Embrace the Waist

balancing exercise and beer

Finding balance with fitness and craft beer.

A few months into the year is a common time to check in on the new-year’s goals: ski more, fish more, hike more, eat less, and (gasp)... drink less—a stretch goal for the sane of us. Here is a novel reset for spring: embrace the waist and enjoy. There is a fine balance between being strong and healthy for outdoor activities, and enjoying the pleasures of bites and drinks.

Is it possible to be mountain-fit and strong, but also enjoy a few beers?

“I am asked this question all the time,” says Tammi Jacobs, fitness director at the Ridge Athletic Club. Jacobs has 30 years of personal training experience, a background in biochemistry, and an understanding of the Bozeman outdoor athlete. “The majority of people love beer, or some sort of alcohol, and beer can be part of a healthy dietary plan.” Phew, glad to have that validated.

Managing this lifestyle ain’t rocket science: just be mindful of intake and practice moderation. Are you drinking to get buzzed? Beverages with lower alcohol content tend to have fewer calories, but having too many can load on more calories than one stronger-ABV ale. So pick your poison. However, don’t sacrifice. The more you restrict desires for food or drink, the more you become preoccupied with said desires, leading to overindulging and taking the fun and satisfaction out of consumption. Focus on enjoyment and understanding what your body needs.

Another trick to moderation is slowing down intake. It takes roughly an hour for our bodies to metabolize one drink. When drinking on an empty stomach, it goes straight to the liver and quickly to the brain. Coincidently, men’s livers tend to tolerate more alcohol than women’s (sorry, ladies). If we drink water while drinking beer, it notifies the brain that thirst is quenched and we can drink for enjoyment. In addition, eating protein and healthy fats like avocado and salmon before drinking also helps decrease the rate of alcohol absorption.

Jacobs points out that as we age, calories cling to our midsection, and the best way to keep this in check is with high-intensity exercise. “Think of that adrenaline-pumping mogul run or the steep incline on a hike,” she says. Abdominal fat tends to metabolize the quickest with exercise. “The bottom line is you can still enjoy a beer, and if you need to manage your midsection, incorporate a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercise.” So…burpees for burps?

Managing this lifestyle ain’t rocket science: just be mindful of intake and practice moderation.

More good news: after a workout, when it’s time to rest with a beer, it’s not necessary to succumb to the mediocrity of low-calorie macro-beers. While light beer and seltzers are becoming trendy for the large-distribution craft breweries, those trends are not going to dominate the small-brewery scene anytime soon. Lagers, which tend to have lower alcohol content, are unique for small brewers due to the cold and lengthy aging process called “lagering.” But a few of our hometown brewers do offer delicious lagers, alongside menus filled with protein-rich bites.

“We always have one or two lagers on tap, which are stylistically accurate with regional ingredients,” says Polar Brewing owner Mandy Reid. Woman-owned and brewed, Polar’s lineup includes the Machete Mexican Lager (5.5% ABV), the Mystery Train Vienna Lager (5.0% ABV), and coming back this spring, the crowd-pleasing Czech Pilsner (5.3% ABV) made with German and Czech hops. All can be enjoyed at Nordic Brew Works accompanied by seasonal menu options ranging from a chicken BLT to pan-roasted salmon.

Bridger Brewing also has a diverse menu with a handful of protein-packed plates to help absorb a cold one. Try the Bridger chopped salad with roasted chicken, bacon, and garbanzo beans or the weekly special of steamed mussels in a sausage broth—both are savory combinations of proteins and ideal to complement a pint of Bridger Blond Ale (5.25%).

At the end of the day, Jacobs reminds us that most brewers simply want people to be happy and enjoy—much like our own goals when going outside. “It truly is the fun of life,” she says. “Making friends, enjoying beer!”

Springtime Suds

There’s nothing better than a cold beer and tasty grub after a good day on the water—especially if you feel you’ve earned it. Check out these locales the next time you’re looking for something to hit the spot.

Gallatin River
Enjoy a spread of menus at The Jump, offering a meal out of everything, from the garden to the field to the water. It’s right on your way home in Gallatin Gateway and if you hit it on the right night, you’ll have live music to boot.

Madison River
After a day chasing trout, swing through Ennis and sit down to a local brew and a hot meal at the Gravel Bar. Savor one of their acclaimed burgers or branch out and try something like the chicken pot pie.

Jefferson River
One of the best steakhouses in the valley is Sir Scott’s Oasis. Period. If you haven’t tried their fabled steak fingers while sharing a pitcher of beer, you haven’t lived.

Yellowstone River
Turn a day on the water into a night to remember with a stop at the renowned Chico Hot Springs. Choose from bar food in the saloon or gourmet multi-course meals in the dining room. Oh yeah, pack a swimsuit as well. —the editors