by Erin Bates November 15, 2020
There’s nothing better than enjoying a cold, refreshing beverage after a sweaty workout or long hike. Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer, runner, cyclist, or anything in between, having a post-run or post-ride beer is usually something social that everyone looks forward to. But how does drinking a beer afterwards effect your recovery? Let’s explore what we know so far.
There are a number of downsides to consuming any form of alcohol after hard exercise. One issue is that of inflammation. When exercising, muscle cells begin to breakdown, which leads to inflammation as your body begins to repair any cellular damage through protein synthesis. However, by adding alcohol into the mix, you are only further adding to inflammation. One study found that alcohol contributes to inflammation throughout the body including the gut, which can impair proper functioning. By adding inflammation on top of more inflammation, your body is working in overdrive to mediate any negative effects.
Alcohol also acts as a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates you by forcing fluids out of your body. Staying hydrated, especially after a workout, is crucial to recovery. As your muscles begin to repair themselves through synthesis, they need to be hydrated in order to make the process efficient and effective. If your muscles aren’t properly hydrated, your workout and muscle recovery can be hampered.
Another smaller study found that alcohol intake impacts myofibrillar protein synthesis, which is that driving force behind repairing damaged muscles from exercise. Participants in this study either drank a protein shake, alcohol or both. Researchers found that muscle recovery was most negatively impacted by those that consumed alcohol.
As you can see, alcohol can impact inflammation, hydration and recovery after a workout. All in all, alcohol is a toxin, and your body will prioritize breaking down that toxin before it starts healing your body. When it comes to recovery, a traditional alcoholic beer might not be the best choice.
While having a cold, carbonated beer after a hard workout might sound appealing, the effects of alcohol are likely not worth it. The good news is there is a better option when it comes to workout recovery- non alcoholic beer. You’re able to still enjoy the same great taste, but without the negative impacts of alcohol. But that’s not all- non alcoholic beer actually contains ingredients that will benefit your post-workout recovery. How, you ask?
Firstly, beer contains many polyphenols and antioxidants (coming from the wheat, barley and hops) that greatly reduce the inflammation that your body is dealing with. This study deals with the nitty gritty in how polyphenols work and their numerous positive impacts on the body. There is also considerable evidence (see previous link) that these same polyphenols and antioxidants help in boosting the immune system, especially in the upper respiratory tract, which can be an advantage for endurance athletes.
Non alcoholic beer also helps you with rehydration right away, since there is no alcohol to act as a diuretic. Another important factor in rehydration is electrolytes, as recovery will only be successful if electrolytes lost in sweat are replenished in the body.
In one study, researchers found that drinking NA beer before exercise could help maintain electrolyte balance, and another study found that endurance runners given NA beer after racing had significantly less inflammation and fewer upper respiratory infections than the placebo group.
One important thing to note about NA beer is the calorie difference versus its alcoholic counterpart. While regular beer usually contains an average of 200 calories per serving, NA beer typically contains less than 100 or even 50 calories per serving. NA beer offers a healthier option so you don’t have to compromise your hard workout for a tasty beverage.
So, do athletes really use non alcoholic beer for recovery? You bet- and it might be more common than you think. The German olympic team made headlines in 2018 after the New York Times reported how popular the drink is among athletes and Germans alike (even the doctor for the German Olympic ski team has stated that nearly all of his athletes drink NA beer during training).
But it’s not just German Olympians indulging in non alcoholic beer- Heineken 0.0 launched their campaign with a cheeky commercial of a woman drinking one at the gym, and Budweiser collaborated with former NBA star Dwayne Wade to launch their alcohol-free line. There’s even Athletic Brewing, whose main fanbase is that of athletes around the country- including professional football player JJ Watt. This rise in popularity among athletes will only grow as NA beers gain more notoriety.
Here at Grüvi, we’ve worked to foster relationships in our community with a number of athletes, so we decided to ask them about their own experience with drinking non alcoholic beer for recovery:
With new research and testimony from numerous athletes, non alcoholic beer is trending among fitness communities now more than ever. With its ability to provide hydration & electrolytes with few calories, non alcoholic beer is one of the best options for a post workout recovery. See for yourself how NA beer could help after your own intense workout!