Monday, August 20, 2007

BEER, MY HEALTH, AND MY BELLY

I remember the comment like it was made five minutes ago, it was so jarring and yet awakening. I had just told my pal Uli about my craft beer obsession, my new beer blog and my increasing consumption of beer as a result. "So what are you doing for exercise, then?". Asked as plain as day, as if it were a foregone conclusion that one pastime (beer drinking) must necessitate anther (exercise). Uh, exercise? You mean I can't drink more beer and keep my ultra-fit, totally ripped physique? No, that one question set me about on some pondering that I still struggle with this day. Namely - what level of fitness am I going to need to maintain to keep this passion/hobby at the level at which I desire to keep it? Or, since I've made a vow to myself to keep the flab off for as long as I possibly can, must I therefore curtail my ingestion of beer to that of a dilettante? These are the questions of the hour, folks, and they're not pretty to confront.

Now mind you, I'm not extreme on either front. I've written before about my approach to alcohol - by the standards of many, I'm something of a lightweight and a mere dabbler in beer, rather than a "pro". Fair enough, I can live with that. Regarding exercise, I'm in league with the bazillions of Americans who join gyms and then sit back as the gym finance departments laugh and count our money. I go sometimes, I even get inspired and go 3 times a week for a while, and then I'll look at my love handles and remember that I haven't been since the Clinton era. I started Hedonist Beer Jive in February 2006, and since then there's no question that my beer consumption has gone up (I do it for you, people), and with that, the love handles appear to be that much more difficult to shake. I've been blessed, I guess, with one of those I-can-eat-and-drink-like-a-glutton metabolisms for years, but with my fortieth birthday only weeks away now, I think either the beer is taking a small toll or my much-relied-upon metabolism is actually slowing. Either way, I don't like it. I made a promise to myself that I'd hold off the natural pounds and aging effects for as long as I could (naturally- no stomach-stapling or hair plugs for me!), or until I just flat-out didn't care anymore. I guess I'm vain enough to still care.

So I've taken up running. I actually enjoy it - in San Francisco much of the city is blanketed by fog at least half of the year, and this natural cooling is absolutely perfect for running in. It sorta works. I get to drink more beer, and my pants still fit. Honestly, I think the first reason is more important to me than the second. I'll up the frequency of my running if I have to; I'll do whatever it takes, to be frank. My joshing up above aside, I'll never exercise to get six-pack abs or a muscular, ripping bod - that's for obsessives of a different sort, and I'm physically and mentally incapable of making it happen (I'd look like a total dork besides, not that I don't already). I'd rather just be a moderately skinny guy with non-obvious fat pockets. We'll see what happens in my 40s. Check this space over the course of the next decade.

What about health effects of beer? There's this guy Jay Brooks over at Brookston Beer Bulletin that for some reason makes it his cross to bear to debunk and deflower anyone who dares to write about beer in anything but a 100% positive light. Unhealthy? Beer? Bah - recent studies show blah blah blah. Brooks also employs a slash-and-burn approach to those who write about craft beer for mainstream publications with anything less than letter-perfect accuracy. (This is not to bag on Jay or on his fine and exceptionally useful blog, which I have linked to since day one and check several times weekly, but his manner in this regard is akin to the paid tobacco spokesperson - except I highly doubt he's paid). In any event, color me skeptical on the health thing. I know there are elements of beer that have potential healthful effects when consumed in the proper amounts and over the proper timeframe. Fine. No one does this. I'm far more prone to believe that my love of beer is at the very best going to be a "net neutral" for me health-wise, and I'm willing to predict that it's more likely going to be on the negative side of the scale. Perhaps if I hadn't been pounding eight beers every Friday and Saturday night during college, I'd feel a little more optimistic, but I wonder if some minor damage has already been done that'll show itself in coming years. Drinking a bomber or two of Duchess De Bourgogne in my late thirties isn't reversing it, as far as I'm concerned.
So there you have it - mein kampf. I invite you to share your own personal tips n' tricks for staying fit n' trim while maintaining your duly earned status as a true craft beer warrior.

5 comments:

sean said...

I got a dog who needs to be walked several times a day. I also have taken up the south beach diet and ignore their prohibition/limitations on beer. Most importantly, I have finally come to accept that I am never going to be swimwear model. I'm 42. I am not supposed to be ripped.

Stephen Lacey said...

I've been subscribed to your blog for a while now and really enjoy your reviews. But this is the first time I've been moved to comment because your dilemma/choice mirrors my life choices. I have been into beer for years and years, mainly from a home brewing slant. Five years ago I took up running, lost a lot of weight and now have seven full marathons under my belt in respectable times.

I have two blogs, the main one being about my running training (pretty boring) and the other supposedly about craft beer in Japan (where I live). While the two interests are complementary in the extreme, they also compete, and one will always tend to subordinate the other. As a quick look at the two blogs will attest, my priorities at present tend to be weighted towards running and achieving good race results. The poor old craft beer blog lies dormant as a result. But just like Mt. Fuji, it may not stay that way forever.

In any case, suffice to say that I compliment you on your choice of exercise to balance the craft beer habit.

Anonymous said...

Run. Walk. Golf. I don't care as long as you keep the blog going.

Beer Retard said...

I don't really worry about packing on the pounds from drinking beer. I've always had a ridiculously quick metabolism and never seem to go above or below a 10-lb range. I'm about to hit 38, though, so maybe things will change in a couple years. The only exercise I get these days is the walk home from work each day. It's a couple miles and mostly uphill, so I guess that's something.

I do kind of worry about the long-term effects of drinking a couple of beers every day and even more when I go to beer fests and tasting events at breweries. I figure I'll be alright if I stay moderate and drink plenty of water. Bottom line is to not drink enough to feel like ass the next day. I guess only time will tell how my liver and the rest of my internal organs handle the extra work they have to do because I chose the life of a beer geek.

Dale said...

I got two kids to chase around so that helps keep some weight off. I also find that walking to the beer store (or riding my bike depending on which merchant I want to purchase from that day) balances the thought of possible weight gain.