Everything is good in moderation, including beer
Last month I saw a tweet from @TheBeerRunner that made me think. He is best known as an advocate for beer drinking and living a running lifestyle, tweeting about it regularly and writing for DRAFT Magazine. For years I have echoed his sentiment. We should be able to enjoy good beer—in whatever quantity we choose—if we are accounting for the extra calories and getting the appropriate amount of exercise.
The Beer Runner, whose real name is Dave Ebel, decided to give up drinking for a while to see what the effect on his body might be. Much to his surprise, he dropped nearly fifteen pounds and found that he was running some of his best times in years. All else being equal, removing alcohol from his diet helped him reach a new level of physical fitness, and he subsequently returned to a body weight he had not seen since high school.
That made me think deeply about the effects of beer on my own body. My grandfather died of heart disease when I was in college, and I have been committed to physical fitness and (mostly) healthy eating ever since. I work out four or five days each week and try to limit saturated fat intake and total calories. Yet I suffer from what is invariably described as a “dad bod”—somewhat muscular in the legs, chest, and arms, with a soft middle section that makes for a good pillow.
Finding my desired level of physical fitness has been a challenge because I am committed to this little side hustle known as beer writing. For the past several years I have been chronicling Arkansas beer for the Fayetteville Flyer, and more recently for Southwest Brewing News. Visiting local breweries and tossing back a few pints on most nights is considered primary research if you know what I mean. It’s much easier to count the days I don’t drink than the days that I do. The ratio is way out of whack!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not interested in looking like a cross-fitter, with washboard abs and a 30-inch waist. But I do wish I could drop five or ten pounds so that my teenager will stop referring to my abdominals as “flabs.” And more importantly, I’d like to get my cholesterol into the optimum range instead of where it’s at today (which is borderline high). My family’s health history leaves much to be desired, which means I’m playing from behind from the start.
So, taking inspiration from The Beer Runner, I have decided to abstain from beer on weeknights. And when I do indulge on the weekends, I intend to limit my intake to a more reasonable number of pints.
This decision coincides with the season of New Year’s resolutions. And of course we all know how resolutions go…we generally break them within the first couple of weeks. It also comes during what some drinkers call “Dryuary”—which is an alcohol-free period during the first month of the year. The practice is gaining momentum in the beer community, it seems.
I hope to be more moderate in my drinking habits, and I hope that I can keep it up over the long haul. There’s a lot of great Arkansas beer in production these days, so I know temptation will be around every corner. Yet what I’ve found in the limited amount of time that I’ve been trying this new approach is that the end-of-the-week beer that passes my lips tastes exponentially better than that second or third beer on Tuesday night. It seems giving my liver a break also gives my taste buds a break, which in turn makes me appreciate the flavors in beer that attracted me to the beverage in the first place.
What’s that old saying? Everything is good in moderation? We’ll see if there’s any truth to that. So far, ten days into my own version of Dryuary, I’m hopeful that new habits will form—and my love for beer will increase as a result.