It’s National Drink Beer Day, a day that would, in normal times, provide a reasonable excuse to go to your favorite local tavern or brewery, belly up to the bar, and proceed to consume a reasonable amount of your favorite hoppy beverage. But, these are not normal times, and according to research by Nielsen, people are consuming way more alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic—when we’ve all been self-quarantining and/or following potentially life-saving orders to stay at home—than any other time.
In other words, if drinking beer was your thing, it may really be your thing now to help cope with stress and anxiety. And hey, everyone deals differently.
However, it’s important to know how a nightly beer (or two) can be affecting your body and overall health. We reached out to registered dietitians to ask them what happens with a daily diet of your favorite beer.
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How much beer is considered “in moderation”?
The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in “moderation,” according to Elizabeth Huggins, RDN at Hilton Head Health.
“When it comes to drinking, people often have different ideas of moderation, so if you are talking about a 12-ounce beer, that is one or less a day for women and two or less a day for men,” says Huggins.
What does having a beer every night do to your body?
“First, calories in beer can range from as low as 60 to as high as 240 calories per 12 ounces,” says Huggins. This, of course, can be an innocent habit at first. “But it can lead to weight gain, especially if your beer enjoys the company of snacks.”
In addition to being a highly caloric indulgence, another side effect of drinking beer every night is lethargy. “It may relax you so well that you don’t get off the couch to take that walk that you said you would take,” says Huggins.
There’s no doubt that “resolve dissolves in alcohol!” And, especially during these difficult times, forcing yourself to move your body is crucial to stay healthy during quarantine—for however long it lasts. By not doing so, your body can get out of shape, and fairly quickly.
What’s more, regular beer drinking also “causes bloat and can irritate your digestive tract,” says Nutritionist (MS) Katie Boyd.
“Drinking beer can make your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can turn into inflammation of the gut lining. This can have long-term side effects like gastritis,” Boyd says. “They don’t call it a ‘beer belly’ for nothing.”
Alcohol is also known to negatively impact your natural sleep cycle. “The more you drink and the closer to bedtime, the more likely you will experience diminished sleep quality,” says Huggins. How so? “Alcohol in beer causes gastric acid to be secreted and could increase your chances of suffering from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux, which in addition to being unpleasant, can also negatively impact sleep.”
While having a few beers may lead you to think you are sleeping well, it’s poor sleep quality, which is less restorative. “We can all agree that poor sleep interferes with mental functioning and our energy level the next day,” says Huggins.
Boyd agrees. “Drinking too much beer can cause sleep disruption because it causes your insulin to spike in the middle of the night if drank later in the day, thus causing you to wake up. In the morning, you end up feeling groggy and not optimal for the rest of the day.”
READ MORE: How Much Sugar Is in the Beer You Drink?
There’s one benefit of having a brewski, though…
The only silver lining of having a beer every night? “Beer is touted as more nutritious than most other alcoholic beverages due to the hops and barley that is used in the creation and fermentation process,” says Boyd. Beer is also relatively high in “vitamin B, antioxidants, and silicon that may strengthen and build stronger bones,” she says.
Plus, you may be helping to support a local craft brewer during these tough times if you’re buying cases of their stuff.
But that certainly doesn’t off-set all of the negatives of having a beer every night. And if you’re going to have one, you should chase it with some water. (Or, better yet, replace that can or bottle altogether with H2O.)
“One of the simplest things you can do to improve your body’s vitality, aside from keeping the body running smoothly, is getting your recommended intake of water,” says fitness trainer Corey Calliet. “It aids in the recovery, detoxification, and elimination processes within the body.”
Drinking water (not beer) consistently throughout the day can also curb cravings and keep you from eating excess calories.
So, there you have it. If drinking beer is your thing, it’s best to do it in moderation, not every night. While drinking beer every day may relax you during these tough times, there are some significant downsides: weight gain, poor sleep, bad gastrointestinal inflammation, and other issues that can outlast your time spent in quarantine.
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