Can You Drink Beer and Still Be Fit?

Drinking beer in moderation is key to avoiding a beer belly.
A bottle of Red River Brewing Company’s Fear the Dark, a dark, refreshing German lager with notes of coffee and chocolate, sits on the brewery bar in Shreveport, Louisiana, March 16, 2019. (Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma/U.S. Army National Guard photo)

Beer and fitness? Can it be?

I was once asked an interesting question concerning drinking beer and exercising. It seems that a former Navy radioman had developed quite a gut since retiring and was curious about whether he should give up his beer to lose weight. Not only did the gentleman enjoy drinking 2-4 beers daily, he also had quit exercising. 

More than 90 million Americans enjoy drinking beer. Drinking moderately has been proven by many doctors, as well as the New England Journal of Medicine, to be a healthy component of longevity. In fact, moderate consumption of alcohol, including beer, can reduce the effects of high cholesterol, heart disease, some forms of cancer and even impotence.

Anything done in excess is naturally unhealthy. "Moderation" is defined by most doctors as 1-2 beers a day. 

The average can of beer has more than 100 calories. Drinking one beer is equivalent to eating a chocolate chip cookie. Drinking four is equal to eating a Big Mac. In order to lose weight, you have to burn off these extra calories as well as the other calories that you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even the lightest of beers has the empty calories of alcohol, which is the cause of poor health if done in excess and without a regular exercise routine. Unfortunately, too many Americans live under one of the worst stereotypes placed on a human being -- the beer belly or, as I call it, the inactivity belly.

The "inactivity" belly is caused by excess calories in your diet and lack of activity to burn them. The solution to lose your beer belly is as simple as calories in must be less than calories out (or expended through exercise).

Calories in < calories out (burned) = weight Loss

If you can add exercise into your schedule for 20-30 minutes a day, your daily consumption of alcohol (1-2 beers) will not have any additional impact on your gut. To lose your beer belly, you have to watch your food and beverage intake, drink 2-4 quarts of water a day and fit fitness into your world. There is no other healthy answer. The exercise and workout ideas below can get you started on your calorie-burning plan:

Workout #1

This is a great full-body calorie burner:

Repeat 3-5 times

Walk, run or bike 5:00

Squats: 20

Push-ups: 10-20

Sit-ups or crunches: 20 

Workout #2

Swimming and elliptical gliding (cross country skiing) burn the most calories per hour. (This workout can burn up to 1,000 calories in one hour.)

Swim 20-30 minutes nonstop

Elliptical glide 20-30 minutes

Read "Burn More Calories" for more information and tips.

There is no reason why you cannot have "six-pack abs" and still drink a six-pack a week. Once again, excessive beer drinking is not recommended by anyone in the health industry. If you simply enjoy drinking beer and are serious about your health, moderation in drinking alcohol and eating foods high in calories, combined with habitual daily exercise, is your ticket to reaching your goals.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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