Beer Is Not Good For You
A question that’s never too far in the back of my mind when it comes to my love of craft beer is “Am I drinking too much?” It’s a question I like to keep asking myself because it’s the kind of thing that feels like it could easily get out of hand if left unchecked. For anyone who participates in beer social media in any capacity, the list of excuses you can make for yourself to drink can pile up very quickly. Whether it’s because you feel like you need to make another Instagram post, video, or blog, you’re feeling FOMO about another new release coming out, there’s a beer event going on every weekend of the summer, your fridge is full of double dry-hopped IPAs that you’re afraid are losing their optimal flavour with every passing day, your beer loving friends are in town for the weekend, and so on, it can be very easy to reach for that next can. I’ve definitely been guilty of making all of these excuses, but when I go for too long a stretch without taking a break from beer, I definitely feel it taking a toll on my body. I’m glad my body sends me these signals, because I take it as an important reminder that while I love beer and am passionate about it, it is unquestionably not good for you.
A quick disclaimer before we go any further: I am not a doctor, dietitian, health scientist, medical researcher, or anything related. Nothing in this post should be taken as professional advice.
Beer is something that a lot of us are passionate about, and there’s a seemingly endless amount of beer to try, and constant pressure to stay on top of new releases and engage with the beer community. So how do you balance your love of beer with caring for your health?
First and foremost, I think it's important that we not kid ourselves about what we’re putting in our bodies. Beer is an alcoholic beverage, and alcohol is an addictive substance. That’s something we all need to be conscious of. Because craft beer is a passion for a lot of us, myself included, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we’re drinking for flavour and for appreciation of the beverage, not for effect; however, alcohol has its effects regardless of your reasons for consuming it. Healthy habits, lifestyles, and attitudes toward alcohol consumption are things that are often too easily overlooked and even joked about in the craft beer industry.
With how active the community is on social media, I think there’s a shared responsibility among breweries, members of beer media, and participants in the social community to be mindful of the behaviors and attitudes towards consumption and health that we advertise and encourage. Excessive consumption and drunkenness are not things to be celebrated or cavalier about. Moderation should be encouraged, not joked about or mocked. We can probably do away with the joke that craft beer turns alcoholism into a trendy hobby, and with it we can also drop the wisecracks about how friends doing Dry January or Sober October or the like are being boring or buzz kills. If you feel the need to make jokes about people prioritizing their health and responsible consumption, it might be time to re-evaluate your own habits.
My general habit is to have at least one or two days a week without consuming any alcohol, but even that is still drinking significantly more days than not. Every month or two I start to feel it taking more of a toll on my body. I start to feel more tired, a bit more bloated, a bit less energetic, and when it gets to that point I start to really not want beer anymore. That’s a sign that I need a break. So I take three to five days, even a week or more off, and you know what, I start to feel better. I sleep better, I have more energy, I just generally feel better. I also end up taking forced breaks when I get sick, because in that case, beer is the last thing in the world I want. I’d much rather have an herbal tea and go to bed early. After taking those extended breaks, I start looking forward to that next beer again. It feels better to be looking forward to a beer than to be drinking one out of habit or perceived necessity. As previously stated I can’t speak to the actual science of the effects of alcohol on the body, but for me, what it feels like when I take a break from drinking is that I’m giving my body a chance to reset, and remember that it functions better without alcohol. It’s unquestionably a good thing to keep re-establishing that baseline.
Beer is also a LOT of empty calories. Ever since I started drinking craft beer regularly I’ve found personally that having a healthy diet became even more important, not just for maintaining good overall health, but also just for feeling better. I’m not going to go into diet strategies because I’m no expert on the subject, and different things work for different people, but certain simple things about diet are irrefutably good for you: have a varied diet, eat green vegetables, drink lots of water. Being in the habit of eating well has similar effects on me as taking a break from drinking, the foremost of which are more energy and better sleep. For those of us who drink regularly, hopefully in moderation, our alcohol consumption is something that needs to be taken into account to have an overall healthy lifestyle. An indulgence like beer makes a healthy diet and exercise that much more important.
One of the things that I find helps the most with balancing a healthy lifestyle with a passion for craft beer is having an activity you enjoy that has nothing to do with beer. Something else you can get excited about, something that energizes you, or something that relaxes you. Ideally it’s something that exercises your body or your brain. For some people it might be hiking, cooking or reading. For others it might be swimming, writing, or doing puzzles. For me, it’s yoga. Craft beer is a passion, but it should not be your only passion.
So here’s the thing: I love craft beer. I’m going to continue loving craft beer, but I think we in the community who enjoy and talk about our passion need to take things like health, balance, and responsible consumption a bit more seriously. The way we talk about these things matters. Your health is more important than your Instagram feed, and it’s more important than having all your IPAs at peak freshness. Listen to your body, take breaks from drinking more often, and take them for longer. You’ll enjoy that first beer after your break that much more.