Drinking Beer After Running: Is Beer A Good Recovery Drink?

The good and bad news...

Marathon runners, half-marathon runners, and other long-distance runners understand the importance of hydration, especially post-exercise rehydration.

Whether you are working with a running coach, following an online training plan, or working with a sports nutritionist, you are also likely aware of the need for post-workout or post-race carbs and electrolytes, especially after long runs and races.

While sports drinks with glucose and electrolytes are the traditional way to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes and glycogen, other recovery drinks such as chocolate milk and beer have gradually become as much a part of the finish line festivities as sports drinks.

But, is a post-run beer a good rehydration recovery drink? Do alcoholic beverages impede post-exercise recovery, or are there health benefits of beer for runners after a hard workout or race?

In this guide to drinking beer after running, we will discuss the potential health benefits of beer, the negative effects of a post-run beer or other alcoholic beverages, and alternatives to throwing back a cold beer at the finish line that might better suit your fitness goals.

People enjoying beer after running.

Is It Okay to Drink Beer After Running a Marathon?

Before we look at the potential health benefits and negative effects of alcoholic beverages as post-workout recovery drinks, I present the disclaimer that I am not a registered dietitian or sports nutritionist. 

Additionally, if you have concerns about your alcohol intake or the number of alcoholic drinks you are consuming, it is important to speak with your doctor or work with a substance abuse professional.

Beer drinking and running have become so intertwined that you will find some half marathon and marathon finish line food tents actually providing craft beers or at least low alcohol beer.

There is also the celebrated Beer Mile running event and plenty of running groups who do evening workouts together and then run to a local brewery or pub for a cold one.

Although not strictly related to runners as beer drinkers, a study found that as a group, people who exercise frequently tend to exhibit higher levels of alcohol consumption than non-exercisers.1French, M. T., Popovici, I., & Maclean, J. C. (2009). Do Alcohol Consumers Exercise More? Findings from a National Survey. American Journal of Health Promotion24(1), 2–10. https://doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.0801104

‌All of this is to say that while it might seem counterintuitive that a marathon runner would chug a cold beer shortly after crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon, there is a culture of beer drinking and running.

People toasting with beer.

Is Beer a Good Recovery Drink After Exercise?

Although it is a bit of a stretch to say that beer is good for runners, beer does contain some vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, electrolytes, carbs, and a small amount of protein

In some ways, it makes sense that a post-run beer would actually serve as a decent recovery drink.

Beer is mostly water, and water aids hydration. Beer also contains carbohydrates because it is made with grains such as wheat, barley, or rye.

Carbohydrates are important for distance runners in a post-workout drink or snack to replenish depleted glycogen stores.

Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates in the body, and carbs are generally the primary fuel source for the muscles during running workouts or races.

People toasting with beer.

Beer also provides some electrolytes, which are also included in regular sports drinks and recommended by sports nutritionists as part of a rehydration beverage or post-run snack if you have been sweating a lot or exercising for over an hour.

The exact beer nutrition facts depend on the type of beer that you are drinking, the grain used to make the beer, whether it is a light beer or regular beer, and the alcoholic content of the beer (non-alcoholic beer vs low-alcohol vs standard).

Light beer typically contains about 2/3 the number of calories and grams of carbohydrates as standard beer and is slightly less alcoholic (lower ABV).2FoodData Central. (n.d.). Fdc.nal.usda.gov. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168749/nutrients

‌Beer typically contains about 4 to 6% alcohol by volume (ABV).

The standard 12-ounce can of beer provides between 5-9% of the DV of B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and folate. It also contains a little bit of vitamin B12,and thiamine.

As mentioned, beer contains small amounts of electrolytes like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and trace amounts of minerals like iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.

A closeup of beer.

Is Beer Good for Runners?

There are some potential health benefits of beer when your alcohol consumption is at low to moderate levels.

  • Reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.3Padro, T., Muñoz-García, N., Vilahur, G., Chagas, P., Deyà, A., Antonijoan, R., & Badimon, L. (2018). Moderate Beer Intake and Cardiovascular Health in Overweight Individuals. Nutrients10(9), 1237. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091237
  • Reducing the risk of heart disease4G, de G., S, C., A, D. C., L, B., D, B., A, A., G, C.-B., R, E., C, L. V., S, P., G, P., F, S., S, S., M, T., F, U., C, C., Mb, D., & L, I. (2016, June 1). Effects of Moderate Beer Consumption on Health and Disease: A Consensus Document. Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases : NMCD. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27118108/ and improving heart health as long as you drink beer in moderation.5Pai, J. K., Mukamal, K. J., & Rimm, E. B. (2012). Long-term alcohol consumption in relation to all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among survivors of myocardial infarction: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. European Heart Journal33(13), 1598–1605. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehs047
  • Potentially helping to improve blood sugar regulation.6Joosten, M. M., Beulens, J. W. J., Kersten, S., & Hendriks, H. F. J. (2008). Moderate alcohol consumption increases insulin sensitivity and ADIPOQ expression in postmenopausal women: a randomised, crossover trial. Diabetologia51(8), 1375–1381. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-008-1031- Additionally, evidence suggests7Lee, D.-Y., Yoo, M.-G., Kim, H.-J., Jang, H. B., Kim, J.-H., Lee, H.-J., & Park, S. I. (2017). Association between alcohol consumption pattern and the incidence risk of type 2 diabetes in Korean men: A 12-years follow-up study. Scientific Reports7(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-07549-2 beer drinkers who have a light to moderate intake may have a lower risk of insulin resistance and developing type 2 diabetes.8Holst, C., Becker, U., Jørgensen, M. E., Grønbæk, M., & Tolstrup, J. S. (2017). Alcohol drinking patterns and risk of diabetes: a cohort study of 70,551 men and women from the general Danish population. Diabetologia60(10), 1941–1950. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-017-4359-3
  • Increasing creativity and problem-solving ability.9Jarosz, A. F., Colflesh, G. J. H., & Wiley, J. (2012). Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition21(1), 487–493. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.002
  • Reducing bacterial buildup in the mouth and on your teeth.10Spratt, D. E., Daglia, M., Papetti, A., Stauder, M., D. O’Donnell, Ciric, L., Tymon, A., Repetto, B., Signoretto, C., Houri-Haddad, Y., Feldman, M., Steinberg, D., Lawton, S., Lingström, P., Pratten, J., Egija Zaura, Gazzani, G., Pruzzo, C., & Miranda. (2012). Evaluation of Plant and Fungal Extracts for Their Potential Antigingivitis and Anticaries Activity2012, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/510198
  • The hops used to make beer have been found to confer anti-inflammatory properties in the body because compounds in hops interfere with the production of inflammatory cytokines.
  • Helping preserve bone mineral density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.11Tucker, K. L., Jugdaohsingh, R., Powell, J. J., Qiao, N., Hannan, M. T., Sripanyakorn, S., Cupples, L. A., & Kiel, D. P. (2009). Effects of beer, wine, and liquor intakes on bone mineral density in older men and women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition89(4), 1188–1196. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26765
Two bottles of beer.

Should You Drink Beer After Running?

It is important to keep in mind that the aforementioned potential health benefits of drinking beer or other alcoholic drinks in moderation are not necessarily looking at the potential benefits vs negative effects of drinking beer after running or working out.

Heavy alcohol intake after running, especially if you are drinking beer instead of water, sports drinks, or other beverages with electrolytes can be detrimental to your workout recovery, overall health, and fitness goals.12Parr, E. B., Camera, D. M., Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Phillips, S. M., Hawley, J. A., & Coffey, V. G. (2014). Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training. PLoS ONE9(2), e88384. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0088384

Here are some of the potential negative consequences of a post-run beer:

  • Impaired muscle protein synthesis, which is the process by which damaged muscle fibers are repaired and strengthened after exercise, and the process by which you build muscle.13Duplanty, A. A., Budnar, R. G., Luk, H. Y., Levitt, D. E., Hill, D. W., McFarlin, B. K., Huggett, D. B., & Vingren, J. L. (2017). Effect of Acute Alcohol Ingestion on Resistance Exercise–Induced mTORC1 Signaling in Human Muscle. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research31(1), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001468
  • Compromised recovery due to the effects of alcohol on the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins, and the subsequent effect on repairing muscle damage. This can cause you to experience muscle soreness and may increase your risk of injury. It can also impede your ability to hit your next hard work out in a fully recovered state.14Duplanty, A. A., Budnar, R. G., Luk, H. Y., Levitt, D. E., Hill, D. W., McFarlin, B. K., Huggett, D. B., & Vingren, J. L. (2017). Effect of Acute Alcohol Ingestion on Resistance Exercise–Induced mTORC1 Signaling in Human Muscle. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research31(1), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001468
  • Blocking the production of anabolic hormones such as human growth hormone and testosterone, which are normally produced after a hard workout. These hormones help build muscle and contribute to fitness gains.15Godfrey, R. J., Madgwick, Z., & Whyte, G. P. (2003). The Exercise-Induced Growth Hormone Response in Athletes. Sports Medicine33(8), 599–613. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333080-00005
  • Despite the fact that beer contains carbs, evidence suggests that post-workout alcohol intake can inhibit glycogen resynthesis, which is not good for distance runners who need to replenish glycogen stores after a half marathon, marathon, or other long endurance workout.16Burke, L. M., Collier, G. R., Broad, E. M., Davis, P. G., Martin, D. T., Sanigorski, A. J., & Hargreaves, M. (2003). Effect of alcohol intake on muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology95(3), 983–990. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00115.2003
  • Contributing to dehydration especially when you consume IPAs or types of beer with a higher percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV).17Irwin, C., Leveritt, M., Shum, D., & Desbrow, B. (2013). The effects of dehydration, moderate alcohol consumption, and rehydration on cognitive functions. Alcohol47(3), 203–213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alcohol.2012.12.016

Alcohol beverages can be addictive,18Becker, H. C. (2008). Alcohol dependence, withdrawal, and relapse. Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism31(4), 348–361. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23584009/ and frequent or high alcohol consumption is associated with other potential health consequences, such as sleep disturbances, metabolic changes, liver toxicity, certain cancers, poor coordination, delayed reactions, and impaired judgment.19Betts, G., Ratschen, E., Opazo Breton, M., & Grainge, M. J. (2018). Alcohol consumption and risk of common cancers: evidence from a cohort of adults from the UK. Journal of Public Health (Oxford, England)40(3), 540–548. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx123

A variety of glasses of beer.

What Is the Best Way to Drink Beer After Running Without Compromising Recovery?

The good news is that if you want to enjoy a post-run beer, there are a few ways to reduce the negative effects of your favorite cold beer after running:

Wait at least one hour before enjoying a cold beer, using the first hour to drink regular water and have a post run snack rich in natural electrolytes and carbohydrates such as a banana with peanut butter or a protein smoothie.

This will allow your digestive system to have time to metabolize these nutrients for optimal post-exercise recovery before the alcohol is ingested.

Drink plenty of water or sports drinks with the beer because alcohol is a diuretic, so it is not the best hydration fluid to rehydrate after running.

Choose a low alcohol or non-alcoholic beer. It is really the alcohol content of beer (ABV) that interacts with muscle growth, hormones, and exercise recovery.

Examples of some of the best non-alcoholic beers for runners include Athletic Brewing Company beers and Karbach Brewing’s Free & Easy Belgian-Style White.

Limit your alcohol consumption both in terms of frequency as well as the number of alcoholic beverages you are consuming.

Overall, enjoying your favorite craft beer or a low alcohol beer after a run or race is generally tolerable for your body as long as you do all the post-workout recovery steps your body needs like rehydrating fully and refueling with adequate protein and carbohydrates.

For a complete guide on hydration for runners, check out this next guide:

References

  • 1
    French, M. T., Popovici, I., & Maclean, J. C. (2009). Do Alcohol Consumers Exercise More? Findings from a National Survey. American Journal of Health Promotion24(1), 2–10. https://doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.0801104
  • 2
  • 3
    Padro, T., Muñoz-García, N., Vilahur, G., Chagas, P., Deyà, A., Antonijoan, R., & Badimon, L. (2018). Moderate Beer Intake and Cardiovascular Health in Overweight Individuals. Nutrients10(9), 1237. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091237
  • 4
    G, de G., S, C., A, D. C., L, B., D, B., A, A., G, C.-B., R, E., C, L. V., S, P., G, P., F, S., S, S., M, T., F, U., C, C., Mb, D., & L, I. (2016, June 1). Effects of Moderate Beer Consumption on Health and Disease: A Consensus Document. Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases : NMCD. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27118108/
  • 5
    Pai, J. K., Mukamal, K. J., & Rimm, E. B. (2012). Long-term alcohol consumption in relation to all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among survivors of myocardial infarction: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. European Heart Journal33(13), 1598–1605. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehs047
  • 6
    Joosten, M. M., Beulens, J. W. J., Kersten, S., & Hendriks, H. F. J. (2008). Moderate alcohol consumption increases insulin sensitivity and ADIPOQ expression in postmenopausal women: a randomised, crossover trial. Diabetologia51(8), 1375–1381. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-008-1031-
  • 7
    Lee, D.-Y., Yoo, M.-G., Kim, H.-J., Jang, H. B., Kim, J.-H., Lee, H.-J., & Park, S. I. (2017). Association between alcohol consumption pattern and the incidence risk of type 2 diabetes in Korean men: A 12-years follow-up study. Scientific Reports7(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-07549-2
  • 8
    Holst, C., Becker, U., Jørgensen, M. E., Grønbæk, M., & Tolstrup, J. S. (2017). Alcohol drinking patterns and risk of diabetes: a cohort study of 70,551 men and women from the general Danish population. Diabetologia60(10), 1941–1950. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-017-4359-3
  • 9
    Jarosz, A. F., Colflesh, G. J. H., & Wiley, J. (2012). Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition21(1), 487–493. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.002
  • 10
    Spratt, D. E., Daglia, M., Papetti, A., Stauder, M., D. O’Donnell, Ciric, L., Tymon, A., Repetto, B., Signoretto, C., Houri-Haddad, Y., Feldman, M., Steinberg, D., Lawton, S., Lingström, P., Pratten, J., Egija Zaura, Gazzani, G., Pruzzo, C., & Miranda. (2012). Evaluation of Plant and Fungal Extracts for Their Potential Antigingivitis and Anticaries Activity2012, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/510198
  • 11
    Tucker, K. L., Jugdaohsingh, R., Powell, J. J., Qiao, N., Hannan, M. T., Sripanyakorn, S., Cupples, L. A., & Kiel, D. P. (2009). Effects of beer, wine, and liquor intakes on bone mineral density in older men and women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition89(4), 1188–1196. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26765
  • 12
    Parr, E. B., Camera, D. M., Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Phillips, S. M., Hawley, J. A., & Coffey, V. G. (2014). Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training. PLoS ONE9(2), e88384. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0088384
  • 13
    Duplanty, A. A., Budnar, R. G., Luk, H. Y., Levitt, D. E., Hill, D. W., McFarlin, B. K., Huggett, D. B., & Vingren, J. L. (2017). Effect of Acute Alcohol Ingestion on Resistance Exercise–Induced mTORC1 Signaling in Human Muscle. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research31(1), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001468
  • 14
    Duplanty, A. A., Budnar, R. G., Luk, H. Y., Levitt, D. E., Hill, D. W., McFarlin, B. K., Huggett, D. B., & Vingren, J. L. (2017). Effect of Acute Alcohol Ingestion on Resistance Exercise–Induced mTORC1 Signaling in Human Muscle. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research31(1), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001468
  • 15
    Godfrey, R. J., Madgwick, Z., & Whyte, G. P. (2003). The Exercise-Induced Growth Hormone Response in Athletes. Sports Medicine33(8), 599–613. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333080-00005
  • 16
    Burke, L. M., Collier, G. R., Broad, E. M., Davis, P. G., Martin, D. T., Sanigorski, A. J., & Hargreaves, M. (2003). Effect of alcohol intake on muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology95(3), 983–990. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00115.2003
  • 17
    Irwin, C., Leveritt, M., Shum, D., & Desbrow, B. (2013). The effects of dehydration, moderate alcohol consumption, and rehydration on cognitive functions. Alcohol47(3), 203–213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alcohol.2012.12.016
  • 18
    Becker, H. C. (2008). Alcohol dependence, withdrawal, and relapse. Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism31(4), 348–361. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23584009/
  • 19
    Betts, G., Ratschen, E., Opazo Breton, M., & Grainge, M. J. (2018). Alcohol consumption and risk of common cancers: evidence from a cohort of adults from the UK. Journal of Public Health (Oxford, England)40(3), 540–548. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdx123
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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