How Does Beer Impact Recovery?

Beer has transformed into a drink with increasing social respect. Craft brew pubs are popping up in nearly every city and it is often easy to follow the old adage, “When in town, drink the local beer.” Beer tastings and festivals seem to rival wine tastings in popularity. Pairings with foods other than burgers and brats have become commonplace and chocolate companies sport beer pairings right alongside those for wine.

How does beer stack up for runners? Beer has no fat, a small amount of protein and electrolyte, some carbohydrate, a lot of water, and of course, alcohol. A study presented in abstract form at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine showed water and sports drink to be superior replacement fluids compared to beer alone in terms of final post-exercise hydration. I think we all knew that and most who are versed in fluid replacement suggest that beer can be counted on for at least 75% of volume toward fluid replacement. So a litre of beer will contribute 750mL of fluid toward replacement volume, some carbohydrate kilojoules, and a bit of protein and electrolyte.

As in life, timing is everything. Beer is probably not the best initial replacement fluid after a long run or a race like the half or full marathon as suggested by the above study. My preference is a cup or so of a salty fluid like soup bouillon (broth), which gives a salt load to help hang on to water. I would follow this with any caffeine and alcohol-free fluid to match losses. After the kidneys have kicked in and you have urinated, a beer may be in order. As always, the health saying “You can have two per day, but you can’t bank them” holds true. It is probably best to savour the post-race beer (or two) and enjoy the moment, rather than trying to quaff several for your fluid replacement. Maybe the beer is best saved for and paired with the post-race meal.


Coach Marathon

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