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Can You Drink Beer After Exercise?

A cold brew can be a great way to finish off a sports activity or intense workout. But can it also damage your health? Are there beers that are actually good for that post-workout thirst? Get-Fit Guy gets to the bottom of the glass.

By
Ben Greenfield
April 22, 2014
Episode #182

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From running and cycling clubs, to post-tennis matches and the infamous 19th hole, a token cold one the end of a game or race is a common phenomenon for many sports. But what happens when you drink beer after exercise, a workout, or sports activity? Does it dehydrate you? Is it bad for you? Does it inhibit recovery, fat loss, or muscle building? Or can it actually be good for you?

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As my fellow Quick and Dirty tips host the Nutrition Diva points out in her article Is Drinking Alcohol Good For You? moderate alcohol consumption is certainly good for your heart and reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by thinning the blood and reducing inflammation. Alcohol also seems to reduce the risk of many other diseases.

But what about when it comes to exercise?  Today, you’re going to discover if beer is good for workouts, if you should drink beer after exercise, and if beer can actually improve hydration.

Should You Drink Beer After Exercise?

Earlier this year, a Canadian beer company concocted a low-alcohol form of beer that they packed with protein and marketed as a "fit beer." It’s called Lean Machine and was created by a team of food scientists at Vampt. With only 77 calories and 0.5% alcohol by volume, it's also enriched with nutrients, antioxidants, and electrolytes to “help replenish the body after a good workout.”

The Lean Machine inventors may actually be onto something. In a study published in International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, it was discovered found that beer's potential dehydrating effect could be mitigated by changing its electrolyte content. By lowering the level of alcohol 2.3% and then adding salt, researchers found that the electrolyte-enhanced, lower-alcohol beer hydrated their sample of athletes better than traditional ale.

Bear in mind that they were simply comparing this new modified beer to traditional beer – and this certainly doesn’t mean the modified beer performed any better than, say, water, a sports drink, or milk.

See also: How Much Water Should I Drink?

 

But there may still be other benefits to beer. Since beer is plant-based and contains barley, hops, and yeast, this means that it also contains a wide range of naturally occurring nutrients that chemically manufactured, super-sweet, nutrient-void sports drinks may not have.

For example, a 2011 German study found that polyphenols in beer may assist with immune function during prolonged strenuous exercise. In this study, participants who were given a non-alcoholic beer (yes, non-alcoholic!) every day for 3 weeks before and 2 weeks after their marathon reported fewer incidences of upper respiratory tract infections and were up to 3 times less susceptible to the common cold. This is likely due to compounds found in plants that contain anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects.

So ultimately, with a little bit of carbohydrate, some added electrolytes, low amounts of alcohol, and some smart engineering to add protein, beer may actually be helpful after exercise. But of course, how many of us are drinking non-alcoholic, fancy, fit beer at the finish line of a marathon?

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