Runners love a good finish-line beer – but did you know that post-run beer can actually have some tangible benefits to your overall health?
While mixing alcohol with exercise – such as when performing a beer run – can be questionable…what about drinking beer after running?
As you head to the pub for your post-run beer, you probably feel a tinge of guilt over indulging in alcohol and counteracting the health of your run.
Aren’t you just sacrificing some of those gains you’ve made by drinking a bunch of calories?
Let’s jump into what happens to your body after a post-run beer, and look at some of the positive effects of combining beer and running!
(Side note: it’s been shown that all alcohol is a carcinogen, no matter the quantities imbibed – so drink at your own risk).
Beer and Running and Health – What You Should Know
Common Myths About Beer
It used to be that wine was the alcoholic drink with a health halo due to its varied lipid profile – but many of the same benefits are available from your favorite pale ale, and with less sugar content.
Some drinkers favor strong spirits due to their purer alcohol content – and feel it can help dodge hangovers. The only problem is it’s not so easy to practice moderation when you’re drinking spirits.
Hard seltzers are gaining in popularity, but be aware that they’re often loaded with sugar.
Beer has often been overlooked by the health crowd due to its perception of being a boozy drink that leaves you with a beer belly.
But research and experience has shown these are not necessarily true.
Morgyn Clair, a registered dietitian nutritionist for Sprint Kitchen, has experience in a variety of areas of health, wellness, and human science, including weight management and nutrition counseling. She weighs in on the subject:
“It can be a good thing to indulge after the hard work of running. During a long run especially, the body uses up most of its stores of glycogen, which are essentially just saved up carbohydrates that the body can use for energy.”
Related: Our Profile of the Hash House Harriers: The Global Drinking Club With a Running Problem
Replacing those stores with some of the carbs in beer isn’t a bad thing unless you overindulge.
Go for one beer and one large water to avoid dehydration.”
Hannah Daugherty, a certified personal trainer, confirms.
“A post-run brew is par for the course after many races, and recent research has shown that consuming alcohol like that might not be a terrible thing, if done responsibly and in moderation.
Not only does beer consist mainly of water – perfect for rehydrating after a long run – but it also provides carbohydrates which help your muscles refuel.“
Here are some things you may not have known about beer, that add to Clair and Daugherty’s assessments:
- It contains about 90% water, which good for rehydration.
- The carbs in beer are good for re-fuelling and recovery.
- It also supplies a small amount of protein, also good for recovery.
Included in that malted barley and hops is a bunch of often-overlooked B vitamins – like folate, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.
Beer also has higher silicon content. Essentially, that means that people who drink on a regular basis have been proven to have higher bone density later in life.
Related: The Best Post-Run Routine: Do These 9 Things After Every Run
It’s Good For Your Heart
More and more doctors are learning that moderate amounts of alcohol can lead to lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
In fact, there is a host of widely-accepted health and nutritional benefits related to moderate alcohol consumption, reported in studies on healthy lifestyles. It has been shown to improve longevity by lowering the risks of diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Beer and wine offer the highest nutritional value, but beer even tops wine based on higher levels of B vitamins and protein.
Traditionally, this advice has been associated with wine only – but this study shows that any type of alcohol can have this effect.
Both wine and beer contain antioxidants, but grapes and hops/grains each give off different types of antioxidants, so you can get value from both.
Can Beer Help a Runner’s Immune System?
In 2009, Dr. Johannes Scherr led the ‘Be-MAGIC’ study (beer, marathons, genetics, inflammation and the cardiovascular system) which looked at the role of polyphenol in beer, and how it affects the immune system of marathon runners.
The study split some Munich Marathon runners into two groups; the first group was given a non-alcohol wheat beer every day, and the second group a similar drink but without the polyphenol profile found in beer.
It was found that the polyphenol profile of beer helped reduce inflammation response – which can overwhelm the body’s immune system.
As a result, the beer-drinking group recovered faster and suffered less colds, viruses and bugs in the weeks following the marathon.
Beer After Running – 5 Tips To Do It Properly
1. Remember, It’s All About Moderation
Before we jump in and start rolling the kegs out, it’s important to note that any alcohol is should be enjoyed in moderation.
Most scientific studies define moderate alcohol consumption as one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men.
Drinking more than this can cause a decrease in the body’s energy supplies and recovery functions.
While most running, fitness and nutrition experts will agree that a post-run beer is not only fine but also sports some nutritional value, all experts will warn you of the dangers of drinking too much (aside from the hangover).
Forrest McCall, certified fitness trainer, emphasizes caution over excess.
- “After a run, your body is in a state of recovery from the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles.
- I would suggest the main benefit of drinking a beer after your run is the stress relief it provides.
- If you decide to indulge, take it easy. Try not to gulp down your drinks too fast – or have too many. Aim to limit your consumption to one or two drinks at a maximum while your body recovers.“
2. Drink Water and Beer
Daugherty advises, “Ensure that you are drinking both beer and water!
You can get dehydrated if you begin drinking too many beers (leading to a diuretic effect), so balancing out your consumption with water will help maintain proper hydration levels.”
Beer is a diuretic, meaning it releases a lot water from your kidneys, causing dehydrating properties. This is one of the primary reasons for only drinking beer after running – we all know the importance of maintaining good hydration levels as you exercise.
So a good rule of thumb is to match your beer serving with a serving of water to counteract the diuretic effects.
And kick things off with 200ml of water before cracking open your first tinnie.
3. Stick To Lighter Beers
Daugherty also recommends, “Stick to the lighter ales! There will be more calories the higher the alcohol content, which can throw off your training goals if abused over time.”
The higher the ABV, the more calories. To get a rough estimate of the calories in your beer, multiply the ABV by the serving size (in ounces) by 2.5.
So when you’re looking for your post-run beer, stick to something relatively light and sessionable.
I keep it below 5% ABV when I can.
Heck, non-alcoholic beers do the same thing – these can be a welcome treat if you’re doing a Sober October Challenge or Dry January!
4. Don’t Forget To Eat Too
After any run, you should look to munch on something for recovery – your body is primed to receive carbs and protein.
And although you find both of these in beer, unfortunately, the quantities are fairly low – so supplement your beer with some food.
While that beer after running pairs excellently with burgers or pizza, it’s recommended to seek out minimally-processed, whole food snacks and meals for your recovery.
5. Go for a Beer Alternative
Now that you’ve seen the advantages of drinking beer after running, you should know there are plenty of other drinks that can support your system and help your recovery.
So after you’ve had your one beer after the run, switch to one of these alternatives:
- Sparkling Juices
- Sports Drinks
- Chocolate Milk
- Coconut Water
- Black or green tea (accompanied by water)
Beer After Running: The Bottom Line
Beer, unfortunately, is not a performance enhancer.
Lianne Sanders, a licensed yoga instructor at Total Shape, analyzes its pros and cons. “The most important advantage is that beer contains essential electrolytes. Meaning, it helps you hydrate after a session of lost sweat. On the other hand, beer will not enhance your workout. In fact, it will worsen your recovery by inhibiting hormones needed to gain back energy.”
Drinking too much too often will likely have negative effects on your running performance.
But drinking a beer or two after a hard run is an awesome way to reward yourself, and has a few health benefits – so don’t feel too guilty!