’s the most dangerous beer vessel in the house. Why? Because I always crack open two beers to fill it up, as I don’t like seeing the top third of the glass sitting there unused. There’s just something satisfying about a full glass of beer, no matter the size. I’ve learned to use this to my advantage by breaking out a small sample glass I picked up at a beer-tasting event. Half a bottle of beer fills it up, and after I’ve finished the first serving, I get to pour myself another without opening a new bottle.  It’s a great way to make a single bottle of beer fell like two complete servings.

No collateral calories
Much of damage I do in the calorie department comes from the other stuff I’m shoveling into my mouth while I’m enjoying craft beer.  While a pair of pale ales might cost me 350 calories, it’s nothing compared to the 600 chemically-laden calories that come from the half a bag of Munchies Cheese Fix snack mix I absent-mindedly devour. A good way to contain the caloric damage is to have a no-snacks-with-beer policy and stick to it. 

Play the “I’d rather have a beer” game
When you’re trying to lose weight, every calorie counts. You can spend them on delicious craft beer or on one of those doughnuts your coworker so kindly left in the break room – your call.  In times like these, I like to ask myself, “Would I rather have a 200 calorie Krispy Kreme, or a guilt-free craft beer?” While I don’t always make the smart decision (Krispy Kreme’s are pretty tasty!), I try to save my discretionary calories for the thing I enjoy the most.

A total beer reboot
The other option IS to go dry – at least temporarily. A 30-day beer fast is the simplest way to change your consumption pattern. Wipe the slate clean and start again from a position of strength. This plan of attack really sucks for the first couple of weeks, but you’ll soon discover that all the things you enjoyed with a beer in your hand are just as fun without one. January is a good month to go beerless, as there are few must-have seasonal releases hitting the shelves and, outside bowl games and the NFL playoffs, there are few brewcentric events like holiday parties to trip you up. When your beer boycott is over, you can start selectively adding beer back into your routine, hopefully with a tad more moderation than you had before you started.

Story: Holiday hangover? Here’s the case for a ‘dry January’

And don’t feel bad about the pounds you’ve packed on since Halloween. Instead, think about how the weight will start melting off of your frame once you start to behave yourself again. Just remember to forgive yourself when you screw up and don’t get discouraged – changing isn’t easy, but finding a balance that works in the long term is important.

Let us know what tricks you use to keep the beer calories from piling up as you’re trying to lose weight.

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter. 

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