Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

December 31, 2006

Beer Issues:

‘I Used To Run But I Kept Spilling My Imperial Stout’ Isn’t An Excuse To Hang On To That Beer Gut

Shaving off or staving off Dunlap’s Disease—better known as the beer gut—is easier than you might expect, with a little exercise and using that magic word: moderation.
by Baby-Boy Jackson

Baby-Boy Jackson is just here for the beer.
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One of the risks of being a Beer Dork is getting Dunlap’s disease.

The symptoms of Dunlap’s are easy to spot—your belly has done lapped over your belt. We usually refer to it by its less technical name: the beer gut. While we all like to enjoy a good brew now and then, we don’t want to carry all of them with us for the rest of our lives.’s mission of helping people enjoy beer is not just about steering them clear of mass-produced swill. It’s also about helping them drink good beer wisely. To this end we have asked exercise expert Tina Schmidt-McNulty for advice about how to deal with the growing problem of the beer gut. Schmidt-McNulty is an exercise physiologist and certified exercise specialist at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, IN. She talked with about how to shave off or stave off a beer gut.

First, let me say, we are Beer Dorks, not doctors. Don’t take our advice over that of a trained professional on anything but beer. If you have a real disease or some problem such as continuous bleeding from both eyes, massive chest pain, or aliens popping out of your stomach, call a doctor. Also, if you are disgustingly out of shape, you might want to check in with a doctor to make sure that it truly is safe to leave your couch.

Schmidt-McNulty said that anyone who wants to keep his or her waistline in check must first keep their appetites in check. So, no downing six-packs in a single sitting (ahem, Nigel). When she heard what is about, she said being a Beer Dork is the right way to approach drinking beer.

“Obviously, you are drinking for satisfaction and taste,” Schmidt-McNulty said, after hearing about’s mission. “The bottom line with food and drink: it is always everything in moderation.”

The main reason that beer puts us all at risk of becoming barrel-shaped is the alcohol, which has seven calories per gram. In comparison, carbohydrates have four calories per gram, protein has four calories per gram, and fat has nine calories per gram. The other thing is that the alcohol (though not necessarily the beer) has no other nutritional value.

“It is a bunch of empty calories. If the body doesn’t use it, it is going to be stored as fat,” Schmidt-McNulty said.

Still, that is no reason to abandon good beer. (There will be more about why beer is good for you in a future article.) Schmidt-McNulty does think beer lovers should not give up real beer for light beer because it takes away from drinking for taste and satisfaction.

“I am not a big fan of light beer. If you are going to have beer, you might as well have the real thing,” she said.

So, she focuses on getting rid of the gut instead of the beer. This is simpler than it sounds because only two things are required—eating better and being more active.

When it comes to diet, her first recommendation is to pay attention to how you feel after you eat. You don’t want to eat food that makes you feel bad, and you want to make sure that you don’t feel stuffed to the gills.

“People should start with serving sizes first. If you have a box of Snackwell cookies, two is the serving size,” she said. So, in other words, no eating the whole box in one sitting.

Along with a balanced diet and plenty of fruits and vegetables, she recommends making sure that you drink enough water, especially while drinking. Alcohol and caffeine are both diuretics, which means they take water out of your body’s cells. She said that while the body is good about telling you when it is hungry, it is not so good at keeping itself hydrated. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already well along the road to dehydration, she said.

But in terms of diet, she said the most important thing is to approach your eating the same way you approach your beer—in moderation.

Activity is the other way to start getting rid of the beer gut. But flopping on the floor and trying to do sit-ups won’t work.

“You can’t spot-reduce. The only way to get rid of fat is to do the I-N-G words: walking, biking, swimming, running,” Schmidt-McNulty said.

But you don’t need to run a marathon. Simple additions to your daily routine will help you burn fat. Parking farther away from the entrance to work and the store so you walk farther, taking some time to walk around your office once a day and talk to co-workers, and climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator are all ways you can burn more calories. Finding a sport you like to do three times a week or fitting in a workout will lead to slimming down, but becoming a mirror-obsessed gym rat is not required.

Muscle burns calories constantly, whereas fat doesn’t. So, the more muscle you build, the better you’ll do in your fight against fat.

A word about results is in order as well. Schmidt-McNulty said that people tend to lose fat from the face and limbs first, and then lose it from their guts. This is one reason people will say that you are making progress even though you don’t feel the results in your waistband. So patience is in order.

Schmidt-McNulty said that much like diet, every workout program needs balance. For example, if you lift weights, you need to do back exercises along with chest and ab exercises so that your front doesn’t become stronger than your back and cause injuries.

She even has an example of how you can work this push-pull principle into your diet training by using two major sets of arm muscles.

“Do more triceps presses, by pushing away from the table, along with your twelve-ounce curls,” Schmidt-McNulty said.

Even the most sedentary Beer Dorks can find a way to fit in a short, balanced workout.

“I actually own a beer cup that has a two-pound dumbbell on the end,” Schmidt-McNulty said.

You can get a workout without any kind of special equipment, and can even work it in while watching television. She said that people can start to get in better condition and rev up their metabolism to burn fat during commercial breaks by using the following four exercises.

Push-ups1. Push-ups: This is a classic that you probably remember from gym class. Schmidt-McNulty recommends starting by doing them against the wall as illustrated. You need to lower yourself in a controlled way so that you challenge the back muscles as well as the chest muscles when you push up. Keep the back flat and always exhale as you push up. As you get stronger you can move to a more horizontal position until you are doing them off the floor.

Squats2. Squats: Stand up and then bend your legs as though you’re going to sit back down in your chair. Keep your back straight and your head up. For extra resistance you can hold a weight, or even a child, if you happen to have one handy.

Abdominal crunches3. Abdominal crunches: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Curl your body high enough so that your shoulder blades come off the floor. You don’t need to do a full sit-up. Just crunch your abdominal muscles so that your back gets pulled up off the floor. By curling your stomach muscles from the bottom to the top, you can feel how most of your abdominal wall will get worked by these.

Lower back curls4. Lower back curls: Lie on your stomach and place your hands underneath your chin. Then raise your upper body off the floor, so that your hands are in the air. This works the lower back muscles to balance out the work you did with the crunches and, partially, the push-ups. To make this one a little harder, you can stick your arms straight out in front of you and pretend that you are Superman. You can also work the lower part of these muscles by raising your legs off the floor.

Schmidt-McNulty recommends doing two sets of 10 to 15 of these during commercial breaks while watching your favorite show. To really burn fat and build and sustain muscle, you should try to do some kind of I-N-G activity (walking, running, biking, swimming) at least three times a week and some kind of strengthening exercises on the other days. So, you should do these four exercises every other day, and then some jogging on the off days. This won’t turn you into an Olympic athlete, but it can help you slim down and trim your waist. It will also help prepare you to move into more intense activities once these seem absurdly easy.

Readers with health and fitness questions can contact Schmidt-McNulty at

Today is the feast day of St. Arnold, patron saint of beer.

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